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Trends in digestive health

Digestive health has become increasingly important. Yes, it’s on-trend, but why is it really so important? Because it’s all about the “gut.” Martha Carlin, CEO of The Biocollective Research, is one of many people doing important work related to the gut. She became interested in the topic after reading Martin Blazer’s book Missing Microbes. In a recent episode of the Business Leaders Podcast, Carlin said, “For people who don’t know what the human microbiome is, that’s the trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and archaea that live in and on our body. We’re actually more microbial than we are human.”

Carlin isn’t alone; even Hippocrates acknowledged: “All disease begins in the gut.” 

As product developers continue to incorporate functional attributes to address consumer need states related to gastrointestinal (GI) health, a good place to start is with a combination of probiotics and prebiotics, a positive synergy referred to as synbiotics. Probiotics gained recognition in recent years with the growing popularity of foods like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut. Probiotics add healthy bacteria into the body, while prebiotics feed the healthy organisms in the gut.

Product development trends over the last five to six years have focused on—or even obsessed over—probiotics, with less emphasis on prebiotics. However, both are needed for optimal health. Obtaining effective probiotics strains and adequate prebiotics via diet to improve GI health isn’t easy; in order to have healthy gut, supplementation with both is often advised.

Roughly one-fourth of U.S. adults seek foods and beverages with high amounts of probiotics or prebiotics, according to a 2017 national consumer survey conducted by Packaged Facts. The interest is spurring innovation in the food and beverage industry.

The future mission of product developers is to focus on effectively formulating with both prebiotics and probiotics. It is important for the long-term progression of digestive health to incorporate the synbiotic approach. It will take into account solutions based on the total body, focusing on introducing products that can effectively address areas like immune system, gut health and overall well-being.

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The relationship between sleep aids and stress management

Sleep aids are rapidly growing in popularity across the globe, posting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.5 percent between 2012 and 2017 to reach retail sales of US$2.3 billion in 2017, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. Driven by an increasingly stressed and sleepless consumer base, particularly in the developed world, sleep aids are expected to continue growing through 2022.

Stress and sleep management are essentially one in the same when looking at consumer response: lack of sleep leads to increased stress, which results in an increase in reported sleeplessness. As a stressed consumer base turns to over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids for relief, products positioned to address both conditions will continue to grow in popularity.

Sleep Aids Among Fastest-Growing OTC Categories

Though retail sales of sleep aids amounted to just $2.3 billion in 2017—far below cough, cold and allergy remedies, which is the largest OTC category—sleep aids experienced strong growth over 2012-2017, second to emergency contraception, which posted a CAGR of 9.4 percent over the same period. Looking forward, sales of sleep aids are expected to post a CAGR of 2.6 percent globally through 2022, according to Euromonitor.

Sales of sleep aids are heavily affected by demographic and epidemiological factors, particularly in the developed world as consumers increasingly report higher levels of work- and family-related stressors as well as a decline in number of hours slept each night. As stress levels continue to increase, consumers will likely continue to turn to OTC sleep aids for relief.

Increasing Stress Levels

The most common sources for consumers’ increasing stress levels are their jobs, familial obligations and, often, pressure from peers or society to work harder and accomplish more to achieve perceived success. Surveys of consumers’ attitudes toward work/life balance and stress management activities indicate across global markets (though largely excluding the developing world), consumers report being more stressed and under more perceived pressure in 2016 than in previous years, and there is every reason to believe these attitudes will persist and strengthen in the coming years as well.

Since the market for sleep aids is tied so closely to stress management, any discussion of retail sales of products to promote sleep must necessarily include a discussion about the psychological health of the consumer base and their motivations for buying sleep aid products in the first place.

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Body boosting ingredients for the serious athlete

Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are incredibly popular with hardcore athletes and body builders. BCAAs include leucine, isoleucine and valine, which are essential amino acids that humans only get from food and beverage because the body doesn’t make them on its own. Among the benefits of BCAA products  are stimulation of muscle protein synthesis (MPS), prevention of muscle breakdown and delaying of muscle fatigue.1

There are hundreds of BCAA products on the market, and some of the most popular brands include Cellucor, BPI Sports and Dymatize. BCAA supplements are most often sold as powders with sweet and citrus flavors, but brands such as Optimum Nutrition and Scivation have developed ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, as well.

Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the human body and is the basis of connective tissues that help give structure to tendons, ligaments, skin, bones and teeth. It is also sold as a supplement in products that are rapidly growing in popularity. The ingredientworks with endogenous hyaluronic acid (HA) to improve joint health,2 enhance hair,3 skin4 and nails.5 As a bonus, it may also help repair muscle tissue, although whey and casein are generally regarded as more effective for that purpose.6

The source of the collagen isn’t quite so sexy. It comes from animals such as cattle, fish, turkeys and chickens, which means it is not vegan and can cause issues with a product’s kosher status. Allergenic concerns also need to be taken into consideration for sensitive consumers. Formulating with collagen can be challenging because it can have solubility issues, but brands such as Eviva Collagen Elixir, Beauty & Go and Pure Gold Collagen have successfully developed RTD collagen supplements. Many collagen protein powders are on the market, as well, including in  brands such as NeoCell, Ancient Nutrition, Vital Proteins and Sports Research.

