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Reflections on nutraceutical industry trends in 2021 - podcast

Audio-Reflections on nutraceutical industry trends in 2021 - podcast

Awareness of the gut-immune connection, desire for alternative delivery systems—gummies!—and confronting supply chain challenges impacted the nutraceutical industry in the past year.

While the pandemic wreaked havoc throughout the year, the nutraceuticals industry realized tremendous growth and investment. Consumers and the media explored the importance of boosting baseline nutritional status, while product formulators sought new ways to deliver efficacious levels of ingredients through new delivery formats. Even the supply chain challenges spoke to the global desire for natural products and underscored the importance of transparency in production and sourcing. In this year-end wrap-up, Heather Granato, vice president of content at Vitafoods, looks back on some of the top issues that impacted the nutraceuticals community in 2021, with added context from industry experts.

Tune in to hear more about:

  • Shifts in approaches to work and in-person gatherings
  • Interest in active nutrition and general wellness
  • Immune health and a move away from ‘boosting’
  • Gut health and the microbiome


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Podcast Transcript

Vitafoods Insights 00:06

Welcome to the Vitafoods Insights Podcast. Join us as we explore the latest science innovation, helping the global health and nutrition industry connect, develop and progress. Today's host is Heather Granato, vice president, content.

Heather 00:25

Greetings, I’m Heather Granato and as we wrap up 2021, it’s worth taking a little time to reflect on the trends that impacted our industry—and our lives—this year.

Here in London, we spent the first few months of the year in serious lockdown. We spent time on Teams calls and Zoom meetings, and hosted and participated in virtual events. While webinars aren’t a new concept, the digitization of intelligence and on-demand accessibility incrementally increased this year. It’s not a stretch to say you could have attended an industry ‘event’ monthly, and your calendar was likely as filled as mine with online meetings. But as we came into the second half of the year, we saw a return to in-person events—often with a live streaming or digital component—that allowed us to reconvene, connect with old colleagues, and put a whole body with the face from Zoom. Folks who joined us in Geneva for Vitafoods Europe found great content and connections, while our online participants took part in virtual meetings and live streamed sessions. Other brands across our group including SupplySide, Food ingredients and CPhI also hosted successful in-person events.

But it’s fair to say that the way we all once worked has changed, seemingly forever. As Julia Wiebe, who is joining the German company RED OTC next month, put it:

Julia 01:41

Our workplace has dramatically changed. People have adapted this challenging internal work environment that the dramatic pace of change in the market have impacted our work performance and resilience, but also our mental health and sleep and regular exercise and sports.

Heather 02:02

In fact, the sports nutrition or active nutrition category saw some great gains this year. Companies developed and launched products that went far beyond the amino acids and protein powders of the past. Ian Craig from the Centre for Integrative Sports Medicine saw this shift:

Ian 02:18

My top trend from 2021 has been the personalization within sports nutrition, focusing our efforts on individual exercises, rather than Mr. And Mrs average. My top area to watch in 2022 is gut health. Research has finally started relating it to the performance aspects such as energy hypertrophy and recovery. 

Heather 02:43

Ah, yes. Gut health. Research on the microbiome has developed at a tremendous rate, and the media has picked up on the interest among consumers. Products are incorporating probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics, but also unique botanical ingredients and specialty compounds that can positively impact the gut and, through that, whole body wellness. Aline Santa Izabel from YOGUT ME commented:

Aline 03:07

My top takeaway from 2021 is that the Gut Revolution has just begun. Gut health has never been so important and food & ingredient developments targeting our microbiome were in the spotlight and I believe that they will remain through 2022.

Heather 03:22

Similarly, George Paraskevakos of the International Probiotics Association saw greater interest among consumers in products that support overall health and wellness.

George 03:32

In that sense data also underlying consumers linking wellness to immune and gut health is your classical areas of science from the probiotic beginnings and what the category was built on. Self-education was on the rise and as people wanted to minimize the vulnerability to being sick and illnesses and many platforms saw the gain in immune probiotic products, sales really trended upwards.

Heather 03:56

We certainly can’t talk 2021 without discussing immune health. Not only did it not lose momentum from the incredible growth that we saw in 2020, but it increased and broadened. Instead of ‘boosting’, consumers looked to improve their baseline nutrition with a greater understanding of the connection between wellness and resilience. Mintel’s Emma Schofield called this out as a key trend this year:

Emma 04:18

The pandemic drew your attention to immunity and our research dating from March 2021 shows that 28% of French and 32% of German consumers have been consuming more food and drink products that support their immune system since the start of the pandemic.

