A differentiator can be handy in crowded joint health market

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

A differentiator can be handy in crowded joint health market

Related tags Chondroitin Chondroitin sulfate Chondroitin sulphate Glucosamine Collagen Collagen peptides

Joint care as a subset of healthy aging will be a thriving market in the future. But it’s crowded and will place a premium on product differentiation, says one expert.

Healthy aging touches a lot of areas; potentially one could talk about almost any body function and make a case that keeping that working well as one ages is part of the picture. But in the main, you could make a case for three main themes: Keeping older consumers strong, flexible and mobile enough to stay independent; keeping their brains and memories functioning at an acceptable level, and keeping their gut microbiomes in working order so that they can absorb enough nutrients to support the other two.

NutraIngredients-USA will host an all-day online event on Healthy Aging on Oct. 25. As a lead up to the event we talked with Cal Bewicke, president of ingredient supplier Ethical Naturals about joint care and how that figures into product formulation with a Healthy Aging positioning.

Market grows as population ages

The health challenges associated with an aging population can only be expected to increase in the coming decades. Some countries, such as Japan, Italy and Germany, with slow to no growth population curves, are nevertheless growing in terms of aging populations. More than a quarter of Japanese were older than 65 in 2018, and in Italy and Germany the figures are 22.4% and 21.2%, respectively.

Then there are countries that are growing in population and getting older at the same time, such as the United States and China. In China, more than 240 million people are now 60 or older.​ According to the Population Reference Bureau, there are now 48 million Americans in this group, and that’s expected to almost double to 98 million by 2060. 

Along with that rise comes the increase of age related conditions, including those affecting joint health. The Centers for Disease Control estimates​ that 23% of all US adults, or more than 54 million people, have symptoms of arthritis. The percentage of people affected is expected to rise moderately, as will the absolute number. The CDC says by the year 2040, an estimated 78.4 million (25.9% of the projected total adult population) adults aged 18 years and older will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.

Market grows but competition does, too

Bewicke, whose company markets a vegetarian sourced fermented form of glucosamine, said the joint care market is thus a big one, but no one is sure exactly how big. He said reliable estimates peg the sales of joint care products in the US at somewhere between $750 million and $1 billion annually. While that figure is somewhat hazy, what’s more certain, Bewicke said, is that there is no shortage of companies chasing that business.

The market for these commodity products is quite saturated. It therefore makes sense for companies to look to supply percentages of this market with products that stand out with different qualities,”​ Bewicke told NutraIngredients-USA.

Vegan positioning as a differentiator

One of the growing differentiators, Bewicke said, is the increasing demand for vegan and vegetarian associated supplements. Capsule makers have addressed this demand with lines of vegetarian capsules. Vegetarian and certified organic excipients and process aids are coming to the fore, too.

In the joint care market, two of the biggest selling ingredients—chondroitin and glucosamine—are both primarily animal based products. And another potential joint care player—bioactive collagen peptides supplied by companies such as Gelita—comes from the animal byproduct stream too. 

Vegetarian alternatives thus can stand out, Bewicke said. His company supplies a vegan-sourced glucosamine, branded as GreenGrown glucosamine, which is fermented using glucose from a non GMO corn variety as a feedstock.

“The popularity of vegetarian and vegan supplements continues to grow, and consumers are demanding purely vegetarian products in record numbers. Today in the US, 35% of supplement users say that a vegetarian source is important when choosing a supplement,” ​Bewicke said.

“Also, these vegetarian-aware consumers tend to buy 3 times more supplements than other shoppers, and their purchasing patterns demonstrate brand loyalty,”​ he added.

Bewicke said glucosamine is a legacy ingredient that has been used for years and is supplied by a number of companies. Thus, claims-based patents are unavailable, but Ethical Naturals has protected the product with 21 patents spanning a number of markets around the globe. And he said the company has patented an analytical method to differentiate the vegan-sourced material from the far more common animal-derived variety.

Mark your calendars: Oct. 25, Healthy Aging online event


Alternatives in the joint health market will be just one of the concepts covered in NutraIngredients-USA’s upcoming Healthy Aging Online Event​, which takes place on Oct. 25. 

Diane Ray of the Natural Marketing Institute will present a market overview drawn from her company’s proprietary database, and sessions sponsored by suppliers will be offered, too. In addition, a panel discussion will take place featuring speakers such as Guru Ramanathan, PhD, head of innovation for GNC and Graham Rigby, PhD, director of innovation for Organic India. Katie Bond, an attorney with Amin Talati Upadhye and consultants Mark Miller, PhD and Marc Brush, former editor of Nutrition Business Journal​, will contribute as well.

Click HERE​ ​to register for our FREE online event.

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