Overall, the market for bone and joint supplements is steady, but new research and new consumers are slowly picking up the pace.
The bone and joint market continues to be a very stable, strong market with a loyal consumer base and steady support from the medical community, making natural products stores a “destination point.” As of late, however, it has not seen the same exciting growth as some other categories.
An Evolving Market
The foundation of the bone and joint category has been built on glucosamine and chondroitin products, the elderly and women. “The market has not evolved tremendously over the last few years, but continues to attract more consumers due to the same basic factors, starting with high consumer confidence and continued support from general medicine,” said Dan Alhadeff, COO of Miami Lakes, FL-based Nutri-Force Nutrition, a contract manufacturer. “We have seen a slight lowering of the entry level age—into the early 40s—but for the most part, the main demographic has not changed.”
“The market is evolving beyond a commodity market for simply glucosamine and chondroitin to a broader category with multiple solutions for helping promote joint and bone health,” said Graham Rigby, vice president of Science and Innovation with New Chapter, Inc. in Brattleboro, VT. “As Baby Boomers age, they are redefining the landscape for joint health products as they do not wish to retire into a sedentary lifestyle where limited mobility may be accepted as a part of the aging process. As a result, a large number of consumers are looking to keep their joints mobile well into retirement age.”
Younger consumers, particularly athletes, are also paying more attention to joint health, he added. “While this market is much smaller than its Baby Boomer counterpart, there is a growing awareness of the wear and tear on joints from athletics—from recreational runners to competitive team sport athletes. While Baby Boomers look to joint products to fuel their active lifestyles, athletes look to joint products to aid recovery and fuel performance.”
Additionally, as new research comes to light, the market for joints and bones changes accordingly, noted Keri Marshall MS, ND, chief medical officer with Nordic Naturals in Watsonville, CA. “One trend is that the market has been slowly moving beyond a focus on women when it comes to bone health, although neither the market nor the medical establishment has been focusing on men’s bone health in quite the same way as it has women’s … at least not yet. When it comes to joint health, awareness is growing that joint health concerns everyone, not just the elderly.”
Ingredients Gaining Ground
While glucosamine and chondroitin still appear at or near the top of most joint health product rankings, other products and ingredients are gaining ground. Herbal formulations that feature joint supportive herbs, such as turmeric and ginger, are also popular, along with different approaches to joint health, such as hyaluronic acid or enzymes.
“One of the novel ingredients that has gained a lot of popularity lately as an additive to dietary supplements is UC-II Natural Collagen Concentrate,” said Rigby. “This type of collagen is the primary form of collagen found in joint cartilage and supports the rebuilding of healthy connective tissue and cartilage.”
Retailer Trudi Steigerwald, supplement sales for Sunnybridge Natural Foods in Peters Township, PA, agreed that there is growing interest for other ingredients besides glucosamine and chondroitin among her customers, and noted that sales of bone health products have been particularly stable while joint health supplement sales are seeing more change. “People are coming in with specific injuries,” she said, adding that they are inquiring about hyaluronic acid, collagen and curcumin, especially since Dr. Oz discussed turmeric on his television show. “Combination products, such as hyaluronic acid with MSM, are also selling well,” she added.
There have been obstacles in the pursuit of change for manufacturers, according to Nutri-Force Nutrition’s Alhadeff. “Part of the next evolution of this category will come when new ingredients gain support and ground with regard to their effectiveness and science in support of healthy joint function and bone health. There have been numerous attempts at innovation and differentiation of products through the addition of new ingredients, but the lack of support from the medical community and the education gap have prevented them from gaining ground on the classic ingredients.”
New to the Market
New combination products show promise if they can do a good job including high-quality ingredients and educating consumers, said Alhadeff. For example, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino and VitaCore Health Products (a Nutri-Force partner) have teamed up to launch a new line of health-oriented nutritional supplements based on authentic science called Flex Core Joint Support™, which targets joint comfort and mobility, cartilage rebuilding and lubrication, bone strength and density. “This is the first joint support product in the U.S. to use ultra-pure pharmaceutical grade glucosamine,” noted Alhadeff, adding that it also contains a proprietary blend of chondroitin, hyaluronic acid and Biocell Collagen for joint support, vitamin D for bone and muscular health, and clinically researched Polycan™ 1,2/1,6 beta glucan for bone health.
Ultimate Omega® from Nordic Naturals is the company’s best-selling product and contains 2,200 mg EPA plus DHA in four soft gels. “This dose has been used in a clinical trial on professional athletes and has demonstrated great success,” said Marshall, noting that the company has also just released Ultimate Omega Joint Xtra™, “which is further concentrated for high-intensity anti-inflammatory support. This product also contains natural D3, which is great for bones.”
Another Nordic Naturals combination product called Omega Joint Xtra™ offers 1,200 mg EPA plus DHA per four soft gels in addition to UC-II Collagen Concentrate and glucosamine sulfate. The trio provides optimal nutrition for high-intensity, fast-acting support for joint health and function, according to Marshall.
In addition to New Chapter’s popular Zyflamend® product that supports joint health and a healthy inflammation response, the company recently launched Wholemega Flex. This combination product incorporates a clinical dose of wild Alaskan salmon oil with full-spectrum herbs including rose hips, turmeric and ginger to provide a holistic approach to joint health and support throughout the joint—from the cartilage that cushions and gives joints structure, to the synovial fluid that lubricates the joint and helps it move freely, according to Rigby.
“Consumers are seeking comprehensive relief and formulators are responding in kind with products that target multiple ways to provide joint support,” he said.
