Special edition: Bone & Joint Health

'Joint health is a strong, long-growing category': Opportunities for vegetarian glucosamine suppliers

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Glucosamine Chondroitin sulfate

A rising tide lifts all boats: Dietary supplement consumer interest in vegetarian options is helping to drive growth in vegetarian glucosamine, says a leading supplier.

Cal Bewicke, CEO of Ethical Naturals Inc, which supplies the GreenGrown Vegetable Glucosamine ingredient, told us: “Sales of vegetable glucosamine continue to grow, and much of this is tied into the overall growing interest in vegetarian and vegan products.”

Data from the Natural Marketing Institute indicates that 35% of US supplement users say that a vegetarian source is important when choosing a supplement, an increase of 9% since 2006, noted Bewicke. And research suggests that vegetarian aware consumers also tend to buy three times more supplements than other shoppers, and their purchasing patterns demonstrate brand loyalty.

“So we have vegetarian, vegan and kosher shoppers all able to use vegetable-based glucosamine,” ​he said.

“The huge momentum already established in the mass market for shellfish based material means that even though key brands such as Dr’s Best and NOW Foods sell substantial volumes vegetable based material, but the percentage is still probably only about 5-7% of total volume.”


The wider glucosamine market has reportedly been declining. Euromonitor International valued the global retail sales glucosamine products at $1.895 billion in 2009, which then grew to $2.041 billion in 2011. This then declined to $1.823 billion in 2013, and 2015 forecasts pegged the market at $1.770 billion.

The combination with chondroitin has also played against glucosamine, with concerns about sourcing leading to a decline in popularity for chondroitin sulfate (please click the following link to read our coverage of the chondroitin market: Quality and transparency issues continue to dog shrinking chondroitin category​).

joint health knee

ENI is by no means alone in this segment of the market, with Regenasure by Cargill perhaps the most prominent vegetarian, while TSI USA also offers a vegetarian version called GlucosaGreen.

“In today’s marketplace, traceability is more important than ever as a growing number of consumers want to know what’s in their food and beverages and where it came from,” ​said Mike Fleagle, Brand Manager, Regenasure Glucosamine at Cargill:

Cargill’s vegetarian glucosamine is produced using a patented fermentation process free from the use of organic solvents, said Fleagle. “Our secure supply chain eliminates concerns related to the seasonality of shellfish or competing demand for raw materials, and ensures customers receive consistent, high-quality product, available when they need it.”


The potential benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have been supported by numerous clinical trials, including the $14 million Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT), sponsored by the National Institute of Health, which studied the effects of the supplements in 1,583 people with osteoarthritis

The results, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine​ (2006, Vol. 354, pp. 795-808), indicated that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate “significantly decreased” knee pain for people suffering from moderate-to-severe osteoarthritis.

Others studies have not reported the same level of benefits, and a ‘critical and evidenced-based review’ published in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases​ in 2011 (Vol. 14, pp. 152-158) concluded that the evidence for glucosamine and chondroitin was “inconclusive”​.

In vitro and in vivo studies funded by the ag-tech giant and published in the Arthritis & Rheumatism​ (Caramés et al. 2013, Vol. 65, pp. 1843-1852) indicated that glucosamine could modulate autophagy, reported to be a critical mechanism in maintaining cellular health in joints and other tissues throughout the body. By exploring the realm of ‘healthy cartilage aging’ product marketers will move towards a ‘helps maintain cartilage health’ type claim.

Image © iStockPhoto

“The Caramés study provides a possible answer to one of the main gaps in the current research which is a plausible mechanism of action,” ​said Cargill’s Fleagle.

“Other studies done in Japan​ [Int J Mol Med.​ 2009, Vol. 24, pp. 487-94; Mol Med Rep.​ 2013, Vol. 7, pp. 742-6] using a healthy population and biomarkers may be an important step forward in the clinical study of glucosamine on joint health.  This provides a potential path towards addressing the second main criticism of glucosamine research which is a viable model to perform human studies in a generally healthy population.”

“Increasingly, today’s consumers are seeking a more holistic approach to overall well-being, expecting health benefits from the food and beverages they consume. Against this backdrop of food-as-medicine, we see joint health as a strong, long-growing category.”

Bone & joint health 16

Bone & Joint Health

Joint health will be explored in-depth at the upcoming NutraIngredients-USA Bone & Joint Health Online Event on June 29. Experts from GNC, NBTY, Jarrow Formulas & NOW Foods will discuss the market forces, science, supply chain, and future opportunities in bone and joint health in a FREE online event hosted by NutraIngredients-USA.

For more information and to register, please click HERE​.

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