Special edition: Eye health

Unravelling the market for eye health

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Eye health Nutrition

In the first part of a special series, NutraIngredients takes a look at the market for eye health: What the market drivers are, which ingredients lead the way, and where future potential lies.

Market need

The dietary supplement and functional food market for eye health is being driven by several major forces: an aging population, unhealthy diets, an increased demand for natural ingredients and rising healthcare costs.

Eye conditions tend to be linked to age, environment, tobacco abuse and diet. The most common conditions affecting the global population are age-related macular-degeneration (AMD), cataracts and xerophthalmia, the latter of which is caused by a deficiency of vitamin A, and which is a common cause of childhood blindness.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 269m people suffer from vision impairment – excluding blindness – around the world. Age-related conditions in people over 50 account for an estimated 82 per cent of cases, with macular degeneration accounting for 7 per cent. According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Sciences ​in 2007, the incidence of eye disease has been found to compound in humans at a mean age of 43.9.


Dietary supplements currently lead the nutritional market for eye health products. According to analysts Frost & Sullivan, supplements accounted for just over 66 per cent of the overall eye health market in 2007. When broken down as a percentage of total sales of vitamins and dietary supplements, Euromonitor estimates that eye health products account for 1 per cent of these.

However, despite the prevalence of supplements in this market, a growing awareness and an increased demand for functional foods and nutricosmetics has resulted in the development of new application sectors for eye health ingredients, Frost & Sullivan points out. According to its 2007 report on the European eye health market, functional foods and beverages are thought to account for almost 24 percent of the total market.

The US is by far the most developed market for eye health products, partly due to a greater acceptance of dietary supplements, and partly due to higher levels of awareness.

Frost & Sullivan placed the US eye health ingredients market at $138m in 2008, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.3 per cent from 2008 to 2015. The European market was valued at $43.4m in 2007 with a CAGR of 10.5 per cent from 2007 to 2014.


The ingredients leading the market for eye health are lutein, zeaxanthin, astaxanthin, beta-carotene, and bilberry extracts, as well as the vitamins A, C and E.

“Each eye ingredient market is characterized by different dynamics, level of competition, and

market trends,”​ writes to F&S in a US report from 2008.

“Some of these markets are growing at higher rates when compared to others. For instance, lutein eye health ingredient market is well established, witnessing volume growth rate of close to 6.0 percent, whereas theemerging zeaxanthin eye health ingredient market is advancing at nearly 9 per cent growth rate. On the other hand, beta-carotene eye health ingredient market is facing a restrained demand of close to 5 percent due to limited use in condition-specific eye health supplements, driven by certain relevant research revelations that proved its harmful affects at high doses in smoking population.”

The growth potential for different sectors also varies, says the researcher. For fast growing sectors such as zeaxanthin and astaxanthin, there is increasing potential for diversification into new application sectors, it points out in its 2007 European market report.

“Lateral market growth holds much promise for mature markets such as lutein and beta-carotene. Moreover, in established eye health ingredients markets such as lutein, which are nearing maturity, geographical expansion could become a profitable strategy. Expansion into the emerging economies, for example eastern Europe and Asia Pacific, represents a feasible business option for European manufacturers.”

Some of the leading suppliers of eye health ingredients include: Kemin, DSM, Indena, Kalsec, LycoRed, Burgundy Extracts, OmniActive Health Technologies, Chrysantis, Cyanotech, BASF, Cognis, Valensa, Algatech and Fuji Chemical Industry. (NB This is not a comprehensive list of all suppliers in the sector.)

One challenge facing the market is limited consumer awareness about majority of the eye health ingredients, barring lutein, said Arthi V, senior research analyst at F&S Chemicals, Materials & Foods.

“However, as the results of the second age-related eye diseases study (AREDS2), which includes the evaluation of benefits of a blend of lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids in patients with AMD, get released in long term of the forecast period, they are like to provide the necessary thrust to the level of consumer awareness about these three eye health ingredients,”​ he told NutraIngredients.com.

The NutraIngredients eye health special series will continue throughout the week with articles looking at the science and legislation in the sector.

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