With a variety of products available and more knowledgeable consumers, retailers want to keep up to date when it comes to information on maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
Type 2 diabetes is a serious global health issue; understanding the problem is a first step toward finding a solution.
“It is a syndrome of disordered metabolism, usually due to a combination of hereditary and environmental causes, resulting in abnormally high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia),” explained Jennifer Weinhardt, BS, MS, research and development specialist with Bluebonnet Nutrition, based in Sugar Land, TX. “Being a major degenerative disease, diabetes is found in all parts of the world, and it is becoming the third most lethal disease of mankind and increasing rapidly.”
The statistics are alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 29 million people in the United States carry a diagnosis of diabetes, and approximately one out of four others do not know that they have it. These numbers are rising, up from 26 million people just seven years ago.
Almost three times that number, 86 million others, have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, though not high enough to officially be classified as diabetic. These people are pre-diabetic, and it is estimated that without proper control, about 15-30 percent of them will go on to develop diabetes within five years.
And even more alarming is the fact that type 2 diabetes is not something associated only with an older demographic: more younger people are being diagnosed with the disease.
But blood sugar problems don’t happen overnight, and there are natural ways to help keep healthy blood sugar levels within range.
Trends in Blood Sugar Products
Overall, consumers are taking charge of their health, and regarding supplements, several trends are emerging that affect the products market.
“The market continues to head in the direction of self-medication and is being driven by consumers who want to minimize health care costs by taking management of their lifestyle and related health care needs into their own hands. We see this across multiple age cohorts, from Millennials to seniors,” observed Jan Hall, CEO of Designer Protein in Carlsbad, CA. She pointed to the rise of gadgets to help manage personal biometrics, such as Fitbits and smartphone apps, to illustrate this phenomenon.
Because diet is so closely connected to the risk of developing diabetes and plays a large role in preventing or controlling the disease, most manufacturers of products aimed to control blood sugar levels take great care with ingredients. For example, Designer Protein adds no sugar to its 100 percent whey protein powders and only a small amount of sugar is present in the company’s 100 percent plant-based protein powders; overall, the net carb content of their products is low.
“The rise of plant-based nutrition is a macro trend that is driven partly by health reasons and partly by sustainability. The emergence of plant-based protein products and plant-based super foods has been significant over the last few years and continues to gain momentum,” said Hall.
The company also does not incorporate artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors and preservatives; some products are also certified vegan and/or organic, while all are certified gluten free and kosher.
“We are seeing an increase in callouts on labels, such as ‘no added sugar,’ ‘sugar free,’ and only X net carbs,” Hall added.
Ryan Sensenbrenner, senior marketing manager for the Venice, FL-based Enzymedica, also noted consumer concern over sugar. “There is substantial interest by consumers in understanding how sugar impacts the body. Individuals are beginning to recognize that “low-fat” diets may not be the answer, and that sugar is a substantial culprit for many physical challenges,” he said. Other ingredient-related trends are a large market of vegetarian-aware consumers, as well as whole-food products. “Nutrition itself plays an essential role in the management of blood glucose and related complications, so it is no surprise that we are seeing many whole food-based ingredients to help support healthy blood glucose levels already within normal range,” said Weinhardt.
Overall, a big impact on the market is clean label initiatives, affecting all supplement categories. “Clean label” is an industry term that strives for minimally processed ingredients, little to no additives or preservatives, and transparency in labeling and in sourcing materials.
“Certifications and clean label initiatives such as these help to ease the minds of individuals knowing they are getting the safest nutrition possible,” said Weinhardt.
When it comes to blood sugar support products, Weinhardt said that “clean label” focuses on: non-GMO (genetically modified organism); whole-food based formulas; free of artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners; allergen-free; sustainably sourced herbal extracts; vegetarian/vegan; and kosher-certified.
Plain and simple, the market for these products increases or decreases based on the health of the general population. Sedentary lifestyles, a high fat/high sugar/low protein diet made easy by convenient, processed foods have contributed to the obesity epidemic and its fallout, diabetes.
As the rate of obesity and diabetes unfortunately increases, so does the market for these kinds of products. “I think as the country deals with more diabetes and other blood sugar issues, the industry will always have a consumer for these types of products,” said Kris Wear, owner of World of Nutrition in Nampa, ID. Nonetheless, Wear reported that sales have stayed flat in this category, which she believes is due to consumers relying on “new and improved” diabetic drugs.
Because diabetes is a widespread health crisis, studies are ongoing, joining the library of studies that have been conducted decades ago.
Incorporating lean proteins into diet is being studied as a weapon in the arsenal to combat excessive weight, thus leading to lower blood sugar levels.
“One of the most exciting breakthroughs in whey proteins is Native Whey,” said Hall. “This is whey that is minimally processed (cold filtered from non-GMO skim milk rather than processed at a much higher temperature during the cheese-making process). The result is a fresher, purer quality of whey that contains a higher amount of protein peptides, particularly, leucine, the “king” of BCAAs (instrumental in protein synthesis), and a greater amount of important body-protective immunoglobulins,” Hall noted.
“The protein ingredient in our most premium performance product, Designer Whey Native Whey Isolate, has been clinically tested in multiple third party studies and, consequently, the results have been clinically proven,” she added.
An ingredient that has been studied for more than 60 years in Europe is Hintonia latiflora, which has long been used to regulate blood sugar. “It has shown remarkable results for individuals with diabetes, to the point where some have been able to reduce their conventional diabetes medications or drop it altogether,” said Cheryl Myers, chief of education and scientific affairs at EuroPharma, Inc., based in Green Bay, WI.
