Glucosamine grows slowly but surely

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Glucosamine, Chondroitin sulfate

Global launches of products containing the joint health ingredient glucosamine are seeing a slow but steady increase, with North America and Asia Pacific currently reporting the most new launches, according to Mintel.

Glucosamine has mainly been used as a base ingredient in joint health dietary supplements. It has been shown to help rebuild and repair human cartilage, and is often used in conjunction with chondroitin, which gives cartilage elasticity.

Mintel’s global new products database (GNPD) recorded a total of 60 new glucosamine-containing products launched globally last year, compared to 49 the year before and 34 in 2005. So far this year, there have been 44 new global launches in the category.

According to GNPD figures, both North America and Asia Pacific had each recorded 21 new products in the category in 2007, with Europe coming in next recording 16 new products. The market in other regions in the world remains underdeveloped – Latin America and the Middle East & Africa saw the launch of only one product last year.

Looking at the US market in particular, 2007 saw 17 new glucosamine-containing product launches, compared to seven in 2006, five in 2005 and nine in 2004.

As awareness grows and consumers increasingly seek products containing the ingredient despite its high price barrier, the glucosamine market has undergone two major developments: It has turned vegetarian, and it has also started cropping up in foods and beverages.

Vegetarian glucosamine

A major limitation for the use of glucosamine has been that the ingredient is usually derived from shell-fish. This means that it is not suitable for use by vegetarians, people who are allergic to shell fish, and those who adhere to a Kosher diet.

In an effort to meet this gap in the market, a number of vegetarian sources of glucosamine have started appearing, including Cargill's Regenasure, derived from the fungus Aspergillus niger, and Cyanotech's JointAstin.

DNP International also launched a vegetarian glucosamine at the end of last year, as did China-based Hygieia Health in January this year. The latest addition to the list was Ethical Naturals, which launched its GreenGrown vegetarian glucosamine at the end of January.

Another benefit of glucosamine derived from vegetal sources is that the ingredient is less subject to the kind of supply fluctuations typical of shrimp or crab - which have caused price instability in the past.

In late 2004 the world market for the joint health ingredient was impacted as supplies of the raw material chitin, 90 per cent of which comes from China, were previously the subject of a bidding war due to shrimp shortages. This was compounded by the introduction of US anti-dumping duties, and prices rose from around $5 per kilo in February 2004 to $20 in December of the same year.

GRAS

As the market for glucosamine continues to expand, ingredient manufacturers have increasingly been promoting the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status of their glucosamine ingredients, opening up a new category for the products.

For example, Minneapolis-based Cargill received GRAS status for Regenasure in March last year.

According to the company, the ingredient is highly soluble and clean tasting. It has already been picked up by leading beverage maker Coca-Cola, which used it in a Minute Maid beverage launched last year. Each serving of the beverage is said to contain half the daily amount of glucosamine demonstrated by clinical trials to be effective in promoting joint health (750 mg).

Glucosamine benefits

The joint health benefits of glucosamine have been reported in numerous clinical trials, most notably the Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT), sponsored by the National Institute of Health.

This studied the effect of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements on 1583 people with osteoarthritis and found that the combination supplement was highly efficacious in reducing moderate-to-severe osteoarthritis pain (New England Journal of Medicine, ​Vol. 354, pp. 795-808).

Related topics: Markets, Bone & joint health

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