Ewa Hudson

February 22, 2012

5 Min Read
Bone Health Opportunities Beyond Dairy

Bone and joint diseases are widespread and detrimental to peoples quality of life. These illnesses also have a significant economic impact, rendering a large number of middle-aged people, especially those engaged in physical occupations, unable to remain economically productive. Arthritis and osteoporosis are the most common conditions.

The World Health Organization believes osteoarthritis to be one of the 10 most disabling diseases in developed countries, affecting almost 10 percent of men and 18 percent of women over the age of 60 worldwide. One-quarter of sufferers are unable to carry out the full range of activities demanded by everyday life. Osteoporosis, sometimes referred to as brittle bone disease," affects 70 percent of people over the age of 80 and around 15 percent of those aged between 50 to 59.

Dairy domination

It is widely acknowledged nutritional factors play a significant role in bone and joint diseases. A lack of calcium and/or vitamin D, for example, is strongly implicated in the development and progression of osteoporosis. Sales of foods and beverages with a prime positioning focused on bone and joint health amounted to US$13.8 billion in 2010. And although the average growth performance during 2005 to 2010 was fairly static, in some countries, bone and joint health-positioned products registered outstanding dynamism. In India, for instance, value sales increased five fold, the Czech Republic recorded growth of 171 percent, while in Austria, China and the Netherlands sales doubled.

Not surprisingly, dairy products accounted for virtually 99 percent of sales of bone and joint health-positioned foods and beverages in 2010 thanks to the well-known fact that they are an excellent source of highly bioavailable calcium, as well as at least some vitamin D content. Dairy companies tend to be remarkably adept at health and wellness positioning to promote their products, and the bone health platform lends itself particularly well in this respect.

New Zealand-based dairy giant Fonterra, for instance, markets its Anlene brand, which offers ultra-high temperature (UHT) drinking milk and powdered milk products, as specially formulated for adults optimal bone health in 13 countries across Australasia and Asia Pacific, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and China. Besides calcium and vitamin D, Anlene products are fortified with magnesium, zinc and protein. Fonterras "essential bone nutrient" ingredient formulation is meant to ensure effective absorption. For optimum benefits, two servings of 250 ml are recommended, although it has to be noted that this is a rather substantial quantity if consumed on a daily basis.

In Austria, Niederösterreichische Milch AG offers a similar product to Anlene, called Guten Morgen! Milch, which is low in fat and enriched with calcium, vitamin D and the prebiotic fiber inulin. According to Euromonitor International statistics, the brand leads the Austrian market for bone and joint health- positioned products. Promoted as part of a healthy breakfast, supporting healthy bones and teeth, it is available through many of Austrias major grocery retailers, including Spar and Billa. Euromonitor Internationals health and wellness data show value sales of this brand increased from just under 1 million in 2005 to almost 3 million in 2010.

At present, bone and joint health-positioned foods and beverages are heavily concentrated in the dairy category. Other types of products are leveraging this positioning platform, although the choice is still rather limited. For example, German bread maker Mestemacher GmbH offers Aktiv3 sliced whole-grain bread with added calcium, vitamin D (from fish oil) and inulin, proving just how versatile these ingredients are. Aktiv3 value sales in 2010 amounted to 2 million, showing a gradual upward trend over the course of the review period.

Next: A Need for More Non-Dairy Products

A Need for More Non-Dairy Products

Bone and joint health products are appropriate for all age groupsfor growing children, teenagers, all the way into mature adulthood and old age. The human bodys bones reach their maximum density around the age of 30, after which bone mass starts to decline. Due to hormonal changes, bone loss after menopause can be quite rapid for women, and progression to osteoporosis is common. Building up bone mass before the age of 30 by optimizing the intake of nutrients required for bone formation is a key preventive strategy, and later in life, adequate nutrient intake should also ensure bone density decline is kept in check.

Consumers may have heard osteoporosis affects older people, but they are generally not aware they ought to be taking good care of their bones in their teens, 20s and 30s in order to stave off the onset of the disease. As always, the trickiest part of any health and wellness-oriented marketing strategy is to motivate the younger age groups, which are not yet affected by health problems, to take preventive measures.

Getting teenage girls to consume, for example, half a liter of Anlene drinking milk every day is not a realistic prospect. What is needed is a more comprehensive mix of products rich in bone and joint nourishing nutrients. Penetration into a wider array of categories, including bakery, snacks and even confectionery, is the way to grow this market, rather than remain limited to dairy offerings. From a public health point of view, these products are needed, and the industry may want to look at ways of making it easier for consumers to choose foods and beverages beneficial for their bones and joints from an increasing number of supermarket shelves, rather than just the refrigerated aisle.

For more information on ingredients for bone health, view INSIDER's slide show "Bone Health Beyond Calcium."

Ewa Hudson, head of health and wellness research at Euromonitor International.

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