Food for thought: Suppliers on the cognitive health ingredients market 


13 Jul 2018 --- Cognitive health has proven itself a growing category, with new products appealing to consumers from all walks of life, from more senior citizens seeking to prevent cognitive decline, to busy office workers looking to combat mental fatigue. NutritionInsight speaks to suppliers about their views on this growing category.

“It is one of a handful of supplement categories predicted to grow by double-digits through 2021. Riding a wave of high consumer interest, brain health is predicted to be a US$1 billion category in the next three years, says Brian Appell, Marketing Manager, Activation, OmniActive Health Technologies. 

According to Innova Market Insights, there has been an average annual growth of +12.9 percent in the number of new F&B and supplement launches tracked with cognitive health claims between 2012 and 2017, and according to industry experts, this number is only set to expand.

“Currently, brain health occupies a very small share of supplement sales, at 1.6 percent. This is great news as this means it has a lot of room to grow,” Appell states.

According to Itay Shafat, Ph.D. Product Manager Cognitive Line and Sports Nutrition at Frutarom Health, consumers looking for a brain boost are becoming increasingly “pill fatigued,” and are seeking alternatives to capsules, soft gels or tablets when taking their nutrients. Instead, they are starting to look more to foods supplemented or fortified with functional ingredients.

On top of this, “there is a growing interest in vegan or vegetarian alternatives (for example, for omega 3), and the market will need to answer to that with some innovative solutions. Organic certification is also growing, and we expect to see more products seeking organic certification in the near future,” says Shafat.

One segment of the cognitive health space seeing increased consumer interest is that of the nootropics, also known as “smart drugs” or “cognitive enhancers.” 

“[They are reported] to work by protecting the neurons in your brain from damage and strengthening neuroplasticity, the response to sensory information. This translates to improvements in attention span, memory, learning capacity and overall cognitive health,” Appell says. 

Within this space, OmniActive offers its Lutemax 2020, which delivers all three macular carotenoids (lutein, RR-zeaxanthin and RS (meso)-zeaxanthin). The ingredient has particularly strong market potential for long-duration digital device users due to its beneficial effects on ocular health and performance, sleep quality and eye strain and fatigue during long-duration exposure to digital devices and screens.

Challenging circumstances
Despite its growth potential, suppliers of cognitive health ingredients face a number of challenges when creating and marketing their products. One of these challenges is related to the fact that cognitive health ingredients are sought after by consumers from myriad age and activity groups.

Click to Enlarge“The biggest challenge in researching ingredients for cognitive health is to determine what endpoints or biomarkers are of interest and are needed with today’s consumer. As times change, so do the interests, needs and wants of consumers and the science should support these areas. Not all consumers are looking for the same cognitive health benefits,” notes Oksana Ritchie, European Marketing Manager for Kyowa Hakko Europe, which offers Cognizin Citicoline, an ingredient that “has long been utilized to support the health of brain cells and now we see consistent benefits on focus and attention as well as improved motor speed.”  

According to Shafat, the cognitive ingredients market can be split into two groups of products: The first group includes molecules related directly to brain health and function (choline and its derivatives, DHA, phosphatidylserine), while the second are extracts from a variety of plants, with historical and modern cognitive use (Ginkgo biloba, curcumin, green oats, bacopa and more). 

“There are two main challenges for the introduction of a new product to this category. The first is how to identify the right molecule or extract. Once identified, and this brings us to the second challenge, is to prove its cognitive benefit rigorously, and what exactly is causing this benefit,” Shafat notes. 

“Many companies prefer to skip the second part, which can be expensive and take a long time, doing only the minimum they think is required, and thus bringing to the market ingredients with minimal clinical, and sometimes not at all mechanistic, evidence for effect. This kind of operation can hurt the image of the entire segment,” says Shafat.

The need for transparency and scientific backing became clear once more when Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recently encouraged consumers to avoid ginkgo supplements based on a study that showed that products with ginkgo are often adulterated, lack effectiveness and have a risk for bleeding. 

“Hopefully, this news will not affect the credibility of high quality and efficacious ingredients. We will see how the US FDA reacts to this news,” Ritchie says.

“Regulatory hurdles are nothing new in our industry, and the trend is for even stricter scrutiny in the years to come. This is a positive thing, however, as it forces suppliers to be more transparent and operate under better GMPs, with clean, sustainable, scientifically-backed ingredients,” Appell notes.

However, Appell notes, growing demands for transparency and scientific backing is spurring on new research in cognition and brain health, opening up new roads for innovative product development.

Avenues for growth and R&D
As with other health areas, evolving consumer knowledge is pushing suppliers so continuously up their innovation efforts. But where do they see the next avenues for growth?

“We believe that new technologies, such as Frutarom's new delivery systems in the form of true-fruit snacks and those improving the bioavailability of ingredients, can make the entire experience of taking health ingredients more appealing, convenient and trusted bringing the overall experience of taking supplements to a new level,” says Shafat of Frutarom, which is seeing an increase in demand for it brain health ingredients, such as its green oat extract Neuravena, proprietary phosphatidylserine Sharp-PS and GinkGo.
Appell tips macular carotenoids as drivers for investments in the cognitive space. 

“The three macular carotenoids – lutein and zeaxanthin isomers – are ingredients mostly thought of in the eye health space, but new research points to their utility in the brain health space as well,” he says. “There is a brain-eye connection in that the eye is also considered neural tissue. So, it makes sense to not only look towards new, novel ingredients but also invest in science for existing ingredients that may have other health benefits.”

Ritchie points to the expansion of brain health ingredients into different lifestyle groups.

“We see Cognizin expanding into different lifestyle groups. Each age group or demographic might utilize Cognizin for different purposes,” she says, naming as examples  pre-retirement age 55+ consumers interested in maintaining healthy brain function so they can enjoy a good quality of life as they age, busy adults aged 35-50 whose modern life demands a lot from their body and their brains, as well as sports-minded active adults who train hard to perform at their best. 

Answering the needs of different consumer groups, in all age segments, the cognitive health market presents myriad opportunities for product development and extensive research.

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Kyowa Hakko Europe GmbH


Kyowa Hakko Europe is offering a line of well-researched branded ingredients and an extensive portfolio of ultra-pure amino acids, vitamins, nucleic acids and related compounds for use in pharmaceutical, nutritional and industrial applications.

Kyowa Hakko Europe together with its daughter company Kyowa Hakko Bio Italia represent the European Sales Force of KYOWA HAKKO BIO CO., LTD., a Japanese company with combined strengths in bio-technology and fermentation. With its innovative and patented fermentation process built over the years, which excludes the usage of any animal origin material, KYOWA has become a trusted pioneer in the healthcare field, making substantial contributions to the health and well-being of people around the world.

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A proprietary form of citicoline, Cognizin® is a potent brain nutrient that’s been clinically shown to support mental energy, focus, attention and recall. Tested in human clinical trials and developed using a patented fermentation process, Cognizin® has a Novel Food status in Europe. It is a pure, allergen-free ingredient that is stable and effective. More >>


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