Special Edition: Innovations in Minerals

Zinc: 40% sales growth sees mineral closing in on magnesium

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Image: iStockPhoto
Image: iStockPhoto

Related tags Zinc deficiency

An increased interest in zinc’s clinical effects is driving consumer interest in zinc supplements, with supplier Albion reporting sky-rocketing sales of its zinc ingredients.

“Albion’s sales of its zinc ingredients are up this year, outpacing the market growth,”​ said Todd Johnson, Director of Marketing for Albion Minerals. “In terms of sales growth, magnesium leads the growth of all of our other mineral ingredients, with zinc close behind.”

Impressive growth is seen across a number of categories. According to SPINS, US sales of magnesium supplements across natural, specialty gourmet and conventional multi outlet channels* grew 39.8% to $24,665,213 for the 52 weeks ending January 24, 2016, up from $17,639,885 from the previous 52 weeks.

The conventional multi-outlet channel remains the largest with the largest growth, with $18,782,263 in sales for the 52 weeks ending January 24, 2016, up an eye watering 52.5% from $12,318,997 from the previous 52 weeks. The natural channel had sales of $5,591,504 for the 52 weeks ending January 24, 2016, up from $5,043,761 from the previous 52 weeks, said SPINS.

Immunity, brain health, and more

Zinc is an essential micronutrient required for many biological processes, including growth and development, neurological function and immunity. It is naturally found in protein-rich foods such as meat and shellfish, with oysters among the highest in zinc content.

The NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements lists the main health benefits of zinc as​: Immune system and wound healing; Diarrhea (reducing symptoms and duration); the common cold (speeding recovery and reduce its symptoms if taken within 24 of the onset of the cold); and Age-related macular degeneration (slowing progression of AMD).

Sick man
Zinc may reduce the symptoms of the common cold if taken within 24 of the onset of the cold. Image: iStockPhoto

“While immune benefits may be the most common driver, the fact that zinc plays important roles in fighting against the inflammation associated with Metabolic Syndrome is one finding that is behind the increased demand for zinc,”​ said Johnson. “The increased interest in cognitive function products is another factor, since zinc plays important roles in the function of the brain, including the ability to learn and increased memory.”

(Metabolic syndrome is a condition characterized by central obesity, hypertension, and disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism. The syndrome has been linked to increased risks of both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.)

Insufficiency and deficiency

The issue of zinc deficiency in developing nations has been well reported and is common in Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Latin America (it is said to affect about 30 % of the world’s population).

It is estimated that more than 1 in 6 people globally are deficient in zinc and that around 1 in every 58 deaths in children under five is related to zinc deficiency. According to the WHO and UNICEF, widespread use of zinc supplements in combination with oral rehydration salt (ORS) may prevent up to 88% of the 1.5 million children who die worldwide from diarrhea.

"There are 2 categories for the causes of zinc deficiency: nutritional and conditional,” ​explained Johnson. “Nutritional causes result from consumption of foods with either low zinc content or unavailable forms of zinc, as seen with people who have high phytate diets (this is often the case in developing nations). Conditional causes of zinc deficiency are often disease-related, stemming from problems like Crohn’s Disease and cystic fibrosis. Diseases of genetic malfunction, such as Down’s syndrome and sickle cell disease result in poor zinc absorption. Some conditional causes come from excessive loss of zinc, as seen in renal diseases and diabetes mellitus. An increased need for zinc in pregnancy, lactation, stress, and periods of rapid growth are other examples of conditional causes.

An estimated 17.3% of the world’s population is at risk of inadequate zinc intake​. ​It has been our experience that the places of greatest zinc need are Central America, Brazil, India, and many African nations. In these countries, the fortification of food is what would play the greatest role in helping to remedy zinc deficiency."

"It is not a problem for the zinc market to grow in the USA, due to the increased incidence of conditional induced zinc deficiencies," ​he said. "People over the age of 55 are the fastest-growing segment of the US population. In this segment, the need for zinc is especially important for cognition and the immune system function.”


The form of zinc has been reported to have an effect on its efficacy. For example, data from trials using zinc acetate in daily doses of over 75 mg reported reductions in cold duration by 42%, whereas data from trials using zinc salts other than acetate in daily doses of over 75 mg reported reductions of 20%.

Albion offers a Zinc Bisglycinate Chelate ingredient, which it says has been shown to be superior to zinc gluconate in studies – much more bioavailable, and easier on the gut. Zinc gluconate, sulfate and other salt forms are all similar to each other.

“Albion’s Zinc Bisglycinate Chelate and Zinc Bisglycinate Chelate Taste Free are specially formulated to work well in tablets, capsules, liquids, powdered beverages, powdered food, chewables, baked goods, effervescents, infant formulas, and dairy,” ​said Johnson.


* The SPINS data included SPINSscan Natural, SPINSscan Specialty Gourmet & SPINSscan Conventional.

SPINSscan Natural​ tracks sales of all UPC-coded products sold in the natural supermarket channel. Exclusive to SPINS, this channel represents full-format natural product supermarkets including the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) and the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association (INFRA), small to mid-sized chains, and independent and cooperative stores across the continental US. * excludes Whole Foods

SPINSscan Specialty Gourmet​ tracks sales of UPC-coded products sold in the specialty supermarket channel. We classify specialty gourmet stores as full-format supermarkets with more than $2 million in annual sales, with SPINS-defined specialty items comprising at least 25% of their overall volume. The Specialty Gourmet Channel is represented by more than 1,000 specialty supermarket stores that have traditionally been undistinguished within broader retail measurement services.                                                          

SPINSscan Conventional​ is a joint service through SPINS and IRI Worldwide, and is the industry’s only comprehensive source of information on UPC-coded Natural, Organic, Specialty,and Wellness positioned products selling through Conventional outlets in the US.

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