Once confined to the seniors category, joint health has become an emerging concern for other demographic groups as they prioritize health and well-being as part of an active lifestyle. Millennials—born between the 1980s and 2000s—have played a pivotal role in helping to shape innovation efforts in the supplements industry, placing increasing demands on performance and functionality alongside preferences for differentiated solutions in line with the latest trends. With busier lives, an increased health focus and a rising interest in high-intensity exercise, Millennials are turning to supplements to address the mounting pressure they are placing on their joints. This is leading brand owners to seek the latest innovative ingredients that will appeal to the younger market.
The ‘self care revolution’
The use of supplements by Millennials has increased dramatically in recent years. According to a consumer survey commissioned by Lonza Consumer Health & Nutrition (CH&N) and conducted by the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), U.S. Millennials now spend more on nutritional supplements across all shopping channels compared to five years ago. This growth has been driven by a variety of factors, including the desire of younger people to look and feel their best and also to avoid medication when possible, with more “natural,” proactive approaches to safeguarding their own health and well-being. Millennials are also becoming more inclined to check product labels for proof the ingredients they consume are backed by science and are as effective as possible.
However, increasingly busy lifestyles and the rise of exercise trends such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and CrossFit have contributed to widespread hip joint injuries and cartilage degradation among Millennials. One study found those who participate in intense competitive sports have a higher risk of osteoarthritis, while individuals engaging in high-intensity, direct-impact exercise appear to have an increased risk of hip osteoarthritis (J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2009;39(4):A1-25). According to the NMI data, 10 percent of Millennials are currently managing joint health and arthritis conditions with supplementation—a substantial increase of 141 percent from 2009 to 2017.
Despite Millennials’ growing interest in supplements, manufacturers still need to pay close attention and adapt to their evolving preferences in terms of delivery formats, efficacy and ability to fit in with a more fast-paced way of living. When considering format, gummies remain appealing to younger age groups, while fortified chewing gum is an emerging trend among health-conscious millennials—both of which offer on-the-go convenience. For example, NMI data showed 25 percent of millennial supplement users have purchased a gummy-type women’s multivitamin in the past six months, compared to only 4 percent of the Mature demographic, born before 1946. Smaller dosage sizes are also an attractive proposition for younger consumers who want the same efficacy in an easy-to-swallow format. Capsules remain a popular, convenient delivery format across all demographics and offer a variety of benefits attractive to Millennials, including taste and odor masking, improved delivery of actives and vegetarian and clean label options. In addition, capsules can address formulation challenges and offer the ability to combine previously incompatible ingredients in a single capsule for added health benefits.
In light of these growing supplement preferences, emerging ingredients such as undenatured type II collagen offer numerous advantages compared to those traditionally found in joint health products.
In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study that could resonate with Millennials, a research team assessed the efficacy and tolerability of 40 mg once a day of undenatured type II collagen (as UC-II®, from Lonza) for six months in moderating joint function and discomfort stemming from strenuous exercise in healthy subjects (Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013;48(10)).
After 120 days of supplementation, people taking the UC-II ingredient presented a significant improvement in average knee extension compared to the placebo group, and the baseline. This improvement was also observed at day 90, while no difference was recorded in the placebo group. In addition, the research found that the UC-II ingredient group were able to exercise for longer before experiencing any initial joint discomfort—even at day 90. The study concluded that daily supplementation of 40 mg of UC-II was well tolerated, leading to improvements in knee joint extension in healthy active adults. It also demonstrated the potential to lengthen the period of discomfort-free strenuous exertion and alleviate the joint discomfort that can arise from taking part in activities such as HIIT and CrossFit. The study also supports use of smaller capsules on an everyday basis—a desirable attribute that fits with the busy lifestyle of the on-the-go Millennial.
As interest in active lifestyles and the newfound popularity of high-impact exercise shows no signs of slowing down, research that examines healthy, active adults will play an increasingly important role in ensuring joint health solutions appeal to younger demographics, like Millennials.
Juliana Erickson is the senior category marketing manager, Consumer Health & Nutrition, at Lonza.