With the increasing rates of obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver, also known as NAFL or simple fatty liver, is also on the rise.
This is a condition where excess fat accumulates in the liver. NAFL alone does not necessarily mean there is liver cell damage or inflammation, but according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, it is one of the most common causes of liver disease in the US.
“Most people with NAFLD have simple fatty liver. Only a small number of people with NAFLD have NASH,” a term used to describe fatty liver that has liver cell damage, the institute reported on its website. “Experts estimate that about 20% of people with NAFLD have NASH.”
An estimated 30% to 40% of adults in the US have NAFLD, or between 97.5 million to 130 million Americans. Around 3% to 12% have NASH, which may lead to cirrhosis or even liver cancer.
Only drugs and drug companies may use claims to “diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease,” according to FDA rules. But supplement companies can offer products with structure/function claims about supporting the liver’s overall function.
And it’s not just about fatty liver—there’s increasing interest in developing products to meet consumer demand for ‘detoxing’ the liver after a night of drinking (though use of the word ‘detox’ to market supplements is controversial).
In terms of supplement sales, products positioned for liver health does not rank highly compared to other positioning such as digestive health, energy support, beauty, or sleep—a sign that liver health support is not currently top of mind for many consumers.
Data from SPINS, a Chicago-based market research firm that analyzes sales of natural-coded products in various retail channels, placed liver support in the bottom three of categories for calendar year 2018. Here are SPINS’ sales numbers for different supplement categories sold at natural, specialty gourmet, and conventional multi-outlet retailers:
Important to note is that SPINS’ data does not include supplements without specific, marketed health focuses, nor does it include private-label supplements. Moreover, though it tracks most natural retail channels, it does not have sales data from natural giant Whole Foods Market.
Additionally, the health focus ‘detox and cleanse,’ which captured products using those words on its labels, may cater to consumers who were on a quest to manage their liver’s health. "The terms detox and cleanse are still popular choices for messaging on the packaging of liver-support products," Michelle Gillespie, Natural Insights Analyst at SPINS told NutraIngredients-USA.
Zooming in on the liver health category, the botanical milk thistle makes up a lion’s share of sales:
In terms of growth, mushrooms are gaining traction:
Who are the major players?
In a cross-channel analysis, major players in the liver-support area include brands such as Nature’s Bounty, Sundown, and Irwin Naturals, according to SPINS data. In the Natural Channel specifically, other top players include Oregon’s Wild Harvest, Jarrow Formulas, and Gaia Herbs.
“Products marketed for liver support are increasingly available in other categories such as tea and ready-to-drink functional beverages, and medicinal mushrooms are picking up speed,” Gillespie added.
Innovating in the liver health space—find out how during our FREE webinar TOMORROW!
- Thursday, February 28 at 1 PM EST
- Duration: 60 Minutes
- LIVE Q&A session
- Experts from Gaia Herbs, Kaiviti Consulting, and The Think Healthy Group
From botanical blends to microbiome interventions, there is plenty of interest in better understanding how to support liver function. Join NutraIngredients-USA as we explore this topic with leading brands and industry stakeholders. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER