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Plant-based protein—new innovation

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“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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Researched ingredients with anti-inflammatory effects

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• Short-term inflammation is a protective response, but chronic inflammation can have a negative effect on the human body.

• Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), Terminalia chebula, grape seed extract and magnolia are among the options for formulators.

• The anti-inflammatory market is projected to reach US$130.6 billion by 2026 with a CAGR of 8.5 percent from 2018 to 2026.

Inflammation is one of the body’s natural defense mechanisms, addressing hazardous stimuli such as tissue damage or allergens. On a short-term basis, inflammation can help the body return to a healthy state. However, according to a 2016 review, “Uncontrolled inflammatory response is the main cause of a vast continuum of disorders including allergies, cardiovascular dysfunctions, metabolic syndrome, cancer and autoimmune diseases.”1

While various pharmaceuticals are available to help control and suppress inflammatory crisis, the potential for side effects and the desire for a natural course of action lead many consumers to seek alternative solutions. The review noted several herbs with anti-inflammatory effects that have been evaluated in clinical and experimental studies, including Curcuma longa (curcumin), Zingiber officinale (ginger), Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary), Borago officinalis (borage), evening primrose and devil’s claw. It also mentioned, “the treatment of inflammation is not a one-dimensional remedy,” and therefore, suggested “a multidimensional therapeutic approach to inflammation with the help of herbal medicine and modification in lifestyle.”

Blake Ebersole, president of NaturPro Scientific, pointed to palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) as an emerging anti-inflammatory ingredient that’s been studied in large trials in Europe. It’s a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha (PPAR-α) ligand that exerts anti-inflammatory, analgesic and neuroprotective actions.2 A 2014 review noted PEA was first identified as an anti-inflammatory compound more than half a century ago, but greater exploration didn’t occur until the mid-1990s. PEA was shown to reduce tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α in lipopolysaccharide (LPS, a pro-inflammatory endotoxin)-induced pulmonary inflammation in mice, as well as mast cell degranulation and edema formation in various inflammatory models.3

The review mentioned more recent investigation of the anti-inflammatory mechanisms. PEA inhibited phosphorylation of kinases involved in activation of pro-inflammatory pathways, and the nuclear translocation of nuclear factor-kappa beta (NF-κβ) and activator protein 1 (AP-1), as well as preventing degradation of the inhibitory IκB-α, which when associated to NF-κβ prevents its nuclear translocation.4,5

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U.S. Sales of Herbal Dietary Supplements Top $8 Billion, Growing 8.5% in 2017

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Total consumer spending on herbal dietary supplements in the U.S. reached an estimated $8.085 billion in 2017, according to a recently published HerbalGram Herb Market Report for 2017. The report, which appeared in issue 119 of the American Botanical Council’s (ABC’s) quarterly, peer-reviewed journal HerbalGram, noted this is the first time total U.S. retail sales of herbal supplements have surpassed $8 billion. In addition, the 8.5% increase in total sales from 2016 is the strongest growth for these products in more than 15 years.

ABC’s annual market report for herbal supplement sales is based on U.S. retail sales data from the Chicago, IL-based market research firms SPINS and IRI, as well as Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ), Boulder, CO. The report covers only retail sales of herbal dietary supplements and does not reflect the sales of most herbal teas, botanical ingredients used in cosmetics, or government-approved herbal drug ingredients in over-the-counter medicines.

The report was authored by Tyler Smith, managing editor of HerbalGram; Kimberly Kawa and Veronica Eckl, retail reporting analyst and associate data product manager, respectively, at SPINS; Claire Morton, senior industry analyst at NBJ; and Ryan Stredney, public relations and marketing specialist at IRI.

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Sugar reduction in sports nutrition applications

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The sports nutrition market continues to see steady growth. Athletes and mainstream users, including exercisers and those leading active lifestyles, are looking for products that support their recreational and lifestyle-driven performance. Both men and women seek sports nutrition products to help improve their nutritional intake, general health, well-being, performance, and muscle growth and recovery from exercise. The success of sports nutrition products requires meeting consumer demand with formulations they can trust and rely on, while also delivering on taste. Whether protein powders or bars, gummies, chews, ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, pre-workout enhancers or post-workout enhancers, flavor and sweetness must meet consumer expectations.

Clean label and free-from claims

Many active consumers are looking for clean label products, including those with no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, and other “free-from” claims. There is a clear shift toward plant-based, natural, sugar-free and less-added-sugar products. Sugar reduction innovation is at an all-time high, and there is tremendous demand for sweeteners that allow for 100 percent sugar replacement—and are also natural and taste good. However, consumer preference for sweetness is still strong, too. Sports nutrition product manufacturers are actively seeking ways to successfully achieve low sugar content while delivering on good taste, texture and overall appeal.

