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Ingredient Trends with Inflammation-Fighting Potential

SPINS market data show consumers are using functional ingredients such as tart cherry, apple cider vinegar and turmeric to support a healthy inflammation response.

Trademarks of inflammation include pain, swelling, redness and activation of the body’s immune system. Inflammation is a necessary physiological response to repair damage within the body. Left unchecked, low-grade inflammation can increase susceptibility to infection and illness (Curr Opin Pediatr. 2016 Apr 1). Thus, a litany of chronic diseases could manifest. SPINS data suggested consumers are seeking the natural approach to abate inflammation. A diet rich in antioxidants and other bioactive compounds has the potential to reduce inflammation. The health-conscious consumer has become accustomed to using dietary supplements adjunct to their diet. Functional ingredients, such as turmeric, apple cider vinegar and tart cherry juice are being used therapeutically to mitigate inflammation by quenching free radicals or by reducing pro-inflammatory messaging chemicals. SPINS data illustrated an interesting crossover of turmeric, apple cider vinegar and tart cherry juice ingredients can be found in products from supplements to everyday beverages.

Turmeric

Dating back 4,000 years, turmeric (Curcuma Longa) is a botanical with a long history of medicinal use, especially in Ayurvedic medicine. Today, people in certain regions of India ingest about 0.5 to 1.5 g of turmeric daily. Several studies indicate that many turmeric extracts have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, either by scavenging free radicals or attenuating pro-inflammatory cellular chemicals (Pharmacol Res. 2016 Mar 26;107:234-242).

Turmeric has become a predominant staple in the health and wellness industry for both dietary and supplement users. The proof of turmeric’s strength is in the data. According to SPINS, turmeric-centric products have success in all three retail reporting universes (natural, specialty gourmet and conventional) for a total market of US$67 million, documenting a 55-percent upward performance in the last year (ending Feb. 21, 2016). Turmeric’s prowess as a core natural trend has not gone unnoticed in conventional retail outlets, garnering over-the-top growth by more than doubling sales to $22 million over the same period. In dietary supplements, the powdered form of turmeric is showing significant niche growth as the do-it-yourself (DIY) consumer, looking for a quick delivery method, may find it easier to mix into a smoothie or an on-the-go elixir. Alternatively, functional beverages featuring turmeric have become a staple with remarkable performance in all consumer segments for total sales of $8 million, up 56 percent since last year. Turmeric is not the only functional ingredient gaining mass appeal, as apple cider vinegar and tart cherry are emerging options for consumers considering ways of abating an inflammatory state.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Like turmeric, apple cider vinegar use can be traced all the way back to 400 B.C., where it is said that Hippocrates used it as a health tonic. Apple cider vinegar touts high phenols, such as gallic acid, catechin and caffeic acid. Some research suggests that diets high in bioactive compounds, such as phenols, can protect our gut by quenching free radical damage that can reduce inflammation (Br J Nutr. 2016 Mar 17:1-12). Traditional fermented brews keep the mother culture within the final product. As such, there may be an additional benefit due to the presence of probiotics. 

The classic DIY application of apple cider vinegar served as a cleaning agent, but it has evolved for today’s consumer palate. Sales of drinking vinegars (or shrubs) in the grocery aisle is gaining mass appeal. Some newly emerging ready-to-drink (RTD) functional beverages that contain cider vinegar are gaining attention too, such as fire tonics and switchels. Additionally, cider vinegar tonics positioned as dietary supplements are exhibiting impressive growth bursts in both natural and specialty channels. Encapsulated cider vinegar supplements are also commanding a trending presence in all three retail segments growing at 70 percent over the last year.

Tart Cherry

While turmeric and apple cider vinegar have a storied history of medicinal use, tart cherry has become an emerging phenomenon. The proposed antioxidant potential of cherries has prompted the Cherry Marketing Institute to investigate dietary applications of the fruit. One such study showed a decrease in the risk of gout with cherry intake (Arthritis Rheum. 2012 Dec;64(12):4004-11). As it happens, consumers are already leading the charge, opting for tart cherry supplements as a means of helping the body excrete excess uric acid, known to exacerbate inflammation. SPINS data showed cherry fruit supplements have grown 19 percent in the natural channel and 26 percent in the conventional channel, demonstrating natural product appeal among mainstream outlets. Tart cherry supplements in gummy form is an emerging trend in the natural channel as well as its transcendence from supplement form into functional beverage. Shelf-stable tart cherry beverages featured in the functional juice segment, which highlight several health benefits including inflammation support, is growing strong at 95 percent over the last year across all retail reporting channels. 

Hyper-aware consumers are seeking a natural, preventative way to help support the inflammatory response in the body. This is supported by SPINS data analysis showing a paradigm shift of ingredients from natural into mainstream markets. A well-balanced diet from natural sources is important for mitigating potential damaged from a pro-inflammatory environment.  Researchers have found that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytochemicals which are found in fish, algal oil, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans supplies the body with powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients.  Functional ingredients such as tart cherry, apple cider vinegar and turmeric can be used in conjunction to support a healthy inflammation response.

Kimberly Kawa is the product library communications lead at SPINS (spins.com) and has applied her bachelor of science in nutrition and dietetics, and experience in community health to the ongoing development of product library attribution. Her focus lies in vitamins and supplements, while she supports coding initiatives and identifies industry trends related to the segment.

Loren Masalski is a natural products research associate at SPINS, where she identifies attribute and ingredient trends in the ever expanding natural, organic and specialty products industry. She believes in the importance of consuming quality food and is passionate about the good food movement. Her next focus will be on combating the food waste epidemic, one composting project at a time

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