The first week of May was an exciting one for the European food and food supplements industries as it witnessed two eagerly awaited key events: Vitafoods and Finished Products Europe and the first ever NutraIngredients Awards, both in Geneva, Switzerland. Let’s look at some of the winners and their categories in more detail…
Omega-3: Sustainability and convenience win the day
Contrary to common belief omega-3 is still very much alive and kicking. This is chiefly down to the continuous stream of newly published studies affirming just how beneficial long chain omega-3 fatty acids are for people of all ages, and especially for the very young and the more mature age groups.
Our ingredients data show that global volume consumption of long chain omega-3s added to packaged food and beverages increased by 23% between 2008 and 2013. On the food supplements front global value sales of omega-3-6-9 products (marine and non-marine oils) increased from €1.37bn in 2009 to €1.73bn in 2014.
However it is certainly true that sales growth, both in food and beverage ingredients and food supplements, has been slowing in recent years, particularly in Western Europe. Hence it is important to offer consumers new products that are in tune with their latest concerns.
One of these concerns is environmental sustainability. Consumers are becoming aware that fish-derived omega-3s may not always be sustainably sourced. Wild fish stocks are dwindling, and there is currently a hot debate surrounding krill, which is promoted by many omega-3 ingredients companies as the purest source of omega-3. Krill are tiny crustaceans, which serve as the primary food source for a sizeable proportion of marine life, including many types of fish and marine mammals like whales.
To get around this problem omega-3 forms EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosapentaenoic acid) can be produced in ponds and tanks from microalgae. Almega PL, by Texas-based Qualitas Health, which snagged the Startup Ingredient of the Year, presents a great example of a microalgae-derived, long-chain omega-3 ingredient that is sustainably produced, vegetarian and uncontaminated by possible pollutants, such as heavy metals.
Almega PL manufacture has no impact whatsoever on fragile ocean ecosystems and the company also emphasises that solar energy is employed as the primary energy source at its plant which also boasts zero fresh water during production. A comprehensive sustainability concept such as this is bound to appeal to consumers who are increasingly concerned not just about their own personal health but also about that of the planet.
As industry insiders will be aware, besides sustainability, convenience and palatability are of key importance for omega-3 products, and it was the Maris Mix OmegaPassion Pouch Shot, by Imperial-Oel-Import in Germany, which impressed the judges on these fronts, and was duly honoured with the NutraIngredients Editor’s Choice Award.
Containing 80 mg of omega-3s and 180 mg of green tea extract single-serve pouch is composed of two compartments separated by a membrane. One contains juice, the other a powdered omega-3. Once the packaging is squeezed, the membrane breaks and, after shaking, the healthy, refreshing drink, which is devoid of any fishy after-taste, can be consumed on the go. This product should appeal particularly to a younger audience, for whom the squeezing and mixing activity adds a fun component to the consumption occasion. The pouches would make a welcome addition to school lunch boxes, not to mention school vending machines.
Healthy ageing is the future
NutraIngredients’ Readers’ Ingredient of the Year went to Jusuru International’s Liquid BioCell, a highly bioavailable collagen-based ingredient that mirrors the composition of human joint cartilage. It is specifically designed to help the body maintain the integrity of its connective tissues, such as the skin and the joints. The product, which is convincingly backed by 37 clinical trials, comes in three incarnations: Liquid BioCell Life, Liquid BioCell Skin and Liquid BioCell Sport.
The global population is ageing rapidly. Already, the world is home to around 600 million people aged 65+, and here comes the real cruncher: Our Countries and Consumers data show that the average discrepancy between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy is seven years.
Any product that helps consumers achieve active, healthy ageing and which can help them to cut down on the number of final years spent languishing in malaise will be universally well received. In 2014, value sales for bone and joint health prime positioned food and beverages reached €16.22bn, which gives a glimpse of just how big the scope is for an ingredient like Liquid BioCell.
As for food and beverage products that are beauty-from-within (BFW) positioned (and which might quite feasibly benefit from incorporating BioCell Skin), we see the greatest market appeal in the Asia Pacific, where these types of products have traditionally been selling well. In 2014, global value sales for products leveraged on this positioning platform amounted to €297m, almost 40% of which was generated in the Asia Pacific. We predict that BFW sales will increase by 26% globally over the 2014-2019 review period.
Infection-fighting probiotics ideal for infant health
Natural products for the very young are also a promising growth area. The number one health problem in babies and toddlers is ear infection. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, five out of six children will have suffered from at least one ear infection by the time they turn three, and this is the most common reason parents seek medical attention for their children.
Ear infections usually follow on from a sore throat as the pathogenic bacteria often migrate into the ear. In most cases doctors will prescribe antibiotics but, understandably, many parents would much prefer to avoid giving their babies ‘hard’ drugs and find a less aggressive alternative especially when it comes to preventing a recurring problem.
The most effective way to prevent colonisation by hostile bacteria is if the vulnerable areas are already firmly occupied by non-disease-causing organisms. This goes as much for the gut as it does for the mouth, throat and the ears, and that is one of the pillar concepts on which the probiotics philosophy is based upon.
It was US firm Stratum Nutrition, NutraIngredients Award winner for Finished Product of the Year – Immune, which shone in this still relatively under-catered for field of child health. The company collected its trophy for Bactobilis Infant, a probiotic made from the company’s proprietary strain of Streptococcus salivarius, BLIS K12. It comes in a number of formats including lozenges and a powder that can be administered to the youngest of the young via a pacifier. The probiotic organisms defend the oral cavity, throat, nose and ear from invasion by harmful, infection-causing bacteria. According to the company studies showed that the product reduced recurring infections to a significant degree.
Probiotics have no side effects, are completely safe for infants and they key nicely into the natural health trend, which is what consumers are frequently looking for. For children’s products, naturalness and safety are paramount. Parents are highly risk averse when it comes to their offspring, and the motto that prevention is better than cure is hugely attractive when it comes to avoiding painful ear infections.
Simone Baroke is a contributing analyst at Euromonitor International.
If you're interested in participating in NutraIngredients Awards 2016 there is more information here or you can contact Cyrille Pelletier (firstname.lastname@example.org).