There has been a notable increase in investments made in technological innovation, clinical research, and patent protection for materials in the supplement industry in recent years. Today’s sports nutrition consumers are better informed than ever, and products that are shown to have proven performance benefits are far more likely to prosper in the marketplace.
“This is quite evident by the growth and popularity of various branded botanical extracts that are backed by multiple studies demonstrating effects on muscle strength, endurance, and recovery,” explains Dr Ramanathan.
“Such ingredients commonly feature in bestselling sports nutrition products on the market. Consumers are constantly looking out for new innovations that can deliver results, and clinically proven benefits are a compelling way of differentiating products for the customer.”
Advances in compound screening and extraction techniques
Advances in science have meant that there are more precise and accurate ways of extracting components from botanicals using cutting edge methodology. This has enabled companies to identify and purify components that may not have been previously accessible. In addition, water extracts and extracts made with ‘gentle’ solvents are compelling for today’s customers who are very focussed on quality and sustainability.
“With regard to compound screening, the use of artificial intelligence to predict the safety and efficacy of components is a growing trend,” says Dr Ramanathan. “This allows R&D teams to fail fast and fail safe. This can cut costs and drive speed to market by reducing the amount of time and effort required to identify viable ingredients suitable for further R&D.”
These changes have helped to fine tune ingredients that are available for formulators to use. They have resulted in materials with superior organoleptic properties including taste, odour, mixability and better versatility in various delivery forms such as powders, tablets, ready to drink beverages, gummies, etc.
In addition to physical features of the product, the growing body of evidence on ingredients is helping in the intelligent design of products to target very specific customer needs. The development of competitive and differentiated marketing and messaging claims - to educate the customer on product benefits – has also been enhanced, thanks to these technological innovations.
Analysing strength and performance benefits
At Vitafoods, Dr Ramanathan will provide detailed examples of scientific innovation in this field. He plans to deliver a presentation focusing on the strength and performance benefits of a novel botanical blend with clinical research behind it, as well as an AI derived plant-based peptide.
“My aim is to discuss the research on the botanical blend and the peptide, and the different consumer benefit statements that can be generated based on this research,” he explains. “Attendees will have the opportunity to understand the comprehensive investments that companies are making in research and will be able to see how the research can translate into commercial product.”
For Dr Ramanathan, Vitafoods Geneva provides an excellent opportunity to meet, interact and learn from industry peers and scientists. “The event also provides a great opportunity to see emerging trends in Europe before they are seen in the US,” he notes. “I am looking forward to learning more about what the industry has been working on and will be focussed on new innovations and building relationships.”
Dr Guru Ramanathan is an adjunct professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge Louisiana, USA and managing director and board member of Dutch Medical Food B.V. based in the Netherlands. He currently serves on Corporate and Advisory Boards for established and early-stage companies in Global Food, Nutrition, Pharma, OTC, Digital Health and Primary Care Medicine industry sectors. He is very active in Nutrition Industry initiatives having been a founding member and current Chairman of the ‘Supplement Safety & Compliance Initiative’ (SSCI).