Special Edition: Joint Health

Glucosamine market reaching maturity

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Glucosamine Dietary supplements

In the first part of a special edition on joint health, Nutraingredients.com looks at the market for the ingredient that far outpaces the others in the pack - glucosamine.

The joint health market is dominated by this extract from the shell of crabs, lobster and shrimps but Cargill also markets a non-animal, non-shellfish derived glucosamine. The ingredient is often used in combination with chondroitin sulphate, extracted from animal cartilage, such as sharks.

Although glucosamine has started to be included in limited amounts in some foods and beverages in the US and Japan, the largest category in terms of take-up still remains dietary supplements.

Market saturation

Euromonitor International puts the value of the global market for glucosamine supplements at $2bn, citing an annual growth rate of seven per cent from 2004 to 2009.

However, Samantha Chmelik, industry manager for consumer health at Euromonitor, told this publication that as glucosamine is now a reasonably mature product, she anticipates a significant levelling off sales year on year up until 2014, and she predicts an annual growth rate over the next four years of only two per cent.

“We will not see big percentage growth at the global level but individual markets could still see double digit growth,”​ she said.

Dominance threatened

Indeed, conflicting results from various studies have led to a questioning of glucosamine’s and chondroitin’s efficacy, leading to the promotion of alternative ingredients, including omega-3 fatty acids, extracts from egg shell membranes, collagen, and extracts from pine bark.

And, according to Leatherhead Food Research, while glucosamine is the market leader, they claim that methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) has started to make inroads into the joint health arena, particularly for sports products.

Global glucosamine launches

The latest figures from Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), provided to NutraIngredients.com, show that the top markets for glucosamine remain Asia Pacific, North America and Europe.

The database recorded 125 new products containing glucosamine launched in the past 12 months, 25 more than in 2008. The majority of these launches occurring in Asia Pacific, and only a handful noted in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.

From March 2009 to date, 60 new glucosamine products were recorded in Asia Pacific compared to 29 in 2008.

New glucosamine products launches in North America came in at 29 over the same period, a tailing off compared to the 40 in 2008.

In Europe, again a decline in new launches can be seen with the GNPD tracking only 23 new products in the past 12 months, compared to 29 in 2008.

Fortification developments

Two major developments in the glucosamine market over the past few years are that the ingredient has turned vegetarian, and it has also started appearing in foods and beverages.

But the challenge for the fortification sector though, notes Leatherhead in a recent report on the anti-ageing market, has been to develop convenient products that have a good taste profile to tempt consumers away from dietary supplement use in terms of glucosamine.

In the US, said the market researchers, glucosamine is still largely confined to supplements market but the rising popularity of such joint health supplements moved the market into soft drinks in 2000 with the high profile launch of Joint Juice by the start up company of the same name.

It was joined by a Joint Juice bottled Fitness Water option in 2007, both containing 1,500 mg of glucosamine and both having a mass retail positioning.

Leatherhead notes that a more recent arrival on the market is Elations fruit-flavoured joint health supplement beverages, made with Cargill’s branded Regenasure glucosamine hydrochloride ingredient.

The involvement of multinational Coco-Cola in the glucosamine fortification area with the 2007 launch of its Minute Maid Enhanced range was the most exciting development of recent years, said the analysts.

Marketed as helping to support healthy joints, the range had 750g of glucosamine HCL per 8 ounce serving, though it is now no longer part of the Minute Maid offering, which the Leatherhead analysts note, is increasingly focused on an antioxidant positioning.


Meanwhile, in Japan, there has been limited activity in glucosamine fortification.

There have been a number of launches over the years containing the ingredient, particularly in the early 2000s, with this activity focused strongly on people with active lifestyles and athletes rather than on ageing specifically, reported the Leatherhead team.

“Ajinomoto’s Amino Vital for example, was extended with a Daily Walker sport drink while Meiji’s Vaam jelly-style sports drinks features a Smooth Support variant, both with glucosamine in addition to the standard branched chain amino acids​,” said the researchers.

More recently, continued the Leatherhead team, there have been launches of dairy products with added glucosamine with May 2008 seeing a relaunch of a functional milk drink from Nippon Milk containing 1200-mg N-acetyl glucosamine for joint health and a 12 per cent lower sugar content.

Some Japanese skin health/beauty lines also contain glucosamine, they added, often in combination with collagen, although the positioning tends to focus on skin condition rather than joint health.

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