Bones of contention: Joint-up thinking key to market gains

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

The World Health Organization believes that by 2020 osteoarthritis will become the fourth most common cause of disability worldwide due to the aging population.©iStock/Remains
The World Health Organization believes that by 2020 osteoarthritis will become the fourth most common cause of disability worldwide due to the aging population.©iStock/Remains

Related tags Collagen peptides Obesity Nutrition

Post-menopausal women, senior citizens both male and female. Those in the twilight of life have traditionally made up the bulk of the market for bone and joint supplements and ingredients.

The World Health Organization (WHO) already identifies bone health in Europe as an issue of growing concern.

Figures identify around 22 million women and 5.5 million men in the European Union with osteoporosis​.

The economic burden of incident and previous fragility fractures is around €37 billion with costs expected to increase by 25% in 2025.

Joint degeneration (osteoarthritis) also falls into this sector affecting over 40 million people across Europe, according to WHO statistics.

Osteoarthritis is mainly age-related but the condition can also advance due to physical activity that creates wear and tear on the joints.

For example in people engaging in sports activities or work in a physically demanding profession.

‘Lines are blurring’

athlete cycling bike sport gym iStock michaeljung
The sports nutrition sector has become a developing sector as individuals look to maintain good bone and joint health. ©iStock/haeljung

The demographics are noticeably shifting. Nutrients and dietary supplements like collagen proteins, gelatine, and omega-3 fish oils are attracting a younger audience eager to address the physical demands of their lifestyles.

“There is a big opportunity for products that support joint health and allows consumers to stay active,”​ said Dr Daniel Martínez Puig, R&D human health director at Bioiberica.

“Consumers of all ages are increasingly concerned with maintaining an active lifestyle as a way to keep healthy.  Healthy agers, sportspeople, women, seniors... all of them want to keep an active way of life.”

“The lines between different sports nutrition user groups are blurring,”​ added Dr Elke De Clerck, product and business development manager at Rousselot.

“Think, for example of core, casual and lifestyle users. Along with this blurring of boundaries, consumers are looking for more than building muscles or engaging in competitive sports: they want to stay active and fit and, most importantly, to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

Along with Bioiberica, an ingredients supplier specialising in osteoarthritis and joint health, and Rousselot, a producer of natural gelatin & peptan collagen peptides, other players active within this sector include Gelita, Evolva, Nexira and Orkla Health.

The overweight audience

However, fit and active people are not the only ones in need of bone and joint support. Those who are overweight or obese are also at an increased risk of osteoarthritis.

With overweight affecting 30-70% and obesity, affecting 10-30% of adults, further gains on the global bone and joint health market’s $1.6 billion​ (€1.4 billion) valuation are expected.

Recent forecasts predict it will exceed $9 billion (€8 billion) by the end of this year.

“Obesity is a demonstrated risk factor for osteoarthritis but it has traditionally been thought to be just a question of mechanical overload,”​ said Dr Martínez Puig.

“However, this does not explain why, for example, hand osteoarthritis is more common in obese people. Now we know that body fat also harms joints.

“With obesity reaching epidemic proportions globally, we understand that there will be a specific need for solutions to those health problems derived from excess body fat, such as deterioration of joint health.”

Marketing approach

pills supplements test study ingredients investigation assessment risk  badmanproduction
Customers are making scientific proof a deciding factor in their purchase.©iStock/badmanproduction

Despite the predictions of a buoyant market, the appeal of products that target bone and joint health may be somewhat limited.

In the case of overweight consumers, addressing the issue with a weight loss ingredient or supplement might be more attractive in terms of seeing noticeable long-term gains.  

For manufacturers and suppliers, marketing products to target the skeletal structure has taken on a more scientific direction, communicating the proven benefits behind the ingredient.

“Consumers want to be convinced with scientific evidence, as they do not always physically see or feel the direct effects of taking a health ingredient in the short term,” ​said Dr De Clerck.

“So we are seeing a growing willingness among consumers to try innovative products and ingredients, provided the benefits are proven – and we market to that by working hard on the science behind and communicating it.”

“We also give our customers different innovative ideas as to how they can integrate collagen peptides in different delivery formats.

Joint and bone health products do not always need to be delivered in the form of a pill supplement, they can also be integrated in foods and drinks formulated to fit consumers’ lifestyles and to appeal to different demographics, such as ready-to-drink (RTD) in an on-the-go format or nutritional bar.”

Oliver Wolf, ​head of B2B marketing (global) at Gelita agreed commenting that with today’s consumers being better educated about the link between nutrition and health; they are also keen to understand how bone and joint health products work.

“This means higher levels of interest in products with the greatest amount of scientific research and evidence to support them – such as collagen peptides.

“Most health concepts using bone/joint-specific ingredients focus on prevention. As such, consumers cannot immediately feel their efficacy. This is especially true for bone health products that target consumers who want to prevent osteoporosis and stay mobile as they age.

Future direction

Looking towards the future, ingredient suppliers believe the sector is ripe for growth. With sports nutrition a burgeoning area, the range of ‘targets’ are forever extending to now include athletes and healthy agers.

At the other end of the scale, overweight individuals are also forming a significant audience looking for solutions that can address multiple mobility needs.

With scientific evidence a factor in customer purchasing decisions, could combining ingredients be the way forward in obtaining a range of bone and joint benefits from proven sources?

“In certain cases, combinations of ingredients can enhance the desired benefits; however, it’s key that the efficacy of these ingredients has been validated in high quality scientific studies,”​ said Wolf.

“The synergistic effects of combining collagen peptides and other nutrients like calcium and vitamin C, can be interesting to look into,”​ added Dr De Clerck.

“For example, the anti-inflammatory synergistic effect between collagen peptides and ingredients such as boswellia and turmeric/curcumin.” 

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