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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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Probiotics provide a competitive edge in sports nutrition

The gut flora performs a variety of functions that are important for health. In fact, 70 percent of the body’s immune cells are located in the digestive tract, making gut health critical to overall health. A healthy and well-balanced gut flora facilitates digestion, protects against pathogens, provides vitamins and nutrients, and helps form the immune system. For athletes and fitness enthusiasts, optimizing digestion and immunity are major factors as they strive to improve performance. As research advances, probiotics will play a leading role in shaping the sports nutrition supplements of tomorrow.

Athletes and active individuals have high nutrient needs, which are best met when digestion is well-functioning. Healthy bacteria in the gut aid in the digestion of macronutrients, allowing for optimized nutrient uptake from an athlete’s diet. They also aid in the digestion of macronutrients, allowing for optimized nutrient uptake from the diet. Some probiotic strains can play a role in the use of protein for muscle growth and human recovery by promoting the absorption of key amino acids. Being able to absorb more of the amino acids from protein can help increase muscle growth. In addition, probiotics can support immune health by adhering to the gut epithelium, thereby enhancing the “gut barrier” function of those cells by preventing the adhesion of pathogens.

Working out is all about breaking down and rebuilding muscles to become stronger and faster. With such activity, inflammation and free radical production are normal, expected and necessary—but the body’s response to these reactions will determine how quickly an athlete can recover and get back to his or her regimen. The two main areas of focus while doing strenuous activity are providing the right nutrients to build muscle (protein) and recovery (reduced inflammation). Probiotics can help in both of those areas; for example, the strain Bacillus subtilis DE111® (from Deerland) produces many enzymes to help break down protein, and recent research supported its role in reducing markers of inflammatory compounds that arise during exercise (Sports. 2018;6[3]:70).

According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), there are more than 480,000 NCAA student athletes who compete in 24 sports every year. And of course, this is only a slice of the physical-competition pie. Add professional sports, athletic trainers and serious fitness enthusiasts like marathoners and cyclists, and the number of individuals who could benefit from probiotic supplementation is significantly higher.

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Researched ingredients with anti-inflammatory effects

• 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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Sugar reduction in sports nutrition applications

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

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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Marketing products to female athletes

The female athlete/active consumer demographic is growing, giving sports nutrition companies a huge opportunity to craft new formulas dedicated specifically to women. Although women use sport-related product less than men, according to data from the Natural Marketing Institute’s (NMI) 2017 Supplements/OTC/Rx Database, “this indicates a huge opportunity to develop and market products to women,” said Steve French, managing partner, NMI.

To successfully woo women in the sports nutrition market, brands and companies must speak a different language to women than men, and expand their marketing pitch beyond the traditional category of weight management. Women consumers seek companies they can trust, identify with and that reflect their lifestyles. Brand authenticity plays a huge role in gaining the trust of women consumers.

With so many sports nutrition products offered on the market, women want clarity as to which ingredients work for their body and what products deliver. Brands should invest in educating the female consumer, not fixing them.

For package development, focus first on formulation and ingredients, and then design packaging that highlights the various ingredients and exactly what each does for the female body. Women are seeking results with verbiage that appeals to their intellect, not cute product boxes with just feminine appeal.

Creating an uplifting, empower community around a brand based on trends is a solid marketing strategy for companies with brands that produce results for women. According to Euromonitor, a market research provider, identified the following trends female athletes and active consumers are searching for: healthy desserts and keto-diet focused products. Also, social media influencers are stepping up and launching products, which could be targets for M&As.

Overall, female athletes and active female consumers want products created with ingredients that their body uses to achieve their wants and needs from brands and companies they trust.

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Dietary ingredients ensnared in U.S.-China trade war

President Trump’s trade war with China is set to impact many dietary ingredients, with additional 10 to 25 percent import duties on a range of products from minerals to proteins and sweeteners sourced from China.

IngredientsOnline.com, which connects U.S. and other manufacturers and vendors to ingredient suppliers from around the world, including China, has compiled a list of more than 180 potentially affected ingredients in the company’s supply chain, including choline, creatine, xylitol, animal and plant proteins, ribose, phytosterols, hemp seeds and various forms of minerals and amino acids.

“With boots on the ground in China, our teams in Shanghai have identified this list of ingredients that are on the HTS [U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule] Code as ‘potentials’ for the additional duty fees that will start at 10 percent,” said Peggy Jackson, vice president of sales and marketing for ingredientsonline.com. “Keep in mind this is just the beginning; we’re hearing the tariffs can range from 10 percent to 25 percent. It’s obvious this will have a tremendous effect on not only the industry but on consumers as well.”

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) has been working on this issue since Trump released the first tariffs in May and has received lists from its members, sometimes including 30 to 40 or more ingredients potentially affected by the tariffs.

“The cost of sourcing raw material is going to go up in all these cases,” said Steve Mister, president and CEO of CRN. “Sometimes it’s the finished ingredient; in other cases, it’s the excipients or fillers and similar compounds. Each one incrementally increases the cost of goods, the cost to make the products.”

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Weighing the pros & cons of supplement delivery forms

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

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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