Industry weighs in on vitamin absorption needs as consumers turn from synthetic sources
20 Jan 2020 --- Vitamins and minerals have long been stalwarts in the supplement space, but they are by no means out-of-date. The market has embraced trends from plant-based and organic to clean label as it responds to demands from increasingly enlightened consumers. Linked to this is a shift away from synthetic vitamins, with many people now seeking natural vitamin isolates. Amid all of this bustle, absorption remains a key concern to ensure that consuming vitamins and minerals can be effective at all. NutritionInsight speaks to key players in this space to find out what is next for vitamin and mineral ingredients.
“Vitamins and minerals are essential for the normal growth and functioning of the body. They are either derived from the diet or synthesized in the body. Vitamin deficiency is a global phenomenon that affects all age groups and also frequently coexists with mineral deficiency. Because they are mainly absorbed from the small intestine, there is a host of factors that influence their absorption pattern. These can then lead to deficiencies. This is true even in populations consuming an adequate quantity through their diets or supplements,” explains Dr. Benny Antony, Joint Managing Director of Arjuna Natural, a manufacturer of standardized spice and botanical extracts.
He continues that absorption can be affected by inflammation of the gut lining, reduced secretion of digestive juices, reduced microbial diversity and dysbiosis, bacterial overgrowth infections, imbalance in the gut pH and gut mobility. Meanwhile, various phytochemicals are known to be beneficial to gut health.
Addressing this, Arjuna Natural recently developed Herbagut, which improves the microbial diversity to improve the absorption of vitamins and minerals and provides overall health and wellbeing. The blend of 14 herbal extracts contains phytochemicals, which have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, protect the gut mucosa and modulate gut mobility.
Meanwhile, RNP Nutrition is busy deriving new forms of vitamers for easy absorption. “While synthetic vitamins require special effort for absorption, vitamers as food complexes provide organic affinity to human metabolism,” explains Dr. Jayaraman Packirisamy, Principal to RNP Nutrition.
He adds that vitamin forms with higher organic affinity get absorbed through the intestine or passive diffusion, while pure forms are more chemically stable and less bioavailable. Furthermore, vitamers in food complexes offer synergy to vitamin function because they represent the functional micro-environment.
A holistic approach
The use of vitamins in foods is something of a trend in itself. According to Innova Market Insights, incorporating vitamins into food and beverage launches has increased globally, featuring a 5 percent year-over-year growth when comparing 2018 and 2017 launches. In 2018, the top categories of global product launches tracked with vitamins were bakery (19 percent), soft drinks (13 percent) and baby & toddlers (11 percent), with vitamin C being the leading ingredient among the vitamins tracked. The top health positionings of global product launches tracked with vitamins in 2018 were no additives/preservatives (18 percent), gluten-free (13 percent) and high/source of protein (8 percent).
In addition to this, the vitamin and mineral industry has been responding to other trends in the wider food and beverage space, including plant-based. “Plant-based ingredients are definitely a trend in Europe. We have also started to see ingredient developments targeting not only the active ingredient but also looking at preserving all the natural co-factors and metabolites from the plant source,” says Teresita Rudà, Marketing Manager at Lehvoss Nutrition, which is the exclusive European distributor of RNP Nutrition’s plant-based vitamin and mineral range.
She continues that this holistic approach is one of the advantages when looking at ingredients from botanical sources. “You can potentially look at delivering the whole food and not simply the active as an isolated entity. This is what we are trying to achieve with our plant-based range of vitamins and minerals. We also expect this trend to develop more and more in the near future.”
Dr. Packirisamy adds that plant-based vitamins and minerals are the next-generation products that are filling RNP Nutrition’s product pipeline. “Our new range of products optimizes consumer value for vitamins overcoming challenges regarding delivery, deficiency condition and ingredient choice.”
He continues that the company is aiming to overcome the traditional challenges associated with vitamins or naturally isolated pure forms of stable vitamins. “Our products represent food complexes and vitamers, which are forms that the human system recognizes.”
A more knowledgeable consumer?
Thanks to the internet, consumers have more access to information than ever before, which is also having an effect on the way that industry communicates. “We see a trend where the customers are concerned over proofs of the efficacy of the products or ingredients offered, which should be well-supported by clinical trials and published literature. A decade ago, customers didn’t raise concerns over heavy metal and pesticide contamination, which is certainly not the scenario now,” says Dr. Antony.
He adds that it is now regular practice to learn about ingredients from the packaging, seek clean label food alternatives and verify information online before consuming a new product. “People are now proactive about their health, whereas before they were only seeking assistance when they had fallen sick with a medical condition.”
Dr. Antony further elaborates that this shift is driving the future as consumers are actively seeking ways to keep their health at an optimum level by adopting a natural, safe and clinically proven health and nutritional products.
“Previously, only athletes and serious professionals were the buyers of supplements as it was a prerequisite in their cases. However, now even normal individuals are aware of the need to supplement their body for healthy functioning and longevity. This motivates companies to focus further on R&D initiatives and start thinking like a consumer at every stage of product development,” he explains.
Dr. Packirisamy agrees that growing consumer awareness is also a key factor, as well as highlighting the emphasis on health compromises, poor dietary intake and – above all – a dynamic and hurried lifestyle.
Meanwhile, Rudà highlights the need for industry to communicate information about new products in a simple and understandable way, both at a B2C and B2B level. “The challenge will be looking at vitamins and minerals from a different perspective and challenging existing delivery formats. Additionally, different sources of vitamins and minerals – botanical, for example – will also be an interesting way for certain food supplement companies to differentiate themselves from the standard offer and we see already some key players taking that approach.”
She also critiques the European Novel Foods system, noting that it dates back to 1997. “The world has moved on in terms of technology and product uses, so legislation and regulation need to evolve too,” Rudà concludes.
By Katherine Durrell
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