Almost one year ago we were told ‘any moment now’ for the curcumin market to hit a tipping point. In 2011 and 2012, sales of herbal dietary supplements with turmeric/curcumin as the primary ingredient were ranked at number three in the natural channel. One year on and they are number one, according to a recent report published in the American Botanical Council’s HerbalGram.
The science has continued to grow, too, with new studies supporting the potential brain, cardiovascular, joint, and muscle benefits of the ingredient.
On the flip side, competition between suppliers has increased over bioavailability claims, with some industry observers claiming a ‘curcumin war’ has started. Intellectual property and patents have also come under the spotlight.
Responding to the recent HerbalGram report, curcumin suppliers were unanimous in their appraisal of the ingredient’s progress: “I believe curcumin has arrived,” Greg Ris, VP of sales for Indena USA, told us.
“From a commercial perspective, with such increase in sales, it appears curcumin has arrived mainstream and certainly more and more people know about turmeric or curcumin,” said Shaheen Majeed, marketing director for Sabinsa Corp.
Despite having ‘arrived’ many suppliers see this as only the beginning, with more work still to be done. “The missing piece in facilitating a real market breakthrough has been the clinical piece and the ability to address market concerns on curcumin bioavailability,” said Lynda Doyle, vice president of global marketing at OmniActive. “Bioavailability is critical in the effectiveness of nutraceuticals, and consumers are becoming more aware of the importance of nutrient absorption.”
Parallel to the market growth has been an increase in the body of scientific literature. The potential joint health benefits were supported by a study using curcumin supplied by Sabinsa Corp. Researchers from Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran reported that curcumin in combination with piperine is a safe and effective means of ameliorating the debilitating effects of knee osteoarthritis (Phyotherapy Research, doi: 10.1002/ptr.5174.).
Data published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition indicated that curcumin supplements (supplied by Indena) were associated with a reduction in post-exercise muscle soreness caused by oxidative stress and inflammation.
Curcumin supplier Sabinsa has also taken a stand to defend what it alleges is a patent infringement connected to its Curcumin C3 Complex ingredient against two Indian dietary supplement ingredient companies and their respective US distributors.
“We have been very outspoken in encouraging industry manufacturers to respect intellectual property; to do otherwise both stifles innovation and does a disservice to those manufacturers who legitimately license intellectual property,” said Dr Muhammed Majeed, founder of Sabinsa. “These Defendants’ customers are also infringing upon Sabinsa’s patents, most likely without their knowledge, so these infringing companies are putting their customer’s businesses at risk.”