Centrum manufacturer Wyeth Healthcare introduced lutein to the product in the US in 1999 but Germany is the first European market to gain the lutein-enriched multivitamin.
The move is good news for Kemin Foods, which supplies Centrum with its FloraGlo brand lutein. "Centrum is a flagship for our brand and will give us a quantitative and qualitative jump in consumer awareness. It will expose our brand to the consumer market more than ever before," Pedro Vieira, marketing manager for Kemin Foods Europe, told NutraIngredients.com.
Lutein, a carotenoid extracted from marigold flowers, is thought to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the Western world. However while age-related eye health is set to become a huge category as populations age, lutein suppliers were initially faced with low awareness of the impact of diet on eye health.
Kemin has been credited with creating a new market, running campaigns to lift the awareness of both consumers and medical professionals. It has set up an alliance with UK-based charity the Macular Disease Society and also sponsors a website run by the organisation offering patient-support information. In July this year it announced it was backing a charity-led campaign to teach doctors about the role of lutein in preventing blindness among the elderly and it is running a similar campaign in Italy, targeting the medical community.
The education drive has given Kemin a 45 per cent share of the lutein market in Europe and made FloraGlo lutein Europe's leading brand, admittedly in a sector with a handful of competitors.
It is already included in over 150 products globally, around 30 of which are currently on sale in Europe, but the Wyeth backing offers significant potential. Wyeth Consumer Healthcare operates in more than 65 countries and is the third-largest over-the-counter health care products company in the world. It also owns the Solgar Vitamin and Herb Company, since 1998.
The company is likely to extend lutein-enriched Centrum to the UK and Italy markets, both of which have established supplement and eye care sectors. It will also raise awareness of lutein in the younger population, which is limiting growth of the product, according to Frost & Sullivan. Younger people are least likely to suffer from AMD and also spend money on health.
Sales of lutein ave been growing steadily -by 12 per cent in 2003 shows F&S data - and Vieira said the first three months of this year are looking very promising.