Natural, plant-based sweeteners

The demand for sugar reduction and product purity has brought much attention to natural and plant-based sweeteners such as stevia and monk fruit. Stevia has led the natural high-intensity sweetener market, and demand has grown exponentially since its approval and introduction. Monk fruit, also known as luo han guo, is quickly rising in popularity. Many sports nutrition brands are recognizing the benefits of incorporating monk fruit into products and formulations, and it is garnering attention as a sugar alternative. The sweetness of monk fruit comes from components called mogrosides found in the flesh of the fruit. Monk fruit is a no-calorie, natural sweetener with a glycemic index of zero that provides a well-rounded, fruity taste profile, and allows for an added “fruit-based” claim.

Finding the sweet spot

Formulating sports nutrition products that meet these needs may require manufacturers to address significant technical challenges. Reducing sugar content can impact not only sweetness, but also texture, color and the overall taste experience. While athletes and other sports nutrition consumers are looking for healthier alternatives and less sugar, they are also not willing to give up taste. Mintel reported taste is the most important product attribute to consumers. For this reason, reducing sugar in sports nutrition products cannot be done at the expense of flavor and familiarity.

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Prebiotics: The new gut health nutrient driving product innovation

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Gut health and probiotics have been all the rage over the past few years, with copious amounts of new food and beverage products coming onto the market positioning themselves based on their probiotic benefits.

There is, however, a missing link to the gut health puzzle—prebiotics, the fuel for the live probiotics that are already naturally inside the human body, that only in recent months have begun to gain the attention they so rightly deserve.

With science continuing to build in the field of gut health, and the essential roll prebiotics play in ensuring gut bacteria can thrive, it should come as no surprise that the global prebiotic market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.4 percent, reaching US$7.37 billion by 2023, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com.

With prebiotics coming in many forms, such as various prebiotic fibers or resistant starches, as well as more emerging science showing the prebiotic potential of various polyphenolic compounds, it’s important to explore which products are naturally rich in prebiotics, what products have been specifically formulated to promote a prebiotic benefit and which direction product innovation is moving in the prebiotic space.

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Report highlights herbal supplement market trends: CBD, turmeric, direct sales

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Retail sales of herbal dietary supplements in the United States experienced its strongest growth in 15 years, according to a new report from the American Botanical Council’s (ABC)HerbalGram. The category exceeded US$8 billion in 2017, representing an increase of 8.5 percent compared to 2016. Other key findings in the report included curcumin’s strong performance in both mainstream and natural channels, a strong increase in direct sales of herbal supplements, and cannabidiol’s (CBD) position among the 40 top-selling herbal supplements in the U.S. natural channel.

The report relied on data from Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ), as well as data developed via a collaboration between market research firms SPINS and IRI.

Both SPINS/IRI and NBJ data pointed to increased sales in the mainstream channel. NBJ’s mass-market retail channel sales totaled an estimated $1.45 billion in 2017 (an 8.4 percent increase compared to 2016), compared to a total of $925.93 million for mainstream multi-outlet retail sales of herbal dietary supplements (a 0.69 percent increase compared to 2016), as indicated by IRI/SPINS data. Unlike IRI/SPINS, NBJ’s mass-market channel analysis includes convenience stores.

In the natural channel, NBJ indicated herbal supplement sales achieved $2.62 billion in 2017 (a 4.7 percent increase), while IRI/SPINS data indicated sales of $405.15 million (an 8.9 percent increase). NBJ analysis of the natural channel includes estimated sales from Whole Foods Market, which are not included in IRI/SPINS data.

Strongest sales growth, however, was attributed to direct sale of herbal supplements, which totaled $4.012 billion in 2017, an 11.2 percent increase compared to 2016, according to NBJ.

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Omega-3s market outlook

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Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for overall health. Mary Ann Siciliano, national sales manager, Aristra Industries Inc., said omega-3s have been found to be particularly good for heart health, joint and inflammation support, eye health, cognitive function, pregnancy and healthy child development and immune function, among other benefits.

The omega-3s include the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and the longer-chain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Plant-based sources of ALA omega-3 include flaxseed, chia seeds, canola, walnut and soybean oils and leafy and green vegetables. The short-chain omega-3 ALA can be converted in the body to the longer-chain omega-3s. However, the body’s ability to convert ALA into EPA and/or DHA is inefficient, making ingestion of pre-formed EPA and DHA beneficial.

