Lactoferrin is a part of the larger transferrin protein family and possesses excellent iron-binding properties which can be obtained from different sources including rice flour, human milk, and animal milk. There are three forms: apolactoferrin (iron-free), a monoferric form (containing one ferric ion), and hololactoferrin (containing two iron ions).
It performs the function of an antioxidant in different drug formulations used to cure bacterial and viral infections and is used to cure various disorders related to human digestive system.
Whilst the market has been held back to some degree by the encouragement of breastfeeding and some negative perceptions of bovine lactoferrin, the ingredient was still values at €166 million in 2020 and enjoys many growth opportunities and the market is expected register more than 7.2% CAGR between 2021 and 2027.
GMI says this growth is partly thanks to growing awareness of the ingredient's antiviral properties as it is known to directly interact with cell structure components by binding cell surface targets which improves the overall immune response of the body. In fact, use of lactoferrin for immune cell stimulation is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.1% in the coming years.
One recent in-vitro study even suggesting the ingredient may provide a protective effect against COVID-19.
"Consumer awareness regarding the various health benefits of lactoferrin such as immune protection, antiviral and antibacterial properties has increased significantly in recent years, particularly after the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020," says Akshay Chavan, senior research analyst, Material & Food, at GMI, "The pandemic heightened the need to increase immunity to resist infections from pathogenic microbes among consumers leading to a rise in lactoferrin consumption."
Examples of companies offering lactoferrin products with immune health claims include: Jarrow Formulas, in the U.S., which offers lactoferrin capsules containing freeze dried lactoferrin. The company claims the product improves iron absorption and releases lactoferrin B, a peptide which enhances immunity upon digestion.
In June 2020, Australian Health & Wellness company JatCorp Ltd. Launched lactoferrin-enriched camel milk powder under the Auveno brand. The company claims the product offers probiotic and immune health benefits.
OSKIA, a British skincare & nutrition brand, also offers Lactoferrin Immunity Food Supplements with 60 capsules in a single pack. The company obtains its lactoferrin from fresh cow milk and makes various health claims of the product such as iron regulation, improved skin health and immune function.
Apolactoferrin - which constitutes nearly 90% of the lactoferrin found in human milk - is the most widely available form and was valued at over €113 million in 2020. This ingredient is expected to continue its dominance over the forecast period owing to the excellent anti-microbial properties and ability to prevent lipid peroxidation, says GMI. The ability of apolactoferrin to reduce the risk of delayed-onset septicaemia among new-born babies is also expected to raise the product demand from infant formula products.
Premium infant formula
Lactoferrin is enjoying growth in the infant formula sector too as it is increasingly added to products for its functional benefits to strengthen the new-born immune system by enhancing anti-infective and anti-inflammatory activities and increasing iron absorption.
"Rising consumer awareness regarding the importance of infant health and nutrition coupled with the increasing participation of women in work force is likely to drive product demand from infant formula products," Chavan says.
"Increasing new product innovations by infant formula manufacturers to improve the taste profile of infant formula products without compromising on its nutritive value should further augment the market statistics. Global lactoferrin market from infant formula application is likely to reach over USD 110 Million by 2027."
Enfamil, an infant formula brand based in the U.S., offers Enfamil Enspire Infant Formula which, the company claims, is the closest alternative to breast milk for infants. The company advertises the product as the only infant formula in the U.S. which offers lactoferrin and milk fat globule membrane. Enfamil claims the product enhances digestion and gut health in infants.
Friesland Campina recently announced it is increasing its lactoferrin production capacity in the Netherlands in response to increasing demand for infant nutrition, particularly premium infant formula products, which are experiencing faster growth than the mid-range.
“We are seeing increased interest in other parts of our business, notably active nutrition,” said Anne Peter Lindeboom, managing director, early life nutrition at FrieslandCampina Ingredients
“As consumers become more health-aware and are researching ingredients that support their individual health goals, lactoferrin’s role in immune health is proving an attraction for an expanding audience."
Lactoferrin has been marketed in the sports nutrition market for several years, largely for its benefits in facilitating fat loss, repair damaged tissues and accelerate the healing process. The ingredient is also said to enhance endurance by activating the iron in blood and helping to transport oxygen more effectively to where it's needed during strenuous activities.
Key industry players have shifted their focus towards incorporating lactoferrin as an essential ingredient in their products.
Farmers Beta A2, an Australian protein nutrition company, offers Farmers Beta A2 Lactoferrin, a superfood beverage containing lactoferrin, whey protein, prebiotics and colostrum. The product claims to enhance musculoskeletal development, gut health and immunity and it suitable for consumption by adults and children.
Not only this, but lactoferrin is also touted for its digestive comfort benefits. Several studies have found that bovine colostrum may stimulate the growth of intestinal cells and prevent intestinal permeability, thereby reducing risk of 'leaky gut'. These sorts of benefits can go some way to dispelling concerns around regular sports nutrition supplementation as well as tapping into the general heightened interest in gut health.
Morinaga Milk Industry Co., Ltd recently published a study reporting that its lactoferrin-fortified growing up formula can reduce acute gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms in children. The randomised controlled intervention trial reported that acute gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhoea, vomiting, fatigue) were significantly lower in the treatment group than placebo (p<0.05) during the intervention phase.
The anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-parasitic properties of lactoferrin make it an appealing addition to personal care products. As such, the global lactoferrin market from cosmetic and personal care applications is expected to surpass €21 million by 2027, mainly attributed to increasing instances of skin related issues including acne and pimples.
For example AG Pharma, a nutraceutical provider based in Italy, offers Elleffe 100 cream with 4% lactoferrin, a skin-protection product which claims to prevent the adverse effects of fungi & bacteria.
Similarly, Sesoderma S.L., a Spanish manufacturer of cosmetic dermatology products, offers Lactoferrin Body Milk under the Balance Lactoferrina brand. This product claims to help maintain pristine skin condition by enhancing the natural barrier of the skin to external environmental factors and natural ageing.
Plant-based and easy production
Skirting production difficulties as well as environmental and ethical concerns around bovine lactoferrin, rice flour lactoferrin held a major share in the market and was valued at over €105 Million in 2020.
Rice is one of the most abundantly cultivated crops in several countries of the world. Moreover, the ease of manufacturing and processing lactoferrin from rice flour adds to its popularity among supplement makers, says GMI.
Some of the key industry players operating in the lactoferrin market today include: Metagenics, Inc., MP Biomedicals, APS BioGroup, Glanbia plc, Farbest Brands, Milei GmbH, Fonterra Cooperative Group Ltd., InVitria, Hoogwegt Group B.V., Ferrin-Tech LLC, FrieslandCampina and ND Pharma & Biotech Ltd
At the end of last year, Morinaga Milk Industry Co., Ltd. announced its subsidiary at Milei GmbH will more than double its lactoferrin production capacity by 2021 as demand for lactoferrin has grown. The firm aims to increase production of its lactoferrin-related products to approximately 170 tons, more than double the amount in 2019.