Eye health market prepares for take off, says F&S

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Eye health, Macular degeneration, Lutein

The European market for eye health supplements is poised to take off, and well-positioned products are set to benefit from a rise in consumer interest, according to market researcher Frost & Sullivan.

The group’s new report, European Eye Health Ingredients Market,​ reveals the market was worth $43m (€34m) in 2007 and estimates this to more than double over the next five years to reach $87m (€69m) in 2014.

"The market for eye health ingredient products is in its infancy and the timing is right to initiate the successful development of this market. Strategically positioned brands and rising consumer awareness will push participants in the eye health ingredients market into the right commercial arena, while focusing on their health benefits,"​ said Frost & Sullivan (F&S) research analyst Natasha Telles.

Supplement ingredients currently linked to eye health benefits are primarily antioxidants, and include lutein, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, astaxanthin and bilberry.

According to F&S, demand for such products is increasing as consumers turn to nutrition to protect against blinding diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Incidence of these conditions is increasing as a higher life expectancy brings with it a multitude of age-related illnesses. This, in turn, has prompted older consumers to make lifestyle changes, including a re-adjustment to nutritional approach.

"The focus on eye health has become a primary concern in today's health conscious food industry,"​ said Telles.

Not an easy ride

However, according to F&S, the market is faced with obstacles such as varying regulations that are hampering eye health claims, threats of substitution and the lack of market credibility. Other challenges include price pressures due to competition from lower-priced ingredients manufactured in Asia.

“Growth of this market ultimately depends on overcoming obstacles such as variant regulation, substitution threats and the impact of fluctuating economies and prices,”​ noted F&S.

“Legislation, in particular, is a pertinent challenge for manufacturers as such a scenario results in ambiguous legislative requirements. For instance, eye health ingredients such as lutein and astaxanthin are not covered in the positive list of the food supplement directive and are awaiting the results in 2010.”

The market researcher noted that it remains crucial for ingredients to have strong scientific substantiation in order to succeed in the market.

Consumer awareness

In addition, manufacturers must focus on raising consumer awareness, according to Telles.

"European consumers are generally well-informed, as nutrition plays a big role in the purchasing behaviour of end users. European manufacturers should focus on educating consumers, which will be an essential criterion in this market, especially for emerging extracts such as zeaxanthin, where greater consumer demand results in a rise in supply,"​ she said.

One approach to raising consumer awareness would be to consult with industry associations such as the Alliance for Natural Health, the National Eye Institute and the Royal institute of the Blind. “Such associations would view these ingredients from a public perspective and form an ​impartial ledge in the supply chain.”

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