The biggest challenge for both consumers and industry affecting consumption of omega-3 food supplements is taste. Marine sources of long-chain fatty acids often yield a “fishy” taste that is unappealing to consumers.

Proprietary research from the Global Organization of EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) showed highest supplement use is occurring in the United States, China and Australia. Statistica 2018 estimated the supplement market for omega-3 supplements in 2025 will reach US$57 billion, compared to $33 billion in 2016. This is indeed a steep growth for an individual supplement segment.

Consumption of omega-3-rich food is reasonably high in the high-population markets of China and India, but that is largely fresh-food based. As these economies evolve and nutrition management in the nouveau riche comes to vogue, the demand for supplements will rise.

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FDA issues guidance on disclosing amount of live microbial ingredients in supplements

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FDA on Thursday recognized the benefits of disclosing on labels the number of live microbials in dietary supplements—an issue of interest to marketers of probiotics.

FDA stopped short of amending its labeling regulations, denying a request filed by the International Probiotics Association (IPA).

However, the agency revealed plans to “exercise enforcement discretion” for companies that chose to declare on the Supplement Facts label the amount of live microbial ingredients based on colony-forming units (CFUs), in addition to disclosing the quantitative amount of certain dietary ingredients based on their weight per FDA regulations.

“We believe that CFUs provide a useful description of the quantity of live microbial dietary ingredients,” FDA explained in a constituent update. “Allowing firms to declare the CFUs within the Supplement Facts label will help consumers more readily identify the amount of living microorganisms for each product and more easily compare products.”

Enforcement discretion

In draft guidance published Sept. 6, 2018, FDA said it intends to exercise its enforcement discretion, provided the following conditions are met:

• The quantity is first listed in terms of weight;

• The declaration of quantity in CFUs is expressed in a manner that is clearly separate and readily distinguishable from the weight, e.g., as a parenthetical or in a subset line;

• The declaration of quantity in CFUs is formatted in clear terms that can easily be understood by a common reader, e.g., 10 billion or 300* (where the unit that “*” is intended to represent, such as million or billion, is a typical measurement of CFUs and is clearly indicated elsewhere in the Supplement Facts label)

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Weighing the pros & cons of supplement delivery forms

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Now that you have the perfect formula to add to your product line, what solid dosage delivery form should you choose? Capsules, tablets, softgels or powder? The answer—it depends! This is a decision every brand marketer must make during product design. Each delivery form has its place in the dietary supplement arena. Several factors should be considered when selecting a delivery form to ensure the ingredients are delivered to the body in the most befitting form and the product is convenient and user friendly.

The two-piece hard-shell capsule is the most common delivery form in the supplement space. Most allow a rapid release and require fewer processing aids. Tablets are also widely used, which can be packed with a larger quantity of ingredients, allow time-release delivery and offer a variety of shapes and sizes. A softgel typically consists of a soft gelatin or vegetarian-based shell surrounding a liquid fill. This delivery form is particularly suitable for oil-based ingredients. Powders, as the name implies, consist of a single ingredient or mixture of ingredients in powder form. Powders can be considered the purest of the delivery forms requiring few, if any, processing excipients. Powders are ideal for macronutrients or supplements requiring a large serving size. These solid dosage delivery forms have specific manufacturing processes as well as advantages and disadvantages in form and function.

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Delivery Forms for Dietary Supplements

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As someone who’s been in the supplement and manufacturing industry for more than 30 years, I’m continually perplexed at how so many companies focus on overall product quality without also giving equal consideration to delivery within the body. What’s missing here is science and chemistry. More specifically, application of the proper delivery method required for raw materials to be most effective.

Overlooking such factors leads to powders that unwittingly harden, oxidize, taste bad, mix badly, change color or even become rancid. Following are key insights as to when certain ingredient delivery forms should be used for optimal bioavailability and shelf life.

Powders: This is best used for ingredients such as proteins. The major benefit is that even with a serving that is not exact, it won’t affect overall product benefits. Most protein powders are simple dry blends designed to go into solution, usually water, and consumed in a relatively short amount of time. Leaving a powder in water for too long will cause microbial growth, making it dangerous to consume. Materials that are not soluble, taste bad or are highly hygroscopic are not ideal for powder delivery.

Liquids: Great for ready-to-drink (RTD) products, it offers a quick, no-hassle way to consume an ingredient. However, it limits how much actual active material can be included in a serving. The saturation point of liquids depends on the bulk density of the ingredients. Additionally, water-soluble ingredients must be used, otherwise emulsification and suspension techniques need to be applied. Liquid delivery is not good for bad tasting ingredients because “masking” them properly is quite difficult. Liquid delivery products also typically require preservatives and a low-acid or aseptic production.

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