The use of the term “antioxidants” increasingly appears as a marketing tool on the front label of many consumer products. For example, in early 2007, Well’s Dairy’s Blue Bunny FrozFruit Superfruit introduced gourmet frozen fruit bars containing pomegranate juice concentrate, cherries and elderberry juice concentrate; the company points out the latter is for color. The front of the package notes the bars are made with real fruit and are a natural source of antioxidants. A Raspberry & Açai variety was also introduced.
Antioxidants very often are added to products by way of ingredients naturally containing higher amounts of these compounds. Currently, such ingredients are typically fruits (e.g., pomegranate and blueberries), cereals and seeds (e.g., flaxseed), dark chocolate, other botanicals (e.g., tea) and vitamins (e.g., C, E including the tocopherols, and A including beta carotene). Some marketing efforts are direct. For example, Hershey’s line of extra dark chocolates, with its recently launched Extra Dark Chocolate Assortment and Extra Dark Tasting Squares, sports a logo on the front label stating “Natural Source of Flavanol Antioxidants.” Its website displays an antioxidant comparison chart. (See the chart “Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolates.”) Similarly, Malt-O-Meal’s Blueberry Muffin Tops Cereal’s front label now flags that it is a “Good Source of Antioxidants.” Its antioxidant-contributing ingredients include whole-grain wheat, rice flour, real blueberries and several vitamins.
Other companies take a more conservative approach. Pepsico’s Gatorade website says its new Propel Powder Mix contains “the antioxidant vitamins C and E,” although this is not stated on the label itself. The Mintel GNPD database notes that Advanced Healthcare Distributors’ new Life Fitness Ocu Well dietary supplement features “an advanced vitamin and antioxidant nutritional formula specifically developed for maintaining healthy eyes,” although again this information does not appear on the label per se. It is, however, packed with a plethora of ingredients possessing antioxidant abilities, including vitamins A (20,000mg from beta carotene), C (750mg), E (200mg lutein from d-alpha-tocopheryl acid succinate), rutin (50mg), quercetin (50mg), lutein (10mg), standardized bilberry extract (5mg) and L-glutathione (5mg).
Hitting a TargetProducts such as the Ocu Well supplement are part of a category of products that target a specific health condition; such products are experiencing significant growth. In a November 2006 release on the report “Nutritional Supplements in the U.S.” by Packaged Facts, its publisher Don Montuori notes that in 2005, new product introductions of supplements “included a heavier focus on driving home the therapeutic benefits of supplementation,” and that “introductions included products touting multiple condition-specific benefits…” He predicts age-related, condition-specific products including weight, diabetes, joint and eye health will be a particular focus. Based on results from its 2006 Health & Wellness Trends Database, the Natural Marketing Institute identified the most popular condition-specific supplements as being those for joint, heart and immune support.
At the 2006 NBJ/Newport Summit Conference, Grant Ferrier, editor-in-chief, Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) reported that 2005 dietary supplement sales for “sports/energy/ weight-loss,” “cold/flu-immune,” “joint health” and “heart health” were $5.8, $1.4, $1.2 and $1.0 billion, respectively. (See page NS13 of Prepared Foods’ September 2006 issue.) Overall, Ferrier predicted some 5% to 7% growth for the nutrition industry between 2006 and 2008. (See chart “Growing Segments.”)
In mid-2006, SPINs suggested that the digestive aids and enzymes category would be an important one to watch. According to the National Institutes of Health, constipation afflicted 3.1 million in the year 1996. (See http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/statistics.htm for market size of various digestive health conditions.) SPINs reports sales of products addressing constipation are up 22% across channels, reaching $102.7 million (SPINSscan Natural and Conventional channels, 52 weeks ending 8/12/06). For the same period, sales of products for indigestion were at least $95 million across all channels, with another $63 million in sales of products for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a condition estimated to affect some 40 million people in the U.S. SPINs reports that enzyme-related products are the leading type of digestive-aid items in the FDM (food, drug and mass-merchandise) channels, while probiotics are at the top of the natural channel. (For a chart on dollar sales and rank by category, go to www.spins.com/assets/pdf/digestivehealth_subcategorysales.pdf.)
Enzyme-oriented products finding success in this category range from long-familiar Beano, a GlaxoSmithKline product that is said to contain the enzyme alpha-galactosidase, to products for lactose intolerance. For example, Mintel GNPD reports that Parmalat Dairy & Bakery just introduced Beatrice Lactaid Partly Skimmed Milk (1% milkfat), which is 99% lactose-free through use of the lactase enzyme. Understanding that cats are often lactose intolerant (which is somewhat ironic), Effem introduced Wiskas Catmilk, which is said to be 98% lactose-reduced, also through use of lactase.
