Bone strength space bolstered by phytonutrients, antioxidants and botanicals used in ancient healing practices
09 Mar 2023 --- Based on current consumer purchasing behavior, the bone health segment has risen substantially in demand. The space is heavily influenced by the digital mindset of convenience and has merged with extracts revered in traditional holistic medicinal practices, botanicals, fruit extracts with antioxidant properties, phytonutrients and micronutrients.
NutritionInsight dives into the finer details of the reasons behind these consumer perspectives and what ingredient suppliers and producers are doing to satisfy the demand with experts from Univar Solutions, Kerry and Gencor Pacific.
“Bone and joint health are increasingly becoming a topic of interest for consumers as part of healthy aging, gathering interest from both young adults and older adults,” says Silvi Siddhu, global senior marketing and technical sales manager, nutraceuticals at Univar Solutions.
“Consumers are intrigued by ingredients that are preventative and provide multiple health benefits.”
This industry insight is reinforced by John Quilter, vice president, global portfolio, proactive health at Kerry.
“Joint health is increasingly a priority with consumers, with more than a third of Gen Z and Millennials, and almost 70% of Gen X and older people, citing it as a top reason for purchasing healthy lifestyle products,” Quilter explains.
Digital native consumers
Convenience is of key importance when it comes to the digital consumer.
“Consumers want what’s trending. New and cutting-edge ingredients and technology allow brands to access new customers, channels and markets,” says Mariko Hill, global innovation manager at Gencor Pacific.
LipiSperse delivery technology allows lipophilic actives to be converted into a cold-water dispersible format which facilitates formats such as gels, powders, RTD drinks and gummies.
“Fortifying formulations with vitamin D and calcium are also popular in addition to key botanicals such as curcumin for a bulletproof joint, bone and muscle product with claims,” explains Hill.
Younger adults have a strong preference for convenient formats that fit in with their busy schedules with roughly 70% preferring gummy supplements.
“Globally, 45% of consumers choose supplements as their top format for joint-health benefits, and 40% opt for nutritional beverages, which are increasingly popular for their ease of use,” Quilter concurs.
Univar’s Siddhu says increased bioavailability and maximum absorption of minerals intrinsically linked to bone health is a key focus area. “Manufacturers like Innophos have developed a multiple-step verification process to prove full chelation of their Chelamax chelated minerals to guarantee utmost bioavailability,” she explains.
Extracts from holistic traditions
Functional ingredients that can make a plant-based claim are proving popular. There are several ingredients, traditional and novel, which feature prominently here through mechanisms that promote musculoskeletal health.
“Veganism is now the single most popular nutrition topic on social media and a vegan lifestyle is a prime subject area for 54% of food influencers, so the vegan/vegetarian appeal of Ayurvedic ingredients like AyuFlex speaks to this trend,” says Quilter.
AyuFlex is Kerry’s science-backed, non-GMO, plant-based solution for joint support that has benefits beyond those of other joint-health products.
AyuFlex is an extract of the haritaki fruit, Terminalia chebula, a key ingredient in the ancient Indian holistic medical system of Ayurveda – Sanskrit for “science of life.”
“It demonstrates antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity and is clinically evidenced to improve flexibility, speed up recovery and maintain healthy joints and mobility,” says Quilter.
Roughly 25% of global consumers cite muscle soreness as a prime driver for purchasing healthy lifestyle products, according to Kerry. Studies show AyuFlex can help provide comfort in joints and the surrounding soft tissues by addressing the underlying issue, such as pain caused by inflammation, as well as proactively supporting joint function and comfort with aging to maintain an active, quality lifestyle.
Micro ingredients with maximum appeal
Micronutrients such as calcium and vitamin D continue to dominate the category when it comes to broader awareness and acceptance. Historical ingredients like glucosamine, chondroitin and collagen are also well-established.
“Micronutrients like calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin K2 remain popular,” says Siddhu. “Deficiencies in several other nutrients, including vitamins C and E, are also associated with inadequate bone health, so they complement formulations very well. Collagen continues to gain traction. Botanicals like turmeric and ginger are also very prevalent in this category.”
“Targeting inflammation through ingredients such as omega 3 and proven botanicals and leveraging the bone-gut connection with the help of prebiotics and probiotics will help formulators create robust products within the category,” Siddhu explains.
Botanicals such as turmeric, ginger and boswellia have also been used for a long time due to solid clinical data supporting their benefits.
