Functional food boosts demand for vitamin E as supplements suffer

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

The functional food market is the fastest growing application for
vitamin E, with beverages, bars and oils increasingly fortified
with the vitamin, reveals new research.

Frost & Sullivan's report on the US vitamin E market predicts that sales of vitamin E to food and drinks will grow by an average 7.3 per cent each year to 2012 as food makers look to offer healthier products that are rich in antioxidants.

Vitamin E-rich foods have been boosted by new formulations that make adding the oil-soluble vitamin to water-based products much easier. This innovation by ingredient makers has led to a number of new products being launched in recent months, particularly beverages.

"Cereals hold the largest share of the fortified foods market, but beverages are next,"​ said Jennifer Steinke, food and beverage industry analyst at Frost.

Strong growth in functional beverages - estimated to be around 70 per cent in the next ten years - will continue to boost demand in this area, while nutrition bars also use increasing amounts of vitamin E.

But oils and margarines are the newest sector to fortify with vitamin E, following a trend that is already well developed in other regions of the world like India.

In contrast with this growth area, the supplements market - currently making up almost 30 per cent of the total vitamin E revenues in the US - has seen a 15-20 per cent decline in revenues during 2005.

Supplements were hit hard by a wave of negative media reports based on studies pointing to potential side-effects, particularly of higher doses.

The negative media hit natural vitamin E harder, mainly because of the price premium compared to synthetic vitamin E. It also relies on the supplement sector while synthetic vitamin E is used in large volumes in feed.

"Vitamin makers are expecting it to pick up with 0-1 per cent growth in the coming year, and a slight improvement afterwards. But there won't be a full recovery anytime soon,"​ said Steinke.

Much depends on what the future brings in terms of clinical study results, she noted.

In 2005, vitamin E revenues from supplements amounted to $62.3 million, but the market is set to see an average 1.6 percent decline to 2012.

The report suggests that vitamin makers - led by BASF, DSM and Adisseo - will need to protect against competition from other antioxidants and Asian rivals, as well as concentrate on boosting consumer understanding.

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