Ageing concerns to stimulate brain food market, report

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Rising concerns over dementia, Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline means the brain health functional foods category should be set for strong growth over the next few years, claims a report looking at anti-ageing foods.

However, Leatherhead Food Research, in its newly published report, The Market for Anti-Ageing Foods​, cautions that it remains to be seen how much in the way of sales the anti-ageing food and drinks market can take from the dominant supplements sector.

With an ageing population in most western markets, there is a growing desire to maintain intellectual capacity, memory and learning ability with age, and in Part 2 of the focus on the anti-ageing food market we look at the market developments within each health condition sector.

Brain health

According to the analysts at Leatherhead, phospholipids, the antioxidant vitamins and polyphenols are the most likely ingredients for developing foods aimed at improving cognitive function and memory and a number of patents have been filed to this effect.

At one time, it was probably ginkgo biloba that found the most use in foods and drinks, despite ongoing questions about its efficacy, but the analysts report that omega-3 fatty acids have now really come into their own, although they stress there are concerns over the required intake for the many benefits.

Regulation is another hurdle, they add.

“The legal status of claims regarding omega-3 fatty acids are also very much in the melting pot at the moment, and future development may depend on the outcome, particularly of the current EU deliberations.”

According to the researchers, a new ingredient being launched, particularly into the drinks and dairy market in Japan, is GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which is claimed to aid relaxation and aid mental acuity.

The market report says that outside Japan, the US is the other major area for brain health product development, although they report about a number of products in the French and German speciality dietetic/health foods markets, mainly using ingredients such as choline and phosphatidylserine and in Spain using DHA, vitamins and folic acid.

The US market has mainly focused on soft drinks, varying from specialist functional lines to juices, enhanced waters and tea drinks, using a wide range of ingredients, state the analysts.

Eye health

The Leatherhead report says the market for eye health food and drinks remains very limited and fragmented, although it has spread geographically in recent years to countries such as the UK and Italy, as an ageing population starts to be concerned over issues such as age-related macular degeneration.

“Japan continues to lead developments, although the link between blueberry anthocyanins and eye health has now been so strongly made by consumers that there is no need for specific claims and many products are regarded as more or less mainstream,”​ said the researchers.

They reveal that eye health product activity has continued across most sectors of the food and drinks market, including soft drinks, dairy products and confectionery, and, as well as the use of blueberries, other high-anthocyanin berries are starting to be used more often, most notably cranberries.

The analysts claim that many products are positioned for relieving eyestrain rather than specifically for eye disorders such as macular degeneration, making them appeal to most age groups.

“In the US, the market is primarily based around high-antioxidant fruit and vegetable juice blends, with the use of lutein not as widely spread as expected following its achieval of GRAS status for food and drink in 2002,”​ they add.

Joint health

Developments in joint health food and drinks have remained largely confined to Japan and the US to date, which is a similar position to that when Leatherhead’s previous report was published in 2002, said the researchers.

In Japan, collagen is used in the joint health food and drinks market, although it is now more widely used in skin health products, or in multifunctional lines for both skin and joint health, and is now also featuring in some bone health products, the report highlights.

In the US, the researchers found that supplement-style juices dominate with the branded Regenasure glucosamine/chondroitin blend from Cargill starting to be used in a number of products, including the Elations Healthier Joints range.

“Perhaps most significant recent development was the move into the mainstream soft drinks market with Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid Active with glucosamine, part of its enhanced juices range launched in 2007, although no longer on the market,” ​they said.

Skin health

The market for skincare and beauty products remains dominated by products for topical application, but there is a growing market for supplements and, more recently food and beverages, states the report.

“Despite considerable publicity and relatively high levels of new product activity in some countries, it is still only Japan where the beauty foods and drinks market has developed to any extent,”​ said the researchers.

They added that the market there is worth about $700m a year.

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