On July 21, 2020 the US Food and Drug Administration approved wording for several qualified health claims that may be used for cranberry ingredients and their ability to reduce the incidence of urinary tract infections in women. The ruling was in response to a petition submitted by the largest cranberry firm, Ocean Spray Inc., which had sought an approved health claim for this health benefit.
Qualified UTI health claims get approval
FDA found the evidence was not strong enough for approved health claim status. )This is a claim that makes a definitive statement about a health benefit. Only a few such petitions have been approved over the years.) But the Agency did give a nod to qualified claims for cranberry juice consumption and the use of cranberry dietary supplements containing at least 500 mg of powdered forms of the fruit.
Every claim must include boilerplate language something along these lines: “FDA has concluded that the scientific evidence supporting this claim is limited and inconsistent.” In the past, purveyors of ingredients in other categories have found that caveat to reduce the marketing utility of these qualified claims. Nevertheless, it does serve as official recognition of a sort that there is some credible science backing claimed health effects. In cases where no qualified health claim is associated with a given dietary ingredient there is no official recognition of any kind from FDA that these ingredients have any health effects. In those cases the Agency is solely focused on their safety, not whether they do anything.
Supplement sales outpace market
Recent market analyses for various categories of cranberry ingredients have forecast low to mid single digit growth forecasts for the ingredient. ResearchAndMarkets puts the growth forecast at 3.7% CAGR in 2020-2025 time frame. Data Bridge Market Research puts the growth of the dried cranberry market at 4.9% CAGR in the 2020-2027 time frame.
The dietary supplement segment is a small subset of the overall cranberry market, with the vast majority of the market going toward juice products. But according to the annual Herb Market Report put out by the American Botanical Council, sales growth for cranberry dietary supplements has been outpacing the overall cranberry market. According to ABC, in 2019 almost $90 million worth of cranberry products were sold in the mass market channel in United States, representing 6.3% year over year growth.
Health claims could prop up sales, but could also open door for adulteration
Stephen Lukawski, an ingredient development consultant who partners with Canadian cranberry supplier Fruit d’Or, said the combination of COVID-19 demand and the interest generated by the qualified health claim will serve to support the sales of cranberry supplements in the years ahead and will help continue that market beating performance.
“We have seen our sales jump in a crazy way because of COVID,” Lukawski told NutraIngredients-USA. “And we have seen an increase in demand for the ingredients because of the health claim.”
Fruit d’Or has developed some testing procedures in recent years that help to more precisely identify cranberry constituents to help fight off adulteration, which is the bane of any herbal ingredient for which demand rapidly rises. Lukawski said this is of particular importance in relation to the recently approved qualified health claims, because they are specific to whole fruit powders.
“Under these circumstances using anything less that the whole cranberry would be an adulteration,” Lukawski said.
Identifying whole cranberry powder
Because juice production is such a huge part of the market, there are hundreds of tons of leftover cranberry mast annually, he said. Unscrupulous suppliers might be inclined to dry and mill this material and market it as cranberry powder, even though many of it active phytochemical constituents would be absent, Lukawski said.
To better characterize cranberry ingredients Lukawski said Fruit d’Or invested in the development of a testing protocol in cooperation with Wisconsin company Complete Photochemical Solutions, headed by Christian Krueger, who is also associated with the University of Wisconsin Madison. The method, which relies on MALDI-TOF technology, is capable of identifying the insoluble proanthocyanidins (PACs) within the fruit.
Lukawski said the phytochemical fingerprinting method developed with Krueger can provide peace of mind for manufactures. He said Fruit d’Or is working with the University of Guelph to develop a so-called ‘cranberry seal’ program that will bring together several testing modalities into a comprehensive quality standard for the fruit.