Speaking at NutraIngredients-USA’s bone and joint health virtual conference yesterday, Leatherhead Food Research (LFR) market intelligence manager Matt Incles said the global number of new launches making bone health claims had doubled from around 500 products in 2006 to around 1,000 in 2010.
However, the value of the category had not grown at a corresponding rate, in contract with the overall functional food market, which had grown from around $17bn to just under $25bn over this period, he said. "Despite lots of investment in NPD activity the market return is not that great."
Meanwhile, several high-profile launches – notably Danone’s Densia yogurt with vitamin D and calcium (which is still available in Spain and Italy but was not rolled out in France after failing to impress shoppers) and Friesland Campina’s Calcifort drinkable yogurt (which Euromonitor says has not been a runaway success) – had not set the world on fire.
Bone health beyond breakfast products
But there were signs that the market was picking up, while firms were also expanding beyond traditional ‘breakfast’ products such as fortified milk, juice, cereals and yogurt into a broader range of products from snacks to confectionery, soups, sauces and even ready meals, he said.
While most food and beverage manufacturers opted for calcium and vitamin D, some were starting to experiment with other ingredients from vitamin K2 to lysine, prebiotic fibers and soy isoflavones, he added. Meanwhile, new research into a range of ingredients with potential bone health benefits from onion to eel liver, honey and pollen and defatted shark meat, was also continuing apace.
New technology was also driving the market, said Incles, citing Fonterra's Anlene Gold product, which contains ‘nano-calcium’ for improved absorption.
While the bone health functional food market was dwarfed by gut and heart health markets, demographic factors such as the aging population coupled with a growing interest in child nutrition meant it had potential, provided manufacturers could come up with products that appealed to consumers and generated a return (many calcium fortified juices and other products in the US market do not carry a price premium), said Incles.
The future of bone health
In a later presentation focused on the dietary supplements market, GNC senior vice president of scientific affairs Dr Guru Ramanathan presented slides listing a large number of herbs, botanicals and other ingredients believed to stimulate bone formation, suppress bone breakdown or protect bone architecture, from green tea extracts to turmeric, maca root, black cohosh, boron, red clover and lactoferrin.
However, many are not yet GRAS approved for food applications, while their bone health benefits are largely backed by animal and in vitro studies rather than human clinical data at the moment.