Heather 04:33

Indeed – it’s supplements, foods, beverages – a whole range of products for immune support. Cosimo Palumbo from DSM mentioned the opportunity:

Cosimo 04:43

I see a race to stand out in a busy immune health space with fast growing vegan and sustainability claims in the EMEA region. There was also a strong link to formats that have been prioritised seeking a less nutritional touch with again, eco and vegan features.

Heather 04:58

While there were a number of efficacious formulations launched, there were also continued concerns around claims and regulatory compliance. Consumers are looking for products that support their health, but companies must be mindful in their approach. As Andrea Gutierrez-Solana of Whitehouse Communications put it:

Andrea 05:16

My biggest takeaway from 2021 is a renewed consumer focus on health, wellbeing and businesses' sustainability practices and increasing regulatory pressure in these areas. 

Heather 05:25

That applies not only to the current products, but to those with a unique delivery format or positioning. Professor Hans Verhagen of Food Safety and Nutrition Consultancy stated:

Hans 05:36

Functional foods are foods with claims and are attractive business opportunities. In the EU two major regulations are important one, the regulation on nutrition and health claims secures that claims are scientifically substantiated to the novel food regulation deals with the safety of novel foods and ingredients, including traditional foods from third countries. 

Heather 06:00

Whether consumers are seeking their nutritional boost in traditional supplement formats or newer delivery systems, the future looks bright for the nutraceutical space. Dominik Mattern from Kappa Bioscience summed it up nicely.

Dominik 06:14

My key takeaway after 2021, especially after this pandemic, while still being in a pandemic, is that more and more people will adhere to the concept of well being: well being of body, mind and soul. In other words, prevention.

Heather 06:28

Certainly, despite all the challenges, we have seen the nutraceutical community come together in 2021. Let’s now hear from a few more industry voices about what they think 2021 will be remembered for.

Wai-mun 06:44

Hi, this is Wai Mun, I'm regulatory affairs consultant based in Singapore. Though, like the rest of the world, the Asia region has been busy dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, that doesn't stop the interesting regulatory development. For example, we see Thailand become the first Asian country to approve the use of CBD oil in food and food supplements. As we approach the end of 2021, there are still more exciting development to look forward to next year. For example, in February 2022, we are expecting to see the signing of the agreement or the ASEAN harmonised requirements for health supplements. This is something that industry has been looking forward to for more than a decade.

Nate 07:19

Hi. My name is Nate Erskine from CBD Intel. My top takeaway from 2021 is that CBD has cemented its position in mass market retailers further separating great brands and suppliers from the pack due to the higher expectations and requirements these retailers place on suppliers.

Nicole 07:33

My name is Nicole and I work at Innova Market Insights. Our key trend was transparency trials. And it was all about for the consumer to understand the benefits of the ingredient. So, a lot about it was on authenticity of a brand, and also to build trust of why to purchase the product or why going for it.

Mike 07:52

Hi, my name is Mike Hughes, and I am Head of Research and insights at FMCG gurus. I think the key takeout for 2021 is that we've seen a complete shift in focus from health goals being aspirational to instead focused on disease management and reducing vulnerability to illness, consumers are being proactive. They're taking a prevention over cure approach to health. They've re-evaluated their diets, and their lifestyles, and taken a long-term approach to wellness.

Martin 08:35

Hi, my name is Martin Oxley from Buzzback. My top takeaway from 2021 has been, of course, our focus on health and wellness. But really the importance of being with others, that healthiest people around you, not just what you put in you. So, I think as an industry, focusing on connections is key, because we are after all social animals.

Heather 09:01

I’d certainly concur that we’re seeing health and wellness no longer as just a niche industry, but truly taking center stage for consumers around the globe. And, as Martin noted, we are social animals, so I’m expecting to see a return to more in-person gatherings—with our family, our friends, our businesses, and our communities—that will be augmented with on-demand experiences and information that allows us to make the most of our time, wherever and however we choose to spend it.

Of course, I appreciate you choosing to spend a little time with me today for this brief look back at the top happenings from 2021. Next week’s Vitafoods Insights podcast will look ahead to next year, and the opportunities we’ll have to do much more … together.

Vitafoods Insights  09:47

Thank you for tuning in. And don't forget to check the show notes that will allow you to link to the information discussed in today's podcast, as well as any sponsorship opportunities. Be sure to stay tuned, subscribe and even suggest to a friend.

TAGS: Trends