The popularity of the nutraceuticals industry is soaring, with many people now starting the day by popping a multivitamin, eating yogurt for a good dose of probiotics, or mixing a couple of drops of an herbal extract into a smoothie. According to MasterControl’s nutraceutical expert, Greg Fowles, this can be attributed to increased “education, understanding and recognition of the importance … [of] dietary supplements … [in] a healthier lifestyle.” While the number of consumers in this industry has increased, so has the number of market competitors, and companies hoping to get ahead in 2018 must be prepared to embrace new trends in quality and innovation.
As the target market for nutraceuticals has expanded to include different ages, both the oldest and youngest consumers seem to share a common problem – an aversion to taking pills. Seniors may already start their day with a small pile of pills, and getting children to swallow pills has never been easy. According to Fowles, in an effort to remove pills from the equation, companies have experimented with “convenient and more diverse delivery methods. [Consumers] that do struggle with swallowing … are demanding chewables, ready-to-mix powders and liquids.” Other new forms include lotions, sprays, gums, drops and lozenges. In theory, these forms solve the pill fatigue problem, but in practice, they introduce new challenges.
Manufacturers must ensure that their new delivery form can actually be absorbed by the body. Is it even possible for the body to absorb the vitamin or mineral through the skin? Safety is also a concern. If the new supplement bypasses the digestive system, does that present a risk? Companies are getting more and more innovative with their delivery methods, but the more innovative a new delivery form is, the more testing will need to be done to prove safety and efficacy.
Mixing up delivery methods has also led to a blurred line between foods and supplements. Pills are clearly supplements. But what about when you venture into the realm of liquid supplements? How does a nutraceutical company determine if it’s still manufacturing a supplement or if it’s inadvertently stepped over the line into beverages? Even though supplements are regulated as food, there are still separate regulations for each, so accurately labeling the product as food or supplement is vital. The FDA provides extensive guidance on the subject, but a large part of the question comes down to how the product is marketed and consumed.
Compared to past years, a lot more people are concerned with getting a lot more protein. And this concern is independent of how often a person hits the weights at the gym. Not only do consumers want more protein, they’re turning away from traditional animal sources of protein. Many nutraceutical companies already dabble in the protein powder category, and this new-found fascination with protein presents the perfect opportunity to expand into high-protein foods and drinks.
In 2018, both protein sources and finished products will reflect innovation. Plant-based protein has been a vegan/vegetarian necessity for years, but trendy insect protein is now hitting the shelves. And instead of simply offering protein as a powder supplement or meal replacement bar, companies are concocting high-protein cookies, chips, pancakes and breads. Adding extra protein to a popular food item makes it seem healthier to consumers – a major selling point in a market that is typically focused on health and wellness.
Essentially, qualifying suppliers and raw ingredients is a way to make sure you get what you order. This is important especially in an industry that’s traditionally been plagued by adulterated ingredients. When raw ingredients are contaminated and the final product has an adverse effect, this comes back on the nutraceutical company. According to Fowles, companies must do more than rely on a “raw material provider’s [certificate of analysis (CoA)] by conducting their own in-house testing verifications or outsource to an independent third party [to] conduct this testing.” Independent testing tells a company if a supplier’s CoA can generally be trusted.
In Fowles’ experience, subpar raw materials are a major issue. “I am aware of a supplement manufacturer who rejects nearly 15 [percent] of their incoming raw materials that fail to meet their specification standards. What do you think happens to this raw material when it is shipped back to the provider? I don’t believe it is thrown away. Rather it is sold to another company that does not conduct testing and only relies on the provider’s CoAs.” Every time a company trusts a CoA from a supplier it hasn’t qualified, it risks contaminating its product and possibly hurting its customers.
Clinical trials aren’t usually associated with nutraceuticals, but more and more companies are jumping on the bandwagon. While not required for compliance, clinical trials result in a higher-quality product and give the company a competitive edge over those that are relying on traditional use to show that their products work. This is a great trend for nutraceutical companies to adopt, as long as the clinical trials are performed correctly.
First, this means actually performing the clinical trial and not just relying on existing research. Past studies are fine for giving product developers ideas on what to use, but are rarely useful for showing a new formulation works. This is especially important when dealing with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which expects companies to have sufficient evidence to back up any health claims they make, including those with language such as “supports,” “helps” or “may.” High-quality clinical trials with human participants provide the best evidence to demonstrate that this isn’t false advertising.
The nutraceutical market’s potential for growth is exponential, as sales and general interest in these products increase year over year. There are many companies in this market, but the most successful ones are those that embrace the change that inevitably hits growing industries. To stay on top, or to move up in this space, nutraceutical companies need to be prepared to change how they develop their products to reflect an acceptance of higher quality standards and innovation.
To read the related white paper, “Top 5 Trends for Nutraceuticals in 2018,” in its entirety, click here.
Sarah Beale is a content marketing specialist at MasterControl in Salt Lake City, Utah. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in business administration from DeVry University.