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Digestive health market flourishing

The digestive health market is increasing in popularity, but product developers must be thoughtful in their approach.

Digestive health used to be a taboo topic, but the times they are a-changin’. NMI’s 2019 Supplements/OTC/Rx Consumer Insights & Trends report revealed 46% of consumers managing digestive problems are using supplements to do so, reflecting 52% growth from 2011 to 2018. In fact, the market research firm named digestive health among 2019’s top trends.

Probiotics deserve kudos for the years it took to educate and penetrate the market. They paved the way for simple conversations around yogurt and fermented food and beverages contributing to “regularity,” to more sophisticated messaging on the key role of the microbiome in overall well-being. Probiotics also opened the door for a range of ingredients, including prebiotics/fiber, postbiotics and digestive enzymes—some of which are just starting to gain momentum.

Although the market is ready for new offerings, brands must be thoughtful in their approach. “With digestive health gaining more popularity by consumers, many me-too products on the market are popping up, where formulations are simply copied and do not offer either a true unique point of differentiation, or nutrients in levels that have been supported in science to actually have a true benefit to the user,” noted Kara Landau, founder at Uplift Food. The nutrition advisor to the Global Prebiotic Association added, “I always recommend brands think about how their products can be developed with a unique spin to ensure they have a strong message that speaks to consumers, as well as one that incorporates ingredients in levels that can really bring about a positive effect on either digestive or gut health.”

To her point, a 2017 review pointed out only 5% of adults consume the recommended level of dietary fiber—and that although fiber supplements appear to provide a concentrated, convenient source of fiber, most do not provide the health benefits associated with it (J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 29[4]:216-223). The review authors noted, “Not all fibers provide a laxative effect or regularity benefit, and some can even be constipating.”

Tried and true works well in digestive health, but as more offerings enter the space, consumers may be looking for new products that provide expanded benefits or are simply more eye-catching. As Landau suggested, differentiation will play a greater role. Ingredient blends with scientific support may gain an edge in positioning, although consumers and retailers may require ongoing education to increase awareness of nontraditional approaches. For instance, several studies found Menthacarin (a proprietary blend of peppermint and caraway oils) was effective in reducing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)-associated symptoms in functional dyspepsia patients; after which, a 2018 analysis suggested Menthacarin may evoke similar response in IBS (Wien Med Wochenschr. 169[4]).

This fall, the NEXTY Awards at SupplySide West 2019 will honor the best and brightest in new digestive health products. CPG companies innovating in the space with an inspirational finished product launched to the U.S. consumer market between summer 2018 and July 26, 2019, are invited to enter.

The NEXTY Awards at SupplySide West recognize innovation, inspiration and integrity across 13 finished product categories. Winning products represent what’s “next” in wellness trends, in solving today’s health and sustainability problems, in ingredient innovation, in packaging, in condition management, in supply chain growth and transparency, and in health impact.

Products must be submitted by the CPG brands or their representatives, not by ingredient or component suppliers. The submission deadline (which includes sending samples for judging) is July 26, 2019. Winners will be announced at SupplySide West in Las Vegas, Oct. 15-19, 2019.

For more than 20 years, SupplySide has helped those in the food, beverage, dietary supplement, animal nutrition, personal care and cosmetic industries break through the hype and ambiguity to find the information they need to explore, discover, innovate and market their next best-selling product.

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