US Vitamin K market set for explosion?

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Vitamin k2 Vitamins Osteoporosis

US Vitamin K market set for explosion?
With the entrance of a new vitamin K2 ingredient onto the US market, NutraIngredients-USA catches up with the state of play of vitamin K.

Xsto Solutions was recently named as the exclusive US distributor of Kappa’s K2Vital Vitamin K Product Line. Norway’s Kappa announced its development of the Vitamin K2 in August, claiming the ingredient has similar bioavailability to existing forms on the market but is up to 20 percent cheaper.

The K2Vital ingredient was hailed as “truly innovative” ​by Francis Foley, President of Xsto. “The growing body of scientific support has peaked consumer awareness for Vitamin K and we believe offering an all-trans, K2 MK7 that is soy-free and allergen-free will allow supplement manufacturers to take full advantage of this market opportunity”​ he added.

K forms

There are two main forms of vitamin K: phylloquinone, also known as phytonadione, (vitamin K1) which is found in green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli and spinach, and makes up about 90 per cent of the vitamin K in a typical Western diet; and menaquinones (vitamins K2), which make up about 10 per cent of Western vitamin K consumption and can be synthesised in the gut by microflora.

Menaquinones (MK-n: with the n determined by the number of prenyl side chains) can also be found in the diet; MK-4 can be found in animal meat, MK-7, MK-8, and MK-9 are found in fermented food products like cheese, and natto is a rich source of MK-7.

The market as it stands

When it comes to vitamin K, the mantra is very much “quality and not quantity”. The market is dominated by branded ingredients: Blue California offers Vitamin K2-All Trans​, NattoPharma offers MenaQ7​, and PL Thomas has Vitamin K2-MK7​.

According to Foley, the branded or proprietary products “have done an admirable job of distinguishing the benefits and value of their product forms… There is a generic element but it is underrepresented and may be from questionable sources, in terms of identification, purity and support documentation.”

Vladimir Badmaev, MD, PhD, director of medical and scientific affairs for PL Thomas told NutraIngredients-USA that ‘generic’ vitamin K was not a problem. “There is a limited chain of supply because the preparation of vitamin K2 demands expertise,” ​he said.

Morten Sundstø, CEO of NattoPharma – the self-titled leaders in vitamin K2 – added that cost was also a consideration. “All K2 products are expensive compared with other vitamins,”​ he said. “Volumes are increasing and we will see a strong economy of scale down the road.”


Sundstø told NutraIngredients-USA that education remains the main challenge to further vitamin K success.

“People have to understand that you cannot have calcium without vitamin K2. You cannot have vitamin D without vitamin K2. These three ingredients must be used in products together,”​ said Sundstø. When this gains acceptance “then you will see an explosion in the market”​, he added.

The comments were echoed by Cecilia McCollum, executive vice president of Blue California: “Men are beginning to understand Vitamin K2 offers health benefits for them as well - not just women; that calcium should be directed, with the help of K2, to the bones – where it belongs – and prevent hardening of the arteries,”​ she said.

“The health benefits are great, the cost with our product is minimal (recommended daily dosage is only 50-80 mircograms) and the potential for reinforcing one's bone structure is significant with K2 supplementation,”​ added McCollum.

Sundstø estimates that there are currently about 100,000 people using vitamin K2 products around the world, based on their sales volumes.

Xsto’s Foley estimates the current K market in the US at $10 million in raw material sales (vs finished product sales). “What is really impressive is the growth in Vitamin K supplementation, estimated to be (my personal estimate) over 15% per year. We feel the K2 market can double to $20 million in less than five years,”​ he said.

The number of dietary supplements launched containing vitamin K has been relatively stable over the past four years. According to data obtained this week from Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), in 2007 86 products were launched, while 95 and 91 were launched in 2008 and 2009, respectively. So far this year 38 dietary supplements products have been launched containing vitamin K.

Natural vs synthetic

Kappa’s arrival on the scene offers the industry a synthetic version of the ingredient. The company said recently that it “feels the market is ready and willing to accept a high quality, verifiable MK7 product regardless of the form or necessary production steps. The facts are that the starting material is extracted from two flower species. Following that extraction there are some reactions that would suggest the process may be better characterized as ‘synthetic’ versus natural, however the result is high purity MK7 product that can be assayed for and totally accounted for both qualitatively and quantitatively.”

NattoPharma’s Sundstø offers a different perspective: “Vitamin K2 is a virgin market,”​ he said. “We see the market still prefers natural sources of the ingredient, but this is not just for K2 but all ingredients.”

Beyond food

PL Thomas’ Badmeav said that the company had successfully filed for self-affirmed GRAS status for its vitamin K ingredient. In Europe, NattoPharma’s MenaQ7 has been awarded novel foods approval, which opens up the European food and beverage industry for vitamin K2.

Sundstø said that a dairy product fortified with vitamin K2 is expected to be launched in 2011.

Health conditions

The main health conditions targeted by vitamin K2 are bone health and cardiovascular health. Indeed, Blue California’s McCollum said that “people understand now how critical and devastating a fall can be for an older person; that a fracture can in fact reduce not only the quality of life but actually the life of the patient. Consumers are beginning to understand that supplementation Vitamin K2 (MK4 or MK7) can prevent serious bone density problems, can ensure stronger bones and better cardiovascular health.”

Dr Badmeav expects the vitamin to be linked to an increasing range of health conditions over the coming years. “As with any ingredient with a central position in health we will have more and more research.”

New areas of interest include potentially reducing the risk of prostate ​and lung ​cancer, protecting against the onset of diabetes​, and extending skeletal health to the cartilage in joints.

However, Dr Badmaev noted that, while the understanding of vitamin K’s benefits is growing, “many health care professionals do not understand the role beyond coagulation”.

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1 comment

Vitamin K in our diet

Posted by Gloria Clements,

I sincerely wish that food manufacturers/marketers would include the amount of Vitamin K in nutritional information on labels. I know it is essential for good health, but many of us struggle with the challenge of living on anti-coagulant therapy; and need to know how much Vitamin K is in everything we eat. It is very similar to a diabetic needing to calculate intake of anything that affects blood glucose levels.

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