Last April’s news reports on a study claiming calcium supplements taken by many older women to boost their bone health may increase their risk for heart disease and heart attacks, didn’t affect sales, according to manufacturers. “We have not seen an impact from recent reports,” Alhadeff said. “The key here, like any negative reports, is education and to emphasize the need for proper investigation prior to exercising judgment. Many of these negative reports come after an extensive list of positive reports on the same ingredient or subject, so a big-picture approach is advised.”
New Chapter agreed that it, too, has not seen negative consequences from calcium news. “It’s important to note that the research cited in those media stories primarily focused on delivering isolated calcium in a rock-derived mineral form, without any vitamin or mineral co-factors that would aid in calcium absorption or utilization,” said Rigby. “Specifically, emerging research suggests that vitamin K2 can play a role in ensuring calcium is properly utilized.” TargetCal, New Chapter’s vitamin K2/D3 complex, helps the body direct calcium to the bones, where needed, and out of the arteries, where it isn’t, according to the company.
As a first connection to consumers, retailers’ education efforts have also been helpful in dispelling bad information. “We’ve been saying for a long time that you shouldn’t take calcium by itself,” Steigerwald noted. “We’ve known to take it with magnesium, vitamin D and K2. You need to take calcium with the supporting minerals and vitamins.”
Dosing and Delivery
Less is more in the eyes of the consumer, who wants to take as few capsules and tablets as possible, but it’s not always an option to deliver therapeutic doses of products.
“To aid compliance, soft gels are still very much preferred by consumers over tablets and capsules,” said Rigby. “For products where compression is necessary—glucosamine, calcium and bone health products—slimline tablets have been a very welcome addition.” The tablet size for New Chapter Bone Strength Take Care, for example, has been the subject of many positive comments since its introduction in 2007, he added.
“Dosing and delivery of omega-3 fish oil for bone and joint health is not unlike other categories, with the exception perhaps of heart health, where certain conditions benefit from increased doses of omega-3s,” said Nordic Naturals’ Marshall. “Generally though, health experts agree that we need a minimum of 500 mg EPA plus DHA for maintenance, and more for proactive support for joints, as well as skin, brain, eye health, etc.”
Delivery options typically include liquid and soft gels, however Nordic Naturals has come out with a new powder delivery system for both drinks and food, which provides another way to get the necessary recommended daily dose.
Mark Stayton, co-owner and supplement buyer for Martindale’s Natural Market in Springfield, PA, said he saw very little new product introductions for the bone and joint health category within the past year. What he has seen are clinical studies and more data supporting existing products.
“Primary human clinical trials, while more expensive, provide data into how a product can affect joint mobility, flexibility and quality of life,” said Rigby. To this end, New Chapter dedicates a significant portion of its budget to primary research in many areas of health— including joint health, he added. “Research dollars are invested in preclinical science, which helps formulators and scientists understand the mechanisms of action in which a product is working (i.e., demonstrates a product is down regulating inflammatory enzymes that can degrade cartilage, etc.).”
As for the importance of omega-3s, Marshall pointed to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which found that consuming fish helps improve bone health and helps prevent bone loss (Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 May; 93(5):1142-51).
Conveying the benefits of bone and joint supplements through education is paramount to understanding the many choices available to consumers today. “Whether it’s educational copy on a product’s box packaging, a lecture given in a local health food store or an innovative electronic catalog, New Chapter’s sales and marketing team is constantly searching for new ways to educate consumers and help them understand that different options are available,” said Rigby.
“Manufacturer in-store and especially out-of-store educational training sessions, where there are less distractions, are particularly effective and motivating for sales staff,” said retailer Stayton.
Staying on top of the latest research and trends is Nordic Naturals’ strategy for helping retailers. “Oftentimes the science that supports the breakthrough of these new ingredients is not written in a consumer friendly way,” explained Marshall. “Converting that science into consumer relevant terms without changing the value of the message remains an opportunity. Getting the message out through a company’s sales force and by way of their support materials further helps to drive that message home.”
Visit vitaminretailer.com to learn about a study on Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics and bone density.
NEW COLLAGEN FINDINGS CALL FOR INGREDIENT REBRANDING
BioCell Technology in Newport Beach, CA rebranded its flagship ingredient BioCell Collagen II® to BioCell Collagen® to “better elucidate the ingredient’s full breadth of multiple benefits,” according to the company.
The original name BioCell Collagen II made reference to one of the ingredient’s integral components, type II collagen. BioCell said the designation made sense during the early years of BioCell Collagen because of the strong association between type II collagen and joint health. However, as more studies were conducted on BioCell Collagen, the company said it feels BioCell Collagen is much more than a joint health ingredient.
“On a fundamental level, BioCell Technology’s rebranding of ‘BioCell Collagen II’ to ‘BioCell Collagen’ was made with consumers and retailers in mind,” said company President Suhail Ishaq. “First, the original name (BioCell Collagen II) strongly associated our ingredient with type 2 collagen, which is one of BioCell Collagen’s constituent parts. We felt that, in light of recent findings on BioCell Collagen’s role in total connective tissue health (including skin beauty studies), the original name limited our ingredient’s perception in the marketplace and did not adequately convey its multitude of benefits.”
BioCell Collagen also received a new logo to accompany its rebrand. The main change to the logo is a new font, which is specifically designed to be easier to read on a product label. The logo still maintains a strong resemblance to its predecessor, and even with the changes, customers of BioCell Collagen will still be greeted with the familiar capsule-shaped logo and blue and white color scheme.