Consumers are seeking out clinically validated ways of managing their health. Whether they want to boost the immune system, accelerate sports recovery or improve brain health, modern consumers are demanding evidence-backed products sourced from traceable, sustainable supply chains. IPRONA is meeting the demands with three standardized extracts of elderberries, blackcurrants and cherries.
The focus on immune health triggered by the pandemic led consumers to elderberry extracts. Online searches for “elderberry” jumped 16 times their normal level in the early weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, compared to a three-fold rise in interest in vitamin D.1 The online activity translated into sales.
Sales of elderberry products in the US mainstream supplements channel grew 169% In the year up to the end of November 2020 to hit $265.8M, according to SPINS data.2 With elderberry sales in the US natural supplements channel rising 72%, the data point to demand for the ingredient significantly outpacing the 50% growth in the broader cold, flu and immunity supplement market.
The surging demand for elderberry products contributed to a banner year for the US supplement industry. In 2020, US sales grew 14.5% to reach $56B as consumers spent $7 billion more than the previous year. Global supplement sales grew almost 10% to hit a new high of $156B.
Immune health was a key driver of the growth but far from the only contributor. After initially being rocked by the closure of gyms, the sports nutrition and recovery market bounced back as consumers began buying more products online. E-commerce accounted for more than one-quarter of all sports nutrition sales last year, enabling supplement growth to accelerate year on year to 8.7%.3,4 Products based on cherry extracts were among the supplements to benefit from the growth.
The long-term rise of cognitive health supplements was boosted by the pandemic, too, as consumers sought out ways to manage their wellbeing and stay mentally sharp throughout lockdowns. Around half of people took steps to improve their mental and emotional wellbeing, but the trend began well before the pandemic.5 The number of supplement launches with brain-mood health claims doubled from 2015 to 2019, reflecting the focus on mental health and the priorities of aging populations.6
Growth is strong in North America and Europe, where more than 20% of supplement launches made brain-mood health claims in 2019. Cardiovascular and eye health benefits are often accompanying claims for brain-mood supplements, a fact that plays to the strengths of blackcurrant extracts in all of those areas.
While vaccines are now supporting our natural immunity, consumers are continuing with their supplement regimes. One survey found only 3% of people planned to cut their supplement use after being vaccinated.7 One-third of respondents said they planned to increase their supplement use.
The survey data support the view that the supplement market is poised for sustainable growth after the pandemic. The evidence that elderberry sales will continue growing quickly is particularly strong. In 2019, before COVID-19 turbocharged growth, elderberry sales in the US mainstream and natural supplements channels grew 116% and 33%, respectively.
Validating elderberry extracts in the clinic
Consumers are embracing elderberry supplements because of clinical evidence that they act on their main health priorities. Perceived health benefits are a top driver of supplement purchases and a lack of belief in the claimed effects is a top deterrent, indicating the need for strong data to drive sales.8 IPRONA has worked to generate such data on its elderberry extract ElderCraft.
A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial linked supplementation with ElderCraft before and after long-distance air travel to 33% to 50% reductions in cold episodes, illness duration, and the number and severity of symptoms.9 The 312-subject study validated the immune application of ElderCraft by demonstrating the effect of the elderberry extract on upper respiratory symptoms.
IPRONA produces ElderCraft from Haschberg black elderberries grown in a particularly sunny and fertile part of Austria by the Styrian Berry Cooperative. The cooperative of experienced farmers has grown since its formation in 1962 and now harvests more than 8,000 tons of elderberries a year. IPRONA sends the elderberries to northern Italy for final processing and quality control, resulting in a sustainable, vertical, traceable and fully European supply chain.
The goal of the processing steps is to extract the best of nature while treating fruits gently. There is no one molecule that gives elderberries their positive properties. Rather, it is the mix of anthocyanins, polysaccharides and berry micronutrients that is important. IPRONA Polyphenol Technology (IPT) is designed to get the best out of elderberries and other fruits.
IPT is a mechanical, solvent-free separation and enrichment ultra-filtration process. IPRONA passes pressed fruit juice through membranes with different sized pores to separate larger molecules such as polyphenols and anthocyanins from sugars, minerals, salts and other smaller molecules. IPT thereby delivers an authentic, high-quality and standardized elderberry extract that retains the entire fruit matrix without using solvents such as methanol, butanol or ethanol.
Harvesting of this year’s crop of elderberries is almost finished in Austria and ElderCraft production is set to start by the end of September. In anticipation of a great harvest, in terms of both the quantity and quality of the fruits, IPRONA has doubled its production and warehouse capacities.
Extracting the best of blackcurrants and cherries
The success of ElderCraft is built on its standardization, use of solvent-free extraction technology and its controlled, fully European supply chain. IPRONA has applied those building blocks for success to blackcurrants and tart cherries to create extracts that act on other health outcomes.
