Anti-ageing foods remain a good long-term prospect, but a stricter regulatory regime and consumer scepticism could thwart progress in the short to medium term, according to a new report from Leatherhead Food Research (LFR).
In view of the ageing population and the increase in age-related disorders, there is significant scope for the development of food and drinks products proposing benefits to cognitive, eye, joint and skin health, notes LFR. However, “the new health claims regulation in Europe and a tightening regulatory environment in the US may make it difficult to communicate benefits to the consumer."
It adds: “The efficacy of many of the ingredients in this market is far from proven and this is also hindering market development. The high level of rejection by the European Food Safety Authority is also blocking current and probably inhibiting future applications.”
Marketing issues also make this a challenging category, adds LFR, highlighting “consumer aversion to products marketed directly at the elderly, a grouping that no-one likes to think of themselves as being in”
Food and drink launches targeting eye, joint, brain or skin health have been “limited and fragmented” with just 100 new products launched globally between January 2007 and September 2009, said LFR. However, “there has been a considerable rise in activity in skin health/beauty foods and in products marketed on a high-antioxidant/anti-ageing platform”.
Japan remains the market leader, and ingredients used there typically spill into other markets after they become established, says LFR: “Traditional vitamins and minerals are still being used, but often with a ‘high in antioxidants’ positioning. Omega-3/DHA is a feature of the cognitive health sector, although this is complicated by its multibenefit positioning. Other ingredients finding favour include soya phospholipids [such as ‘brain vitamin phosphatidylserine] and GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid).”
It adds: “Bilberries and blueberries have traditionally dominated the Japanese eye health market, but other high-anthocyanin fruits are starting to feature, including cranberries, as well as carotenoids led by lutein. Glucosamine continues to dominate in joint health, sometimes with chondroitin or collagen, while newer ingredients such as methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) have also started to emerge, particularly for sports products. In skin health/beauty, a wide range of ingredients are being used in Japan, including collagen, silk, ceramides and co-enzyme Q10, as well as vitamins, while in the US and Europe developments have focused more on the use of high-antioxidant so-called ‘superfruit’ juices and blends with intrinsically high levels of beneficial polyphenols and flavanols.”
A trawl of patent applications in the anti-ageing arena reveals most applications featuring “some form of antioxidant ingredient designed to cope with the overproduction of free radicals associated with many ageing processes”, notes LFR.
However, cognitive function is also a fertile area, with patents for a tea laced with Bacopa Monnieri (a herb shown to reduce beta-amyloid deposits in mice with Alzheimer’s) from Unilever; phosphatidylserine (PS) from cow’s milk for health bars, beverages, chocolate, ice cream and yogurts from Arla and a gingko biloba/PS complex claimed to improve cognitive function and prevent mental fatigue from Indena.