Value of scientific backing
There is increasing consumer interest in research-backed evidence for nutritional benefits, with 42% of US purchasers and 40% of Millennials more likely to buy a healthy lifestyle product that is backed by positive scientific data.
“With AyuFlex, for example, a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial with 105 overweight, healthy men and women experiencing activity-induced knee discomfort found that those taking it twice daily for 12 weeks had significant improvements not just with their knee pain, function, and mobility, but also in overall joint health compared to placebo,” explains Quilter.
Providing high-quality clinical data also helps manufacturers, who benefit from research on safety for regulatory compliance. “Simplifying steps for consumers to carry out their own research is also crucial to building trust – even more so than adding on-pack health claims,” he says.
According to Kerry’s research, 38% of Europeans said they want to be able to independently research a product’s benefits, while 32% want to see the scientific data behind claimed health benefits and 33% want to see the benefits clearly and transparently explained on the product packaging.
Univar has clinical backing for several botanicals and phytonutrients and their role in maintaining bone and joint health. “Botanicals are also an attractive segment and meet existing demand for consumers seeking clean, natural, holistic and healthy aging products,” Siddhu explains.
Botanicals help to differentiate products in the market. Siddhu recommends offering consumers novel ingredients backed by solid clinical substantiation to help propel innovation in this category.
“There are a few emerging ingredients that may capture attention in the growing botanicals space like Lanconone, a blend of seven botanicals, including ashwagandha, that have multiple clinical studies targeting inflammation, joint stiffness and discomfort,” explains Siddhu.
“Synergistic ingredient combinations will also offer benefits,” she explains. Univar Solutions offers water-soluble omega 3, turmeric, ginger for beverages, neutral algal DHA or taste-masked high gingerol ginger for organoleptic applications.
Compounds, polyphenols and prebiotics
Curcumin is a polyphenol with some evidence behind its benefits on bone health. “It is a unique compound to be incorporated into products for postmenopausal women, or more broadly, aging men and women, but there is a study on spinal cord injury patients,” explains Hill.
She references a study published in ScienceDirect that indicates some attenuation of declines in bone mineral density (BMD) over time.
“The effects of curcumin on the musculoskeletal system, as well as on osteoporosis, were reported by both in vivo and in vitro studies, which found that curcumin can regulate bone remodeling via increasing apoptosis and inhibits bone resorption by osteoclasts and also inhibits osteoclastogenesis by receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa B ligand.”
Prebiotics like FOS and inulin are effective complementary ingredients due to their role in increased calcium absorption and positive influence on the gut microbiota. Animal studies have also shown the role of short-chain FOS in promoting bone formation and increasing the production of butyrate, an osteogenic short-chain fatty acid.
“Supplementation with prebiotics also has the potential to help increase 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC), the chemical precursor of vitamin D, thus supporting bone health,” explains Siddhu.
Formats with consumer appeal
Tablet and pill formats make up the majority of the supplements in the bone health category. Liquid supplements containing vitamins are also well-suited and widely used for children.
“But delivery formats are constantly evolving like gummies, chewables, beverages, dairy products, baked goods and indulgent categories like chocolates,” Siddhu expresses.
“These also present opportunities for ingredient technologies (e.g., cold-water-soluble botanicals or taste-masked botanicals) for ease of application. Sensory experience plays a key role in acceptability for non-traditional delivery formats,” she says.
Capsules are the preferred format with curcumin, according to Gencor Pacific, “particularly as it is a lipophilic ingredient and is limited to such formats.”
HydroCurc is a cold-water dispersible curcumin powered by LipiSperse. It enables curcumin to be incorporated into a broader range of formats, such as powders, effervescents, shots and gummies.
According to Kerry, the claimed benefits previously found only in supplements such as capsules are now becoming widely available in all beverage formats. “Soluble ingredients with minimized off-notes, neutral flavor and cost-effective doses are also beneficial for companies wanting to include functional ingredients like AyuFlex in beverages,” notes Quilter.
Kerry has witnessed an evolution in the physical activity and healthy aging space that expands beyond the scope of muscle health. The focus is more on the role of inflammation in joint function.
“It’s no longer just about disease prevention as we age. Gym-goers, for example, are looking to enhance the function of their joints to allow more mobility and more effective workouts and to reduce the risk of injury,” explains Quilter.
The market grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 48% between 2017 and 2020 and the launch activity of supplements with joint-health claims doubled between 2018 and 2020, with 50% of consumers globally now citing healthy bones and joints as their main reason for buying functional foods, beverages and supplements.
By Inga de Jong
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