CurrantCraft is extracted from selected French blackcurrants using IPT. The application of IPT to blackcurrants results in a standardized extract rich in anthocyanins, polyphenolic substances, antioxidants and vitamin C. Researchers have linked the fruit to beneficial effects on brain health, including improvements on markers of cognitive performance and reduced anxiety.10,11 Other studies have found effects on cardiovascular health, eye health and sports performance.12–14
IPRONA’s third extract, CherryCraft, also has sports and cardiovascular applications. As with its other products, IPRONA sources the fruit from a European cooperative, in this case farmers who grow tart Vistula cherries in Poland, and uses IPT for the standardized extraction of active large molecules. The result is an extract with cardiovascular health and sports recovery and performance benefits.
Multiple studies have found tart cherries boost performance during exercise and accelerate recovery after exertion.15–19 The positive health effects are linked to the presence of polyphenols, chlorogenic acid and anthocyanins in the fruits. IPRONA selected Vistula cherries over the Montmorency variety after finding they contain two to six times more of the active ingredients following its mission to gain the best from nature in order to provide only the best quality.20
Delivering the extracts to consumers
ElderCraft, CurrantCraft and CherryCraft are all the product of IPRONA’s experience and expertise in red fruits, as well as its belief that health comes from nature. The extracts all bring the best of nature to consumers through their delivery of molecules such as anthocyanins, an active component of the extracts that is responsible for the red color of the fruits.
Nutrition companies that work with IPRONA can develop tablets, gummies, liquid supplements sachets and other dosage forms that provide standardized amounts of the health-promoting elements of black elderberries, blackcurrants and cherries to consumers. In doing so, the companies will harness the best of European agriculture to help consumers manage their immune health, recovery and cognitive wellbeing.
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2. Krawiec, S. How elderberry became an immune-health superstar last year. 2021 Ingredient trends to watch for food, drinks, and dietary supplements. Nutritional Outlook https://www.nutritionaloutlook.com/view/how-elderberry-became-an-immune-health-superstar-last-year-2021-ingredient-trends-to-watch-for-food-drinks-and-dietary-supplements (2021).
3. Key trends shaping US sports nutrition in a post-Covid world. https://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/sports-nutrition/key-trends-shaping-us-sports-nutrition-post-covid-world (2021).
4. Reynolds, C. M. The Analyst’s Take: COVID-19 affects forecasts for $47.3B sports nutrition and weight management market. https://www.newhope.com/market-data-and-analysis/analysts-take-covid-19-affects-forecasts-473b-sports-nutrition-and-weight (2020).
5. Media, C. Cognitive enhancement: Mood, memory and healthy aging central focus in a post-pandemic world. https://www.nutritioninsight.com/news/cognitive-enhancement-mood-memory-and-healthy-aging-central-focus-in-a-post-pandemic-world.html (2021).
7. Polito, R. Monitor: Consumers plan steady or increased supplement use post-vaccination. https://www.newhope.com/market-data-and-analysis/monitor-consumers-plan-steady-or-increased-supplement-use-post-vaccination (2021).
8. Teoh, S. L., Ngorsuraches, S., Lai, N. M., Bangpan, M. & Chaiyakunapruk, N. Factors affecting consumers’ decisions on the use of nutraceuticals: a systematic review. Int. J. Food Sci. Nutr. 70, 491–512 (2019).
9. Tiralongo, E., Wee, S. S. & Lea, R. A. Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients 8, 182 (2016).
10. Watson, A. W. et al. Acute supplementation with blackcurrant extracts modulates cognitive functioning and inhibits monoamine oxidase-B in healthy young adults. J. Funct. Foods 17, 524–539 (2015).
12. Cook, M. D., Myers, S. D., Gault, M. L., Edwards, V. C. & Willems, M. E. T. Cardiovascular function during supine rest in endurance-trained males with New Zealand blackcurrant: a dose-response study. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 117, 247–254 (2017).
13. Braakhuis, A. J., Somerville, V. X. & Hurst, R. D. The effect of New Zealand blackcurrant on sport performance and related biomarkers: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr. 17, 25 (2020).
15. Brown, M. A., Stevenson, E. J. & Howatson, G. Montmorency tart cherry (Prunus cerasus L.) supplementation accelerates recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage in females. EJSS 19, 95–102 (2019).
16. Bell, P. G., Stevenson, E., Davison, G. W. & Howatson, G. The Effects of Montmorency Tart Cherry Concentrate Supplementation on Recovery Following Prolonged, Intermittent Exercise. Nutrients 8, (2016).
18. Connolly, D. A. J., McHugh, M. P., Padilla-Zakour, O. I., Carlson, L. & Sayers, S. P. Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. Br. J. Sports Med. 40, 679–83; discussion 683 (2006).
19. Levers, K. et al. Effects of powdered Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on acute endurance exercise performance in aerobically trained individuals. J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr. 13, 22 (2016).