Trend-spotter highlights three major opportunities for CLA

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Lean body mass Linoleic acid Nutrition Cla

Fat loss, anti-aging and sarcopenia are three virtually untapped markets for conjugated linolenic acid (CLA), according to a recent presentation by trend expert Dr Elizabeth Sloan.

Speaking during a webcast organized by CLA manufacturer Cognis, Sloan said the market was ripe for new uses for the ingredient, particularly now that it has received US FDA-approved GRAS status for use in foods and drinks.

CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is a fatty acid found primarily in milk, beef, and dairy products. Due to changes in the Western diet, average intake of CLA has fallen; for example, if the fat is removed from a dairy product to make a low fat version that will be acceptable to consumers, CLA is removed along with it.

As a functional ingredient, CLA is best known for its effects on body composition, particularly its potential to reduce body fat and increase lean muscle.

Fat loss

According to Sloan, who runs Sloan Trends, a trend-tracking consultancy for the nutraceuticals industry, the weight loss market is at an all-time high, but it is currently undergoing a major shift.

“What we’re seeing is a new connection to fat (…) What it boils down to is that people want to get rid of the fat, not just the weight,”​ she said.

The weight loss market in the US is currently valued at $59bn, and is estimated to reach $69bn by 2010. This high growth level is driven by the increasing number of Americans who are concerned about their weight and want to do something about it.

However, according to NPD data, dieting is at its lowest level in around 15 years. In contrast, people’s interest in doing something about their weight is at its highest level, said Sloan.

This, she said, means the market is ready and waiting for products to help lose weight, and help lose body fat.

Sloan said this is backed up by TrendSense Analysis graphs, which are designed to measure market readiness and depict time to market of new ingredients, products, or concepts. It measures the ‘popularization’ threshold (which is when something becomes a hot market for very health conscious consumers), the medical/nutrition threshold, and the commercialization threshold – or mass-market readiness.

According to TrendSense, weight loss has shot up past the mass market threshold. At the same time, however, body composition and body fat have also “very quietly”​ crossed into the mass market over the past two years.

“The market is ready for them right now. That’s one of the really exciting things about CLA at this time, because it can facilitate bringing this into the functional food world,”​ said Sloan.


The second major market for CLA is anti-aging, which is “totally new”​, said Sloan.

“The aging process makes us sag, and boomers are very concerned about how they look.”​ Age-related body composition changes begin around age 50, she said, with a loss in lean body mass of around half a pound per year, and an increase in fat mass of around one pound per year.

“Boomers are taking a wide variety of anti-aging actions, so trying to improve their muscle tone is certainly going to be no exception. In fact, it might move to the top of the list.”

The baby boomer market is huge, with adults over 55 already constituting one third of the entire US population. In the next seven years, the 55-64 age-group will grow another 35 percent, and the over-65 age-group is expected to grow by around 26 percent.

A particular advantage of the boomer market is that this age-group sticks to whatever they do, unlike generations before them, said Sloan. “So this is a perfect target for the muscle tone concept.”


Sarcopenia is a condition that affects the older generation, and is linked to a loss of lean body mass, strength and function.

In the US, some 45 percent of over-65 year-olds are thought to be impacted by the condition. A person in their 20s will have muscle that is up to 60 percent fat-free mass, whereas this drops to less than 40 percent for a 70 year-old.

“This is somewhere where CLA can play a dramatic role,”​ said Sloan.

On the TrendSense graph, Sarcopenia has just crossed the medical threshold and is just about to hit popularization, explained Sloan.

CLA, on the other hand, has passed the medical and popularization thresholds, and is approaching commercialization, she said.

Sloan said she will provide more detailed information about sarcopenia and the market potential for products addressing the condition at the Supply Side West trade show in Las Vegas in October this year.

To access Sloan’s current presentation and slides, click here​.

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