Italian firm Indena, which makes around 7-8 per cent of its turnover from ingredients for cosmetic supplements, says it has not seen increased demand for such products in recent years although it has seen a greater number of enquiries and requests for technical information.
"The product introduced by Innéov attracted a lot of attention," noted Massimo Lattuada, commercial director at Indena.
"We had tried to pitch this concept to a number of companies in the past but most were sceptical. Now there are a number of companies that are evaluating different projects in this area and considering joining the bandwagon started by Nestle."
Nestle's joint venture with L'Oreal, called Laboratoires Innéov, launched its first product in the first quarter of 2003. The supplement contains lacto-lycopene, developed by Nestle to improve the absorbability of lycopene, as well as vitamin C and soy isoflavones. It is designed for use by women over 40 to restore firmness to the skin.
This was followed by Procter and Gamble's venture with Pharmavite in the US, prompting analysts to call such products the next phase of nutraceutical development. With an increasingly mature food and beverage market, 'cosmetic foods' offered a way of differentiating products and also met demand from the ageing demographic of many developed nations.
But Adrienne Crossley, OTC research manager at Euromonitor, told NutraIngredients.com: "I haven't seen a raft of products being launched."
"The initial products saw good awareness but since then growth has been fairly stable. They are so much more expensive than mass market supplements and probably need to be positioned properly with expert guidance in pharmacies," she added.
Euromonitor nevertheless estimated growth last year at around 20-30 per cent albeit from a small base. The sector is being helped by the demand for products with specific benefits as well as the strong trend in anti-ageing. But good growth in skincare may also detract from supplements designed for cosmetic purposes.
"There is lots going on in the moisturizers market which could explain the low level of product launches in supplements," said Crossley.
However ingredient suppliers suggest that cosmeceuticals with proven efficacy will become an important niche, especially in markets with large premium skincare sales like France.
In France, Innéov's home market, cosmeceuticals were estimated to be worth €300 million in 2002 by cosmetic trade show Cosmeeting. Germany's market was worth €216 million but both fall far short of the €710 million in the US and €1.2 billion in Japan.
Indena, whose core focus is the pharmaceutical market, has developed a lycopene and grapeseed combination that is being used by Ferrosan, the manufacturer of Imedeen and another pioneer in the sector.
Grapeseed has potent antioxidant power but also acts to stop enzymatic reactions, preventing the collagen in skin from being broken down.
Other ingredients, mostly antioxidants, supplied for cosmetic purposes include milk thistle, olive pulp extract and green tea.
However Lattuada noted the importance of studies to support efficacy of the ingredients.
"We need to have products that work, with claims substantiated by in vivo and human studies," he said.
One of the first supplements to target cosmetic applications, Cellasene made by an Italian firm to target cellulite, was hauled up by US Federal Trade Commission in 2003 for making unsubstantiated claims in marketing material created by its US distributor Rexall Sundown.
Other ingredient companies working on new products or applications for this market include DSM, which has been carrying out research on beta-carotene's action against skin damage from exposure to sunlight, and the US-based SoftGel Technologies that offers a proprietary hyaluronic acid shown in trials to boost skin healing and alter its appearance.