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Cognitive sup sales growing, can grow more

Bad media, Congressional investigations notwithstanding

The brain supplements market has surged in the last five years, with herbal extracts leading the way, according to data from Nutrition Business Journal and Euromonitor.

The U.S. and China lead the world in spending for supplements marketed for various aspects of brain health, be it cognition, memory or mood. The two largest economies in the world account for roughly half of all brain-health supplements sold, said Chris Schmidt at Euromonitor at the SupplySide West trade show in Las Vegas Oct. 7.

“There’s still plenty of room to grow,” Schmidt said. “Cognitive health is right behind energy and digestive claims, so there’s quite a bit of room for expansion.”

Data from Nutrition Business Journal put the cognitive market in the U.S. at just under a $1 billion in 2010, which grew to $1.2 billion by 2014. NBJ estimates the size of the market to grow to almost $1.5 billion by 2020.

Euromonitor said the global market grew 32 percent between 2010 and 2015.

The battle to see just how the market can grow will pit consumer desire to take something for memory—everything from age-related cognitive decline to random social forgetfulness—to Congressional action against cognitive claims, spearheaded by Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill.

In June, the Missouri Senator sent letters to the FDA and 15 major retailers inquiring about claims about various metrics of age-related cognitive decline.

“Bad publicity around claims has led to an erosion of consumer trust around claims,” said Schmidt.

It didn’t help that Consumer Reports led with a curious story two weeks ago, asserting that “Common Memory Supplements Spiked with Vinpocetine, a Prescription Drug.” Vinpocetine is derived from the periwinkle flower, has five New Dietary Ingredients approvals by the FDA and has long been used for memory applications.

“I don’t understand how you can ‘spike’ a supplement with an ingredient that is declared on the label,” said supplements lawyer Marc Ullman.

Yet all this is likely background noise, at best, to the aging consumer looking for something, anything, to help with issues around an aging brain.

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