“In one human clinical study, Hintonia (combined with additional nutrients) significantly lowered A1C (the average levels of blood sugar over time), fasting glucose, and postprandial glucose levels. Overall, diabetes symptoms dropped dramatically, and 39 percent of those still using medication could reduce their dosage. It is important to note that this was done with the oversight of medical doctors,” said Myers.
Another study, which looked at a dry concentrated bark extract of this botanical, had similar results, with the added bonus of improvements in blood pressure, lipids and liver values. And importantly, no one saw their blood sugar levels drop too low, including participants who stayed on their anti-diabetic prescription drugs.
“The reason that Hintonia works is related to a compound in the bark, coutareagenin, which helps stabilize blood sugar levels. According to research, this compound appears to inhibit alpha-glucosidase, an enzyme that releases sugar from carbohydrates,” said Myers.
Products for Consideration
Bluebonnet Nutrition’s best-selling product for healthy glucose levels is Targeted Choice Blood Sugar Support Vegetable Capsules. The product is “… wholesomely formulated with a unique blend of sustainably harvested or wild-crafted herbal extracts, such as bitter melon fruit extract, gymnema leaf extract, and patented, branded Cinnulin PF cinnamon bark extract, along with chelated chromium and the potent antioxidant, alpha lipoic acid, to help promote healthy blood glucose/sugar levels and insulin balance,” said Weinhardt.
The product works in part by improving insulin activity and synthesis, delaying glucose absorption in the blood, and managing nerve-related complications often associated with diabetes. Well established to promote healthy blood sugar levels, Nevada-based Coral LLC also uses cinnamon in products. “Coral Cinnamon 6 is the result of combining the finest herbal extracts used by master botanical specialists from around the world,” said Jordyn Curtis, supply chain manager with the company. “These ingredients have been used for centuries to help maintain a healthy blood sugar and to help assist in maintaining weight loss.”
From a retailer perspective, Wear said that, for years, her bestseller in this product category has been and still is Nature’s Way Blood Sugar. “Blood Sugar is a reasonably priced blend with some very effective herbs, vitamins and minerals. The repeat sales we have had on this product over the years have been fantastic, and as a health food store retailer, this is the biggest reason to continue to recommend a product,” she said.
“When it comes to understanding our metabolism, we believe that first we must look at the body’s natural processes and do what we can to support those mechanisms. Of course, enzymes are a core tool for every chemical reaction within the human body,” said Sensenbrenner. To that end, his company manufactures Reduce, which is formulated to support healthy glucose metabolism. “It contains the enzyme blend Glucoreductase to slow the absorption rate of glucose into the bloodstream. In addition, cinnamon extract, zinc and chromium are also included to help the body’s cells absorb and utilize glucose in a more efficient way,” he said.
Research has shown that one key way to control blood sugar is through a healthy diet, which includes low sugar, low fats, and lean proteins; proteins help satisfy hunger, increase energy and help to reduce blood sugar spikes. That is the basis behind Designer Protein’s Designer Whey, made exclusively from mozzarella cheese produced in the Midwest. “Fresh mozzarella cheese is a premium source of whey because of its high nutritional value, naturally clean white color and consistent milky flavor,” said Hall.
“When consumed before a meal, such as breakfast, 20 grams or more of whey protein shakes can have a beneficial effect on food intake and reduce blood sugar fluctuations that are common after meals,” she added.
EuroPharma’s Sucontral D provides the aforementioned botanical extract Hintonia latiflora. “Sucontral D does well because it is the right product at the right time. It is effective, but without side effects, and it is perfect for people who are looking for an adjunct supplement to use with their medication, or for those who are experiencing pre-diabetes blood sugar levels,” said Myers.
California-based Wakunaga manufactures Kyolic Blood Sugar Balance. “Our Kyolic Blood Sugar Balance is the only product on the market that combines Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract with salacia, bitter melon, chromium picolinate and niacin, important ingredients that have been found to help maintain normal blood sugar levels while discouraging the formation of harmful compounds that can damage tissues throughout the body,” said Jay Levy, director of sales.
“Kyolic Blood Sugar Balance is ideal for anyone concerned with maintaining normal blood sugar levels, especially those who are overweight. It is a natural plant-based alternative that when combined with a healthy diet and exercise can help promote optimal blood sugar balance,” he added.
Merchandising the Products
When it comes to natural products in any category, manufacturers and retailers have a mutual goal to increase sales. It follows, then, that the makers of such products help the retailers with sales.
EuroPharma works one-on-one with their retail partners to help them develop sales tools, including detailed literature, in-store lectures, product webinars, and so forth. Coral LLC provides not only literature, but also samples and in-store demos.
Enzymedica supports their retailers by offering promotions, including a current initiative to support independent health food stores in areas impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. “We’re heavily pushing out brand-wide coupons through our social media to encourage consumers to visit their local health food stores. For every redemption, we are also making a donation to hurricane recovery efforts. In this small way, we hope to do our part to push consumers to these stores to make purchases and assist them in regaining lost sales from the storms,” said Sensenbrenner.
Designer Protein supports sales with digital marketing campaigns that offer inspirational videos, quotes and recipes, as well as informational blog posts and even tailor-made programs developed for specific communities.
And Wakunaga supports their retailers with sampling, active demos and special discounts throughout the year.
At World of Nutrition, Wear stressed that manufacturers provide literature for the consumer, as education is crucial. “With the big variety of blood sugar products, it is important that the staff as well as the customer know what the ingredients do and how effective they are,” she said. VR
For More Information:
Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation, (281) 340-0381
Coral LLC, (775) 883-9854
Designer Protein, (800) 337-4463
Enzymedica, (941) 505-5565
EuroPharma, (866) 598-5487
Wakunaga of America Co., Ltd., (949) 855-2776