LISTEN NOW: The NutraIngredients Review of 2018

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Happy New Year from the Nutraingredients team! In a break from our weekly review of the news, this week our editors run down their news highlights from last year!

Listen to Nikki Cutler, Will Chu and Nathan Gray rundown their highlights from 2018 ...

1. Excitement over Esports

In April 2018, NutraIngredients delved deeper into nutrition and supplement firms catering to the demands of Esports and the opportunities opening up in Europe to reach out to this type of audience.

The Esports industry is in the midst of explosive growth with estimates placing the industry at around €244m ($298m) in Europe, according to games and interactive media research firm SportsData.

It has led to the emergence of European-based companies such as Runtime and Neubria, which supply supplements, energy bars and nootroptics specifically formulated and targeted to the Esports gamer.

The rise of Esports amongst teenage and twentysomethings has taken even the industry by surprise. E Sports is to become an official medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games in China.

As of May 2018, live video game live streaming platform Twitch had 2.2 million broadcasters monthly and 15 million daily active users, with around a million average concurrent users.

With this popularity comes tie-ins with nutritional products and sponsorship of events by eSport supplement and nutritional firms.

Combined with a ready-made audience of impressionable young males, the market is set to enter 2019 in a very healthy state, as serious Egamers look a dietary, nutritional and supplementary approach to rival that of a professional sports athlete. Read more here.

2. Examining nutritional psychiatry’s promise

In August, the topic of nutritional psychiatry came to the fore as a promising research field within the food and nutrition community.

Here, the gut-brain axis gives credence to the link between gut health and neurological disorders as core to managing anxiety and depression.

The publication of a paper entitled: ‘Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression,’​ in the journal World Journal of Psychiatry ​continued to add confidence in this sector.

Briefly, the research assigned an antidepressant food score or AFS to better identify foods with the highest density of nutrients with clinical evidence to support their role in depressive disorders.

Conclusions drawn from the list of foods with the highest density of the 12 Antidepressant Nutrients, recommended that this approach be considered in the design of intervention studies.

Researchers added that clinicians might seriously consider this approach as a dietary option to support prevention and recovery from depression disorders.

As evidence for nutrition as a modifiable factor to influence the risk and prognosis of mental illness continues to expand, the AFS may well be the first step in refining future nutritional policies that guide consumers towards healthier food choices for the mind as well as the body. Read more here.

3. Modern men 'too savvy' for traditional marketing

We spoke to consumer and culture analyst called Max Gonen after he completed six months of research for Health Marketing Team into the way modern men buy sports nutrition.

His research showed that modern men have totally changed the way they look at sports nutrition and are too savvy for brand marketing tactics currently being used. He said social media is bombarding shoppers with advice from so-called experts, which is making consumers sceptical as to who the real experts are and that’s making them resistant to being influenced by the things they see on TV or online.

Max also found that men don’t want to be associated with the norms set out in the media. Many brands currently are marketing using identities, showing an image of a typically attractive man and market their products are being able to make shoppers look like that man.

Max says that brands need to stop doing that and instead concentrate on making it clear what function their product serves to allow the consumer to choose for themselves if that’s right for them. Read more here.

4. Top nutrition myths

Our 10 health and nutrition myths story pulled together the opinions of a range of contacts to home-in on some of the myths that most irritate people in this industry. One of the myths that bugs a lot of people is this idea that people need to ‘detox’. Laura Clark, a dietician and sports nutritionist, pointed out that if you have a liver and kidneys then your body will naturally detox itself 24/7. Another myth mentioned is this idea that taking supplements is a waste of time. Nutritionist Carrie Ruxton pointed out that people should never expect supplements to act like wonder drugs or immediately make them feel better. Supplements should be taken to ensure you are meeting daily recommendations and, over time, this should provide health benefits. She also pointed out that it is true that people can get all the vitamins and minerals they need from a good balanced diet but the reality is that most people don’t have a good balanced diet and do require some help from supplements. Read more here.

5. EFSA's green tea supplement warning

The most read article on NutraIngredients all year was coverage of EFSA’s warnings over EGCG after it completed a safety assessment in April.

In its safety assessment the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) suggested green tea supplements should come with warning – noting that while the catechin content of green tea infusions and similar drinks are generally safe there may be health concerns when taken as a food supplement.

The safety review came about after concerns were passed on to EFSA about the potentially harmful effects on the liver, and the Norwegian food safety authority warned against green tea extract supplements following reports of liver damage​.

EGCG is the main catechin present in green tea – and this compound has been linked to a variety of health benefits at lower levels, but a risk of liver damage at higher doses.

In its April report, EFSA concluded that while intake of green tea catechins from green tea infusions are generally safe, there is potential for liver damage from supplements with doses of EGCG above at 800 mg per day.

It added that the average daily intakes as a result of green tea consumption ranged from 90 to 300 mg/day – while those taking food supplements containing green tea catechins could be in a range anywhere between 5 mg/day and 1,000 mg/day. Read more here.

6. The M&A merry-go-round

If EFSA's warning was our biggest story of the year, then the ongoing M&A activity in the consumer healthcare space was almost certainly the longest running.

The end of 2017, saw Pfizer announce it was looking to divest its consumer healthcare business​. By January Johnson & Johnson had reportedly walked away from the race, leaving GlaxoSmithKline, Nestlé and Reckitt Benckiser as favourites for the €16 billion deal​.

At the same time, Nestlé were heavily linked with the acquisition of Merck’s consumer health business – only to walk away in February leaving the sale ‘at risk’​, according to reports at the time.

By March, the race to buy Pfizer’s OTC business was also said to be 'close to collapse' after both GSK and Reckitt Benckiser officially walked away from an auction within days of each other​. 

GSK’s reasons for walking away from the deal became almost immediately clear, as it announced the acquisition of Novartis’s stake in their own consumer healthcare joint venture​ for $13bn.

To help fund the deal to buy Novartis’ stake of the joint-venture, GSK then said could look to sell some – or all – of its nutrition portfolio​, including its Indian consumer health and Horlick's business.

Then, in April, Merck completed the sale of its consumer health unit to Proctor & Gamble​ – in a move that P&G said would help it stem falling revenue by betting on vitamin ranges that have shown stable growth.

By August there was a long list of major companies - including Kellogg, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Unilever and Reckitt Benckiser​ - seemingly lining up for GSK’s consumer health and Horlick’s business. By September, Nestlé, Unilever and Coca-Cola were said to be fighting it out ahead of an auction​.

Then, in December, GSK announced that Unilever had won the race​ – and would acquire its Health Food Drinks portfolio in Asia for $3.8bn.

Just last week, things came almost full circle as Pfizer finally divested its consumer healthcare business ... sort of ... with Pfizer and GSK announcing they will merge consumer health divisions into a new joint-venture​, so creating what many are suggesting will be the worlds largest consumer health company.

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