Growing consumer awareness of their own deficiencies, its health benefits, and the emergence of innovative forms are making magnesium the ‘the hottest ingredient in the mineral category’.
With between 70 and 80% of the US population not meeting their recommended intakes of magnesium, consumers – and the health care professionals who advise them - are waking up to the importance of the mineral.
Max Motyka, director of sales and marketing at Albion Human Nutrition, said the company is seeing a substantial growth in our sales into the dietary supplement industry.
“The magnesium market is second only to calcium, currently, but it has the potential to exceed the calcium market,” he said.
“The sky is the limit on the magnesium market.”
According to SPINS, US sales of magnesium supplements in natural (excluding Whole Foods) and conventional outlet (including Walmart) grew by almost 20% from 2011 to 2012, to be worth $67,875,702. Growth from 2010 to 2011 was 15%.
Consumption volumes from Euromonitor indicate increases of about 3% globally, with the Middle East and Africa and Asia Pacific showing the biggest increases of 6.3% and 6.0%, respectively.
Consumption volumes in North America and Western Europe are growing at a more modest 1% year-on-year, said the market researcher.
“Compared to calcium, the market for magnesium is still underdeveloped, especially in the US,” said Markus Gerhart, junior product manager special salts for Jungbunzlauer. “While, for example, in Germany sales by value of magnesium supplements are around 4 times higher than sales for calcium (Nielsen), there is an inverse picture in the US where only 12 % of supplement users consume magnesium, while 32% are consuming calcium (CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, 2011),”
“From my perspective the magnesium success story in Germany is directly linked to the fact that customers ‘feel the benefit’. In Germany customers had been educated for decades that magnesium deficiency is linked to muscle cramps or twitches. Utilizing magnesium in a highly absorbable form like our trimagnesium citrate brings a fast relief to these problems.”
“At the moment, I would venture to say that, unless a consumer has a vested interest in their health or nutrition, their knowledge of magnesium is limited,” said Cathy Arnold, supervisor, senior formulation scientist, Fortitech, Inc.
“Unfortunately, it’s not something like fish oil that in recent years has gotten a lot of attention by consumer media and health professionals, touting its health benefits. However, that being said, this is an opportunity for manufacturers to call out its inclusion in their products, along with its health benefits,” she added.
While consumers are just catching on to the potential benefits of the mineral, the industry is well aware of the potential, said Gerhart.
“What we feel and what we hear from our customers is that magnesium is currently the hottest topic within the mineral category,” he said.
Albion’s Motyka notes that using magnesium in formulations like tablets and capsules does not pose much of a challenge, but taste and solubility of certain forms can be an issue in food and beverages.
Fortitech’s Arnold explained that magnesium will raise the pH of a product, which will affect its taste. Additionally, as a supplement, enteric coating of a magnesium compound can decrease bioavailability.
“In a study that compared four forms of magnesium preparations, results suggested lower bioavailability of magnesium oxide, with significantly higher and equal absorption and bioavailability of magnesium chloride and magnesium lactate,” she said.
“This supports the belief that both the magnesium content of a dietary supplement and its bioavailability contribute to its ability to restore deficient levels of magnesium.”
Chelates - magnesium that is bonded together with amino acids – can produce greater absorption of the mineral in the small intestine when used in supplements, but the amino acid component can create formulation challenges in a food or beverage application, she said, with pH affecting some of the amino acids.
Albion has led the field in magnesium chelate innovation, and currently offers a range of mineral amino acid chelates. “Outside of these forms having superior bioavailability, we also offer a chelate that is very water soluble, and taste free, which makes it quite adaptable to a variety of beverage applications, as well as chewables and effervescents,” said Motyka.
Jungbunzlauer’s Gerhart said that, in the mineral fortification arena, there is only limited room for real product innovation due to the limited new options for safe, applicable and affordable ingredients as well the highly regulated landscape.
“The innovation is actually taking place within existing magnesium forms,” he said.
The German company promotes its trimagnesium citrate ingredient for convenient forms like sachets, beverage powders, and liquid supplements where solubility and taste are challenging properties. The company has also recently developed recipes for a range of products; including a liquid calcium magnesium suspension or magnesium fortified, sugar-free jellies.
Co-salts are also offered by other suppliers. Jost Chemicals launched a calcium magnesium citrate co-salt in 2012 to help alleviate solidification, hardening and flowability issues.
Fortitech’s Arnold added that, for the most part, formulations that include magnesium (along with calcium) as a prominent ingredient seem to be within the beverage and dairy categories and are focusing on bone health.
Exploring the factors behind the growth reveals an increase in clinical research concerning magnesium, with many of these being “very positive”, said Motyka.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) lists magnesium as being necessary for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, from helping maintain normal muscle (with potential for sports nutrition) and nerve function, to keeping heart rhythm steady, supporting a healthy immune system, and keeping bones strong. The mineral is also needed for blood sugar management, and healthy blood pressure.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued positive opinions on magnesium and the maintenance of normal bone, teeth, and protein synthesis; the reduction of tiredness and fatigue; electrolyte balance; normal energy-yielding metabolism; neurotransmission, and muscle contraction.
The agency was not convinced by claims about magnesium and blood glucose, blood pressure, stress relief, protection of DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage, the immune system and fat metabolism.
Despite negative opinions from EFSA, a number of meta-analysis and high-profile studies have been published in recent years supporting the mineral's benefits for metabolic pathways , blood pressure , reducing the risk of stroke , and reducing the risk of colon cancer .
There has also been much said about the potential of the mineral for brain health. The charge into the brain health realm is being led by the magnesium L-threonate ingredient branded Magtein by Magceutics.
Kathy Lund, VP of business development & marketing for AIDP, which distributes Magtein, said the consumer response has been “tremendous”.
“In just one short year, Magtein has captured over $10MM in retail sales,” she said.
The ingredient is already used in between 12 and 15 products in the US, she said, and the timeline from concept to launch for products containing the ingredient is aided by the ease of use of the ingredient.
“Magtein has over two year’s stability in capsules,” she said. “Under typical beverage manufacturing processes, Magtein in protein or water is over 95% stable.”
Lund added that the ingredient is also highly soluble and does not have an off taste, a necessary attribute for food and beverage applications.
“I think that as more research becomes available on the necessity of magnesium in our diets, we will see more attention paid to it by mainstream media, which will have an impact in consumer knowledge of this mineral,” said Fortitech’s Arnold.
“Once that awareness begins to happen, I think we will see many, many more products, both in the food and beverage areas, calling out magnesium and its benefits to the consumer.”