What is the Nutraceuticals Market?

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As a child, the highlight of my morning routine was eating Flintstone vitamin gummies with my breakfast. I delighted in munching on Dino and Fred Flintstone, and picking my exact combination of red, yellow, and purple gummies for the day. While gummy multivitamins may have added some joy to breakfast, they also provided valuable supplements to my diet. Multivitamins are just one example of nutraceuticals, products derived from food that provide health benefits. Nutraceuticals include items such as functional food (food with extra health benefits such as seeds, nuts, and milk with extra protein), medicinal food, and dietary supplements. Functional food are foods that have additional health benefits beyond basic nutrition by including supplements or nutrient-rich ingredients. Some examples of functional food include oats with extra fiber, fruits, nuts, and fortified milk or eggs. Medicinal food, on the other hand, is food that is specially formulated for health benefits and helps manage and treat illnesses. Some common medicinal foods are special infant formulas or nutritional formulas for patients with kidney disease. The nutraceutical market has changed a lot over the years, and grown to encompass different kinds of products – ones you probably use and run into every day!

The nutraceutical market officially began in the 1990s in Japan. Since then, the market has grown alongside technology. With COVID-19, the demand for nutraceuticals increased even more. Though it may be a modern-day trend, the use of medicinal food actually started in ancient times. Traditional medicine in Europe, Asia, Africa, and pre-Columbian America often used herbs and food as cures. For example, turmeric was used in a lot of ancient medicines for indigestion and abdominal pain. Fast forward to modern times, and a lot of our favorite common food items actually started as cures for various ailments. Invented in 1929, 7-UP was used as a mood-stabilizing drink and contained lithium citrate, a compound used to treat psychiatric conditions. Fig Newtons started as a cure all since doctors before the 19th century believed illnesses were born of digestive issues. Salisbury steak was invented in 1888 as a combination of lean beef and coffee to treat the diarrhea suffered by Civil War soldiers. But what does the market for nutraceuticals look like today?

One key strategy in the market is researching ways to customize products as consumers demand personalized vitamins. Major businesses and corporations such as Nestle, Kraft, and Johnson & Johnson are also joining in on the nutraceutical trend. Many companies are choosing to acquire smaller supplement makers rather than growing their own nutraceutical labels. Kraft acquired Balance Bar and Boca Burger while Nestle bought PowerBar. Alternatively, companies also enter the nutraceutical market through joint ventures. Quaker joined forces with Novartis to create Altus Food Company, a business focused on health benefits for women and children.

The United States has the largest nutraceutical market in the world. Health-conscious American consumers are pushing big companies to include nutraceuticals in their products, causing American food products to include more natural ingredients. In Europe, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands serve as centers for nutraceutical innovation with Spain and Great Britain as the main nutraceutical markets. The functional food market is booming with products hitting grocery shelves all over the U.S. and across the world. Strolling through your local supermarket, you might find products such as green tea, sauerkraut, or apple cider vinegar.

From traditional medicinal foods to made-to-order vitamins, the nutraceutical market has come a long way since I ate my last multivitamin as a child. Functional food provides a new and popular alternative to regular healthy food while modern-day medicinal foods are created to treat ailments. The nutraceutical market overall is already booming but set to increase even more in the next year. Trends driving the market include a rise in chronic disease, rising healthcare costs, growing mistrust in traditional medicine, and a growing demand for convenience. The boom in industry reflects growing health-consciousness in the U.S. and abroad. In other words, Flintstone gummies could just be the wave of the future!

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