CoQ10 continues to be popular with European skin care formulators, whereas US supplement-makers are more eager to leverage research on its internal energy-boosting abilities, data suggests. Moreover, European consumers may not be as aware of the health benefits as their American counterparts.
The latest data drawn from Mintel's Global New Products Database indicates that the trend towards COQ10 being used in more dietary supplement products in the US and more skin care products in Europe is continuing.
The trend was identified in a NutraIngredients.com article published in September 2005, which examined Mintel data from 2000.
Between September 2005 and May 2006, the database contains eight new dietary supplement entries in the US and just one in Europe (product variants not included). Conversely, ten new skin care entries are listed for Europe in the same nine months, against only three in the US.
Japan, for which Mintel lists seven new supplement entries, 19 skin care entries, and three cosmetics entries, continues to be the most prolific market for all CoQ10 products.
Paul Chamberlain, technical director of Solgar UK, which has sold a range of CoQ10 supplements in the UK since the late 1980s, told NutraIngredients.com that there may be greater publicity and awareness of recent research investigating CoQ10's heart health benefits in the US.
In Europe, more emphasis has been placed on CoQ10's role in overall energy production.
A powerful antioxidant, CoQ10 plays a vital role in the production of chemical energy in mitochondria - the 'power plants' of the cell - by participating in the production of adenosince triphosphate, the body's 'energy currency'.
But Chamberlain stressed that it is important to manage people's expectations. He said: "You might not be running around like a 10-year-old, but your organs are working better."
Since there are no immediate outward signs of better organ function, people may not think it is having any great effect.
In the US, there has also been considerable attention to the cognitive benefits of CoQ10; a study published in Archives of Neurology (59, pp 1541-1550) in 2002 indicated that it may help slow the progression of Parkinson's disease. Further investigations in this area and in Alzheimer's disease are underway.
In Europe, on the other hand, the role of antioxidants in tackling the outward signs of ageing has received much attention, as manifested by print and television advertisements. The consumer awareness this has built has paved the way towards CoQ10 being well received as an effective topical anti-ageing ingredient.
Since supplement products do not carry any health claims on their packaging, Chamberlain said that companies rely heavily on the consumer being educated enough to know what the potential benefits may be.
"For our products, most of the education is through stores, although there is a lot of good health writing going on too," he said.
However although the company does devote much time and effort to education of retailers, that information is transmitted to consumers only when they ask - and that only really tends to come about when products become more mainstream.
Chamberlain said that, ten years ago, there was little understanding of the role of probiotics in health. Since probiotics have entered the mainstream consumers have been spurred to start asking questions, have learned more about the benefits, and have therefore been more likely to buy products.
In the future, however, if consumer awareness grows, he says CoQ10 could attain the same level of popularity.
Although the 2002 EU Supplements Directive has caused a measure of disruption to the European supplements market, it is not thought to have had any impact on manufacturers' use of CoQ10 - yet.
For now, the annexes to the directive list only vitamins and minerals that may be used in dietary supplements; any excluded vitamins and minerals must be granted derogation if they are to be used beyond 2009.
Although further annexes may be drawn up at a later stage, for now COQ10 falls under the umbrella of the directive. Companies have had to amend their labelling to include the term 'food supplement', to advise consumers that the product should not be used instead of a varied diet, and to warn them not to exceed the directions for use.
Chamberlain said that consumers are unlikely to have noticed the difference.
However in the absence of detailed knowledge of the benefits, the relatively high price of CoQ10 means that some people may be put off. Since CoQ10 levels decline with age, it becomes necessary to use larger doses.
"If you are using 30mg its not too bad, but at 60 to 200mg levels it can get a bit pricey."
Solgar's CoQ10 products range from £12.09 (€17.50) for 30 30mg softgels to £50.99 (€73.90) for 30 200mg vegicaps.
Data source: Mintel's Global New Products Database