Since the 1990s, more consumers have become aware of the connection between health issues and the foods they eat. This was the era when low-fat, low-cholesterol and “light” foods had a major effect on the industry. This was also when we began to see products such as orange juice fortified with calcium and hot dogs with vitamins A and B12. Today there’s a heightened interest in what certain foods and ingredients can offer in terms of health benefits, as consumers demand more control over their health and wellbeing. And as this understanding grows, so do the opportunities for food manufacturers.
Women in particular have tended to take the lead in terms of interest in foods and ingredients aimed at boosting health, offering producers a wide array of opportunities for launching new products with specific “healthy” ingredients. While women’s health and food products used to focus on pregnancy and weight loss, today there’s increasing interest in ingredients focusing on osteoporosis, heart disease, stress reduction, depression, menopause and aging, just to name a few. One area that has already seen widespread interest is nutricosmetics, foods or beverages with cosmetic benefits.
Dr. Ram Chaudhari, senior executive vice-president and Chief Scientific Officer at Fortitech Inc., explains that this category is seeing growth “as more women begin to understand that what you eat has a correlation on how you look.”
As a result, says Chaudhari, consumers can expect to see more products fortified with antioxidants, which may have photo-protective effects, and carotenoids, which are believed to play a role in preventing photo-damage to the skin.
Other ingredients include omega-3, which contributes anti-inflammatory properties internally while also helping to nourish the skin; GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid), which is used in anti-stress and mental focus applications and is also being studied for its abilities to counter skin wrinkling; and probiotics, which play a significant role in optimum gut health and immune system functions and in turn can impact the entire body. Botanicals (though Chaudhari stresses that few botanical-based cosmeceuticals currently available have uses that are supported by evidence-based science) are another ingredient that can address issues such as hypertension, anxiety and diabetes management, and that detoxify the body, helping skin appear brighter and clearer.
Caroline Brons, senior Marketing manager at DSM Functional Food Marketing Group, refers to this category as “beauty from within,” and says it is becoming increasingly popular. She also echoes Chaudhari when she says the main force behind it is the awareness that skin health is dependent on diet. But other concerns for women are body shape, skin dryness and wrinkles. As a result, says Brons, other options for manufacturers include satiety ingredients to help with weight management, and ingredients such as FloraGLO lutein, Optisharp zeaxanthin and Ropufa omega-6 fatty acids to help contribute to skin hydration.