Nutraceuticals at the next level

–  Maureen Aylward

Zintro experts were pretty straightforward when it came to answering the question:
What is needed to bring the nutraceutical industry to the next level? Their answers are below.

Sheldon Baker, a brand marketing director in the nutraceutical industry, says that product promotion has always been lacking in the nutraceutical industry. “This goes for ingredients as well retail products manufacturers,” says Baker. “Most industry leaders do not have an understanding of how brand marketing can generate healthy revenue. Of course there are exceptions.”

Baker says that in the early 90s, InterHealth promoted a weight loss ingredient to the consumer first, then on a B2B basis. The company went from $1.5 million in revenues to $20 million in just under a year. Another ingredient company, TSI, followed the same strategy and it proved successful in 2000. “Their main ingredient for success was using a celebrity spokesperson. This is nothing new to other industries, but the nutraceutical industry lacks marketing savvy, and it keeps the industry and products from really taking off,” he says.

Baker thinks that probiotics sales will triple in the next five years. “The increase in digestive problems in the US population will cause this spike,” he says. “Most Americans eat more highly processed foods, drink chemically treated water, are under more stress, and take more antibiotics both prescribed by doctors and used in food production. The probiotic bacteria in intestines are found in fewer numbers than before; therefore, pathogenic bacteria now have a greater chance to make humans sick. Consumers are becoming more aware of what probiotics are and how they can be used to improve health.”

Baker thinks that soy will decline. “According to the research firm SPINS, sales are down 15.3 percent for soy supplements as of May 2011. There has been negative publicity about soy as it relates to breast cancer,” he says. “Because soy has estrogen-like chemicals, there is some fear that it could increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence in survivors, but research presented at a recent meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research allayed those fears.”

Karen Russell, a certified health coach and registered dietitian, says that continued research and studies are needed to bring nutraceuticals to the next level. “There are a lot of products out there. Some products have ingredients that can work in synergy with each other, and testing and clinical trials are valuable to show how products work,” says Russell. “Women baby boomers seem to make up a large percentage of the people who purchase nutraceuticals,” says Russell. “They want to look healthier and more attractive. As people get more frustrated with their energy and vitality, this market will continue to grow and prosper. The Internet is propelling this growth and it will continue as people seek answers to their failing quality of life.”

Peter Leighton, a leader in the nutraceutical industry, says that the biggest single action that would make dramatic change for the nutraceutical industry is a regulatory change. “Currently, most nutraceuticals are regulated under the Dietary Supplement Health Education Act (DSHEA), which has been a target of the FDA since its inception,” he says. “While a nutraceutical may have clinical data that proves it is safe and has efficacious benefit, it cannot communicate to a consumer this health benefit. Instead, the DSHEA says that it may make approved structure and function statements, which are ambiguous and misleading inferences to the benefit of the compound.”

Leighton says it is well recognized that most nutraceuticals are exponentially safer than pharmaceutical compounds, and revisions in legislation should allow for these natural compounds to be more specific to address diseases or illnesses to which they apply. “In spite of this gaping regulatory inadequacy, nutraceuticals are doing quite well,” he explains. “Almost every segment of the industry has shown continued growth in contracting economic conditions. In particular, Omega-3 products, probiotic products, and several niche segments, such as fucoidans, are showing continued strong growth. As new technological applications are woven into the nutraceutical market, I suspect we will be seeing mature segments rebound. For instance, Vitamin E has been a mature segment that will soon see great increases due to emerging phospholipid technologies.”

Dan DeFigio, a well-known fitness and nutrition expert, thinks that two things are needed to bring nutraceuticals to the next level:

  • An emphasis on clinical trials and data on the products’ promotional materials, instead of user testimonials and unfounded claims; and
  • Government-funded research to provide this data. “At present, pharmaceutical companies provide nearly all the research dollars for clinical trials. Until the nutrition supplement companies can compete with this amount of air time, they will never be accepted by the medical community,” he says.

By Maureen Aylward

What do you think?

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