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December 11, 2023
Functional ingredients have always been the sine qua non of innovative dietary supplement finished products. That remains so today, as trends seen on the show floor of Natural Products Expo East demonstrate the value that natural bioactives can have on supplement brands.
Three trends in particular stood out at the show.
Pre-workout sports nutrition products is one such trend. These are not normally seen in abundance at Natural Products Expos because of the typical inclusion of caffeine — usually as the synthetic caffeine anhydrous.
“There is very little natural caffeine on the market,” said Hank Schultz, senior editor for Natural Products Insider. “There are some interesting choices in ingredients, especially with vasodilators focusing on L-citrulline, a nitric oxide precursor.”
“You have this tension with pre-workouts in the sense that caffeine actually constricts blood vessels,” said Schultz. “It gives you mental focus — a mental high, if you will — but doesn’t do so much for the actual performance end. That’s what the vasodilators do.”
Other good news for supplement brands, said Schultz, is that L-citrulline is a fairly inexpensive ingredient.
Children’s gummies is another trend. This has actually been going on as long as gummies have been on the market, what with the original gummies specifically used for children’s supplements — a take-off of kids’ favorite candy, gummy bears, only injected with nutrients to create the first “candyceuticals.”
One of the concerns with candyceuticals is the routine inclusion of sugar in formulations. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, as Mary Poppins counseled. Brands typically insert 1 or 2 grams of sugar for each gummy — sometimes as much as 5 grams per piece.
A U.K. brand called Tonic is using the prebiotic fiber FOS, which besides being a food source for beneficial bacteria in the gut is also a low-calorie sweetener source.
The upshot is each Tonic gummy contains only 0.33 grams of sugar per gummy.
“They are putting efficacious doses of vitamins and other bioactives into children’s gummies,” said Schultz. “They’re brand new and are a brand to watch.”
Sustainability concerns are increasingly the focus of brands.
“Younger consumers are really focused on this,” said Schultz. “Brand are responding and capital is responding.”
The question is, how are sustainability efforts verified?
One significant court case, albeit not in the natural products industry, is against Delta Airlines, which markets itself as a “carbon-neutral” airline. This is big news because airplanes are notorious for being an outsized culprit of carbon dioxide emissions. The lawsuit asserts that Delta’s carbon offsets are not doing what they are claiming to do.
The case, Berrin v. Delta Air Lines, alleges that Delta’s operations to offset carbon emissions are “manifestly and provably false” because of “foundational issues” with the market over whether the carbon offsets are really doing what they claim.
“If the court decides that you have to verify your projects, not just take the word of some consultant, that will have a huge effect on this industry,” said Schultz.
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