Heart health: why specialist ingredients offer natural appeal

By Michelle Knott

- Last updated on GMT

Market demand is being driven by high quality ingredients from natural sources
Market demand is being driven by high quality ingredients from natural sources

Related tags Heart health Nutrition

Consumers are increasingly
 turning towards products with 
specialist heart-health ingredients.

Key points

Typically, nutritional advice around heart health goes two ways. It tends to be either about consuming less of the bad stuff, or the encouragement of more wholesome foods such as oily fish, porridge and nuts.

Yet, market evidence suggests that developing specialist heart-health ingredients and functional foods could be a viable third-way.

“Global research shows that heart health-related claims motivate purchase among all consumers, with interest steadily increasing with age,”​ says Nancy Gaul, global marketing director at Tate & Lyle.

“The strongest appeal is in the over-60 age group, where 65.3% of consumers are motivated to buy by heart health claims. However, more than half of consumers aged 18 to 24 also care about heart health, with 51.6% finding the claim motivating.”

While ingredients such as beta-glucans, potassium or vitamin K2 have a well-established role in cardiovascular health, much of the market demand is being driven by high quality ingredients from natural sources with proven health benefits. And food businesses appear keen to pick up on the opportunity.

“Seniors are the most willing to consume a functional food or dietary supplement to help them to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system,”​ says Yannick Capelle, product technical manager for health with Frutarom.

Most popular cardiovascular health claims (return to top)

According to Capelle, hot cereals, margarines, dairy products and dietary supplements remain the most popular categories for cardiovascular health claims – with claims related to management of blood pressure and cholesterol coming out top.

While simple-sounding dietary adjustments may be appealing, many consumers struggle to make impactful changes without the help of functional ingredients, suggests Dr Manfred Eggersdorfer, senior vice president for nutrition science and advocacy at DSM and professor of healthy ageing at the University Medical Center in Groningen in the Netherlands.

A 2016 consumer survey by DSM revealed that heart health was one of the top worries – and was particularly important to those over the age of 31.Therefore, it is unsurprising that interest in the role that diet can play in protecting the heart has increased, Eggersdorfer claims.

“This is underpinned by research that shows, despite a growing preference for eating more whole, unprocessed foods, consumers appreciate dietary supplements to address gaps and increase their intake of micronutrients that may support cardiovascular health,”​ he adds.

Oat-based fibre PromOat works well in drinks such as smoothies

Increasing fibre consumption (return to top)

Gaul at Tate & Lyle agrees, suggesting that fibre consumption is a good example. “Despite their best intentions, most consumers around the world struggle to meet the recommended guidelines for daily fibre intake.

“The World Health Organization suggests adults consume 25g per day. But most people fall short of this number. In the US, for example, only 3% of consumers meet the recommended daily fibre intake.”

A third of consumers claim they do not consume enough fibre because there are not enough products with fibre available in the market, she believes. “That means manufacturers have a major opportunity to provide desired products and help narrow the fibre consumption gap.”

However, the established market success of cholesterol-lowering functional foods such as spreads and yogurts demonstrate that it’s possible to address heart health directly.

These products introduced many consumers to previously unfamiliar ingredients in the form of phytosterols when they were launched in the 1990s.

In 2017, canny consumers made strong associations between certain foods and heart health, so it makes sense for advocates of today’s specialist heart health ingredients to build on that familiarity.

For instance, a high-fibre diet is well understood by consumers as a healthy choice and oat beta-glucan has the added advantage of EU-approved health claims, making oat-based fibre ingredients a popular option.

‘Health halo’ ingredients (return to top)

Similarly, ingredients associated with a Mediterranean diet, such as tomatoes or olive oil, have an associated ‘health halo’.

DSM’s Fruitflow, for example, is an ingredient derived from tomatoes to support healthy blood flow, while the company’s OatWell beta glucan promises the benefits of oats.

Tate & Lyle also offers a range of fibre-based ingredients that can help with healthy reformulation efforts, such as higher-fibre, lower-sugar products. Gaul says that its oat-based PromOat fibre is especially popular.

“We’ve seen growing interest from customers seeking to incorporate oat fibre across several categories, including baked goods and even beverages.

“PromOat Beta Glucan has exceptional solubility, which makes it well-suited for beverages such as smoothies, nectars, and dairy alternative drinks,”​ says Gaul.

Brands choosing not to make a cholesterol-related claim may still be able to benefit from the ‘oats healthy halo’, Gaul explains.

The mere mention of ‘oats’ on the front of a product can be persuasive, she adds. Research conducted by Qualtrics among 8,800 adults in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, North America and Latin America reveals that 63% of global consumers prefer oats to other sources of fibre.

Frutarom -A new study confirmed the #anti-diabetic properties of #purslane herb extract

The Mediterranean appeal (return to top)

Frutarom, meanwhile, has focused particularly on the Mediterranean association with its heart healthy range, Capelle says.

“Studies have confirmed the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet in helping prevent cardiovascular health issues.

“This diet is gaining interest, but with busy lifestyles it is not always easy for consumers to adhere to these dietary recommendations,”​ he explains.

Frutarom offers three Mediterranean extracts targeting different cardiovascular risk factors.

Citrolive is a blend of bitter orange and olive leaf extracts, delivering a concentrated burst of phytonutrients known to be prevalent in the Mediterranean diet such as flavonoids. Studies show it can protect the vascular system against hardening.

Benolea is extracted from the leaves of the olive tree and is standardised to contain polyphenolic compounds in just the right proportions to support healthy blood pressure and cholesterol.

Portusana is a purslane herb extract and helps control blood glucose levels.

A clinical trial demonstrated a significant reduction of HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin), which is the gold standard for long-term glucose control.

Frutarom also offers a range of botanical extracts more generally known for cardiovascular support, such as garlic, red vine leaf and hawthorn, as well as UniK2 – a natural vitamin K2 MK-7, derived from natto (fermented soya beans).

Omega-3’s renewed potential (return to top)

For omega-3 it’s a slightly different story, since no degree of familiarity with possible heart health benefits will render fish-derived oils palatable to the growing army of vegetarians and vegans.

There are also categories of food where the concept of fortification with fish-derived oils might seem a little odd.

However, recent research in Nature Scientific Reports​ shows that a transgenic version of the oilseed crop camelina sativa can produce EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – under field conditions.

“Demonstrating that our genetically-modified camelina works in the field under real-world conditions confirms the promise of our approach,”​ says Johnathan Napier at Rothamsted Research, which led the project.

Related news

Show more

Related suppliers

Follow us

Featured Jobs

View more


Food Manufacture Podcast

Listen to the Food Manufacture podcast