Micellar casein is an up-and-coming ingredient for active consumers and is generally regarded as the most effective form of casein compared to similar ingredients like calcium caseinate. It is the slowest digested caseinate protein and is a source of high-quality BCAAs and glutamine.

“The mechanism of action is a stark contrast to hydrolyzed whey, which is known for fast-acting, quick absorption into the body,” explained Jason Dompeling, beverage scientist at Imbibe. “Micellar casein is known for very slow absorption. The casein micelles form a sort of ‘clot’ in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract that slow down the protein breakdown and amino acid absorption.”

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Sports nutrition performance ingredients

Performance in sports goes beyond competition to include training or regular exercise. By definition, performance is the execution of an action or the ability or manner used in completing a task. Sports nutrition researchers define performance in terms of strength, power and endurance, as well as sport skills including speed, agility and reaction time. Recently, cognitive function—focus, processing and memory—has drawn rising interest in the market for its impact on overall sports performance.

It could be confidently said that all sports nutrition ingredients have an ultimate effect on performance, even if their primary benefit is in weight management or recovery.  However, many ingredients are researched for an influence on specific performance metrics used by sports nutrition researchers and, thus, have a more direct impact on performance.

Strength and power metrics are tied to the muscles, which are built and driven by protein/amino acids and energy. Each protein source, from dairy to plants and algae, has a unique profile of essential amino acids (EAAs) and specific rates of action. Whey is fast acting, while casein is slower. Each protein can play a role in muscle development and function, and blending different protein types is sometimes advantageous. The branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), specifically leucine, are EAAs singled out for muscle building. Leucine is considered a limiting factor in muscle protein synthesis (MPS), the process of building new muscle mass.

Also involved in muscle building is mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin), a regulatory pathway for MPS. Leucine and ingredients such as HMB (beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate) may signal mTOR-activated muscle growth.

Protein boosters, which help increase MPS, and testosterone boosters are other popular categories of ingredients for strength and power.

On the energy side, which also plays into endurance, ingredients that support production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the cellular energy molecule, can support performance gains. Creatine helps energize short bursts of activity, such as resistance training and sprinting, while carnitine helps shuttle fatty acids into the mitochondria for use in later stage energy production.

On the flip side, compounds that inhibit fatigue can also improve performance. Beta alanine and carnosine help buffer fatigue-causing ions in the muscles, whereas caffeine disrupts fatigue signaling in the brain and stimulates the central nervous system.

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Plant-based protein—new innovation

“Plant Based will be the Hottest Food Trend of 2018,” reported the HuffPost last fall. While they were focused on reviewing foods that serve as replacements for burgers, fish, etc., protein in general has been on trend for several years. When thinking about plant-based protein, it’s important to explore plant-based protein as an ingredient for use in food and beverage products.

Some of the top plant-based proteins are pea, hemp and Sacha inchi (an indigenous Peruvian superfood). Pea protein is the most hypoallergenic of proteins available and delivers 100 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin D. Hemp is rich in protein and fiber. Sacha inchi is an excellent source of vitamins A and E and fiber.

Developing products that include plant-based proteins such as these can meet consumer needs of protein and provide additional benefits, but how are they best incorporated into food and beverage products?

Beverages are a great place to start with plant-based proteins. Leading the initiatives are alternative milks. However, doing innovation with these types of beverages can be challenging. The production of alternative milks is expensive and the lack of capacity in manufacturing remains an issue. However, ingredient innovation is stepping up to provide solutions that allow plant protein to be utilized in finished products with greater success. Kerry’s ProDiem™ portfolio, for example, offers dairy-free, soy-free and vegan proteins, enabling developers to enhance the nutritional profile of their products such as powder nutritional beverages, ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages and nutritional bars without impacting flavor or texture. What’s interesting about this new ingredient developed by Kerry is the ability to develop a high-acid, low-PH product that can be used to manufacture in the hot-fill environment.

Developing a beverage as a hot fill is much more lucrative compared to trying to launch a low-acid beverage with aseptic manufacturing. This ingredient also gives the product innovator a way to launch a more refreshment-like product without earlier issues, such as chalkiness, which can be prevalent with more traditional protein-based beverages. Isopure—protein-fortified beverages presented as a clear, flavored-water product—was one of the original and only protein-based beverages with an ingredient to be able to accomplish this. Though it utilized whey protein, it presented a way to commercialize protein in a beverage as a more palatable option.

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