Beyond those for lactose intolerance, digestive products also overlap with the growing category of gluten-free products that target consumers with true allergic response to this plant protein. (Lactose intolerance is not a food allergy; it is the inability to digest lactose.) Unilever Bestfoods recently extended its Slim Fast Easy to Digest line of shakes to include vanilla, coffee and chocolate flavors. The lactose-free, gluten-free drinks join similarly positioned products hitting the market in 2006 such as Silky & Rich Brownie Mix by the company 1-2-3 Gluten Free, Eppy's Kosher All Beef Jumbo Wieners by Omnitsky Kosher and Heart Beat Foods Smart Balance Omega Chunky Peanut Butter.
Probing ProbioticsDigestive enzyme and probiotic products are, in fact, often related, since most strains of probiotic bacteria are able to reduce the lactose content of dairy products through fermentation of that sugar. In 2006, Canada-based Belgo & Bellas launched Yog Active, a multi-pack probiotic muesli cereal that notes on its front label that it contains 17% Lactobacillus acidophilus “active yogurt pearls.” The Mintel GNPD says that, according to the company, this strain of lactic acid bacteria “helps to restore bacterial balance in the intestine, reduces levels of harmful bacteria, stimulates the immune system and promotes the production of lactase, an enzyme that aids in the digestion of lactose.” The product is similar to Kashi’s Vive cold cereal launched in 2006 by Kellogg USA. The package notes it contains “Lactobacillus probiotic cultures (L. acidophilus or L. casei)” and helps educate consumers on its various ingredients. It offers that the probiotic promotes “digestive balance and immunity,” that ginger is “popular for its ability to ease and balance digestion,” that calcium and vitamin D are linked to strengthening intestinal health and that “broccoli contains potent phytonutrients that have been shown to stimulate the liver’s cleansing activity.” Concentrated broccoli extract is a key ingredient as well as fiber.
Other non-dairy products incorporating probiotic cultures in 2006 include Schwan’s Home Service Cranberry Loaf, a bread with “active cultures (L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, L. acidophilus, L. bifidous, L. casein),” Trois Amis’s Cultured Way Yogurt Cheese with acidophilus and bifidus and Wysong Corporation’s Choc-O-Nuts Snack Mix with Probiotic Cultures (including L. acidophilus, L. bifidus, L. plantarum and Enterococcus faecium). It also has “the antioxidants found in the flavonoids of dark chocolate.”
Such products join a much broader array of probiotic dietary supplements and fermented dairy-type products. Dietary supplement examples include Wild by Nature Market Folic Acid Tablets and CVS Pharmacy’s Extra Strength Acidophilus Dietary Supplement, from Perrigo, with L. acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum that claims “a patented triple-layer delivery system” not requiring refrigeration. The latter is a bow to the understanding that significant quantities of bacteria cultures must survive the hazardous trip through the digestive system to reach the large intestines in order for maximum health benefits.
Probiotics have finally hit the big time, as they are now included in a multitude of types of yogurt, kefirs and culture-containing soy protein drinks. Stonyfield Farms, one of the earliest proponents and users of probiotics in the U.S., recently introduced Organic Yokids Squeezers, portable yogurt tubes with six live active cultures of probiotics. General Mill’s Yoplait USA added three new flavors to its Whips! yogurt mousse line that also contains “active cultures including L. acidophilus.”
Part of the attraction for probiotic cultures is the increasing amount of research that indicates they may play a role in a broad array of health conditions. (See www.usprobiotics.org for more information.) Among these are enhanced immunity and a reduced risk of some allergies. In addition, an optimal balance of gut microflora has even been linked to easier weight control. The nutritional products industry is indeed interesting to watch, as companies themselves watch emerging nutritional research, competitor activities and consumer interests to provide successful new products. NS
Going GlobalThe world is a dangerous place filled with merciless characters hunting newborns and the aged alike. The marauding villains include virus, bacteria and other microbes. Humans fight back with their own immune system and also turn to immunity-enhancing products.
This year, Japan saw the introduction of an infant formula for babies aged nine months and older by Tokyo-based Morinaga Milk Industry. The product is typical in that it contains milk and other dairy ingredients such as lactose, casein and digested whey protein. The last ingredient is the likely source of the product’s lactoferrin, a protein with antimicrobial properties found in breast milk. In a United Nations-type effort, United Arab Emirates-based Dabur introduced Dabur Chyawanprash Authentic Ayurveda health supplement to the Finnish market. The product is said to strengthen the immune system and is 47.74% fresh Indian gooseberry fruit (amla) along with nearly 40 other ingredients, ranging from the familiar (honey and cardamom) to those less so (feather-foll and Ceylon-cow plants). Vietnam saw the introduction of a beverage by League Cordyceps Products. Its contents include Cordyceps, shiitake and Ganoderma lucidum (reishi) mushrooms and fungi. Such components are popular for immune support in the U.S. as well.
This small list is far from inclusive. Probiotic cultures, zinc, vitamin C, many botanicals, whey-protein fractions and omega-3 fatty acids are just a start of ingredients with worldwide reputations for immune support.
PHOTOS AND SOME PRODUCT INFORMATION COURTESY OF THE MINTEL GNPD