Eye health has only been explored extensively over the last 10-15 years, but it is increasingly important to the rapidly ageing world's population, providing opportunity for ingredients suppliers. An estimated 10 per cent of Americans 66-74 years old have macular degeneration. In people 75-85 years old, prevalence increases to 30 per cent. Factors that exacerbate the condition are the usual suspects: poor diet and obesity, smoking, and sunlight.
Recently, Frost & Sullivan released a report on the European eye-health ingredients market, predicting that by 2014, revenues in this arena will double (to $87.4 million) over what they were in 2007 ($43.4 million). Nutrition Business Journal estimated the US market for eye-health products at $233 million in 2007, up by $30 million from the prior year.
The ingredients currently competing in this category are relatively few. Those with the most scientific support appear to be the carotenoids, including zeaxanthin and luteine from marigolds (there are also synthetic versions); astaxanthin from algae; beta-carotene (precursor to retinol); bilberry and Pycnogenol; and the old standby, fish oil.
According to Phil Goloski, manager of sales and marketing for Chrysantis, a supplier of lutein and zeaxanthin the company brands EZ Eyes, this market is underserved. "Most eye health is ignored until something happens," he says, "but the market is, I believe, somewhere around 10 million people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and people with diabetic retinopathy." Chrysantis, a seven-year-old company, is having its best year yet, Goloski says.
Joe Kuncewitch, national sales manager at Fuji Health Sciences, believes that there is a strong new opportunity in the eye-health arena. "It is what I would call the 'quality of life' arena," he says. "It is virtually undeveloped by the dietary-supplements industry. This would include issues such as dry eye or eye fatigue (asthenopia, due largely to rapid growth in the use of video display terminals in daily life). The use of astaxanthin for eye fatigue is a way for the dietary-supplements industry to capture additional market potential without cannibalising any existing business." Fuji has branded its astaxanthin product astaREAL, and fully supports it with science. "AstaREAL is extracted from natural Haematococcus pluvialis algae, the purest source we can find," he says, and the company has conducted nine published clinical studies on astaxanthin in the area of eye health alone.
Some companies are providing combination products. Indena, for instance, has branded Mirtogenol, a proprietary combination of its standardised bilberry extract Mirtoselect and the French maritime pine-bark extract Pycnogenol. "The combination has demonstrated a reduction in high intra-ocular pressure, which significantly reduces the likelihood of developing glaucoma, and capitalizes on the synergy between polyphenolics, namely anthocyanidins and procyanidins," says Christian Artaria, marketing director at Indena, and head of functional-food development.
OmniActive Health Technologies' COO Abhijit Bhattacharya says that because lutein and zeaxanthin isomers clearly play a role in protection of the visual function in the short term, and in prevention of tissue degradation leading to degenerative eye diseases in the long term, his company is now presenting a new range of patent-pending products to provide higher levels of zeaxanthin isomers (as R-R zeaxanthin and trans-mesozeaxanthin) along with trans-lutein. "This, we believe, will help formulators develop useful new products without using multiple sources for each of the key macular carotenoids," he says.
Supply giant DSM has dived into this market with its OptiSharp astaxanthin and FloraGlo lutein, convinced by the expanding science and by consumer research that there are emerging new markets. "This will open the market to all adults," says marketing manager Aparna Parikh. "There is a lot of science that shows that lutein and zeaxanthin improve visual performance, your ability to tolerate and recover from glare, improve contrast acuity, and blue-light protection. This opens doors to sports performance (eye to hand co-ordination, etc.)."
LycoRed supplies a marigold-derived carotenoid branded Lyc-O-Lutein, one of five fractions beyond the company's flagship product Lyc-O-Mato, according to Scott Larkin, vice president of sales.
Natural astaxanthin produced from micro-algae. Exclusive and patented closed-cultivation system guarantees the purest, most advanced product with the highest concentration of astaxanthin.
+972 8 635 6425
Kibbutz Ketura, Israel
Carotenoid with antioxidant activity. Clinically indicated in the prevention of macular degeneration and cataracts.
+1 630 588 3186
West Chicago, Illinois, USA
Xangold Natural Lutein Esters
Extracted from marigolds. Available in oil suspension, micro-encapsulated and free-flowing powder. Suitable for a variety of applications.
+1 708 579 6188
Incromega DHA 700
High-purity DHA concentrate. Docosahexaenoic acid is a structural fatty acid known to be an essential lipid component in the eye, brain and nervous tissues. Nutritional supplementation can help build and maintain healthy vision.
+44 (0) 1405 860551
East Yorkshire, UK
High-quality lutein with excellent stability. Patent protected. Available in formulations for dietary supplements, foods, beverages.
+1 760 539 7044
Orange, New Jersey, USA
OmniActive Health Technologies
Lutemax 2020 provides enhanced levels of zeaxanthin isomers, along with lutein, for convenient and more beneficial nutrient availability to the eyes.
+1 866 588 3629
Short Hills, New Jersey, USA
Lutein & Zeaxanthin
Carotenoids are present in the macula. May help to prevent macular degeneration.
+1 845 651 4443
Florida, New York, USA