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Beyond calcium: Bone health for healthy agers

Article-Beyond calcium: Bone health for healthy agers

© iStock/PeopleImages Beyond calcium: Bone health for healthy agers
As increasing numbers of healthy agers embrace active lifestyles, interest in bone health is booming. But this savvy consumer group deserves products that offer benefits beyond calcium, say market analysts.

A trend towards preventative, proactive wellness, coupled with heightened awareness of the impact of bone health on overall wellbeing, is driving sales of vitamin, mineral, and supplement (VMS) products with bone health benefits, according to Mintel.

The healthy ageing consumer segment is not only expanding but “is also increasingly focusing on physical activity as a key component of health and wellness regimens”, the market research company suggests, offering an opportunity for product development tailored to support this cohort's active lifestyles”.

Active seniors drive demand for bone health products

As a demographic, healthy agers already have good awareness regarding the importance of bone health for preserving quality of life in older age.

In Thailand, 81% of consumers aged 45 to 54 are interested in trying milk products with bone health claims, while in India, 49% of the 55-plus age group are interested in food, drink, or supplements that can help improve bone health, Mintel data shows.

This awareness has filtered down to younger generations, too: in Indonesia, 74% of consumers aged 35 to 44 are interested in – and willing to pay more for – food or drink products that support bone health.

However, although 65% of global consumers recognise the link between joint and bone health and overall wellbeing, consumers state that they are less proactive about addressing this compared with other health areas, according to another market research agency.

In a blog post, FMCG Gurus highlighted that consumers expressgreat concernabout the possibility of bone and joint pain leading to long-term health issues. This means that they “deem products that aid this area of health appealing, particularly in the dairy category”.

Multifunctional products appeal to cash-strapped consumers

Besides calcium, what other nutrients might bone health brands want to consider including in their products?                                                                     

Mintel highlighted the importance of vitamins C, D, and K2 for maintaining strong, healthy bones. Vitamin C, for example, has been shown to be associated with a lower risk of osteoporosis and hip fracture, along with higher bone mineral density, according to one systematic review and meta-analysis.

Vitamin D, meanwhile, is known to help the body absorb calcium and phosphorus; indeed, without vitamin D, only 10 to 15% of dietary calcium and about 60% of phosphorus are absorbed.

Similarly, vitamin K2 plays an essential role in bone metabolism, and studies suggest that it can help prevent osteoporosis and fractures.

These nutrients could present opportunities for multifunctional products, which are set to dominate the market in 2024 as cash-strapped consumers seek out combination products that offer enhanced benefits.

Functional ingredients are a macrotrend driving growth in the industry more generally, meaning opportunities exist to target categories beyond supplements: globally, 11% of new food, drink, and VMS launches in 2019-23 had functional claims, Mintel data shows.

Leverage gut microbiome’s benefits for bone health

Another strategy could be to leverage the relationship between bone health with the gut, which has received increased attention in recent years.

The gut microbiome has been shown to play an important role in regulating bone mass; thus, it could offer a “potential alternative avenuefor the treatment of osteopenia or osteoporosis, according to one 2021 mini-review.

Mintel suggests that brands consider “using probiotics, prebiotics, and other gut-boosting ingredients (eg marine minerals) to promote/restore bone health”.

Gut health solutions also tap into the wider, more holistic approach towards wellness that was identified as one of the Mintel’s trend drivers for 2024.

© iStock/Elisanth_ Bone health for healthy agers

Interest in food, drink, and VMS products enriched with pro- and prebiotics, as well as other ingredients that aid bone health via the gut, is expected to increase further as consumer awareness of the gut-bone axis and its benefits grows.

The heightened interest in products that promote bone health via the gut is reflected in the increased number of patents in the gut-bone axis domain, which “indicates that companies are actively exploring and innovating in this area”, suggests Mintel.

However, despite improved awareness, there remains a “clear need for consumer education about the gut-bone axis and its benefits, it adds.