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Ready to Bloom: How Advanced Delivery Technologies Support the Growth of the Herbs and Botanicals Supplements Market

Albion Minerals®
Herbs & Botanicals Herbs & Botanicals

Where once a supplement ingredient may have taken all of the glory, individuals and brand owners alike are increasingly aware of the importance of the supplement delivery technology and the role it can play in meeting their personal health goals. This comes as the ways in which consumers define and cultivate health continues to expand, with people across the globe more willing and equipped to take responsibility for their wellbeing and making choices that will support their aspirations to live longer, healthier and more fulfilled lives.

Indeed, today’s aspirational, values-driven consumers are more aware of, and concerned about, what they are putting into their bodies, including where a product came from and how it was sourced. The ingredients that make up the products consumers use and how they contribute to—or detract from—a healthy lifestyle are therefore under increased scrutiny. It is this close attention to transparency and traceability that has played an important part in the manifestation of the trend for cleaner, more natural and responsibly made supplement products. As such, those with more natural and clean-label origins, such as herbal and botanical supplements, align ever more closely with the needs of this expanding consumer group.

To deliver truly consumer-centric herbal supplement products that also support a clean-label positioning, however, it is also the responsibility of the brand owner to make sure that all parts of their supplement product and operations are able to satisfy these requirements—from the ingredient sourcing and processing, right through to the supplement delivery system. The dosage form not only plays an integral role in ensuring the successful delivery of ingredients and optimizing product efficacy, but it should also work symbiotically with the supplement ingredient to help deliver the results that consumers are looking for. Capsules, in particular, are a popular dosage form for today’s consumers, with research commissioned by Lonza showing that capsules remain the preferred dosage form of choice for 42 percent of consumers, thanks to their convenient, versatile and easy-to-swallow properties. In addition, however, the expanding variety of advanced, vegetarian and clean-label capsule technologies now available on the market create more opportunities than ever before for brand owners to leverage the consumer appeal offered by herbal and botanical ingredients and deliver supplement solutions that align with their increasingly aspirational preferences.

Why Are Herbal Supplements Popular With Consumers?

While the dietary supplements industry is a fast-moving, evolving market that has seen a myriad of changes in recent decades, the use of herbs—often also referred to as “botanicals”—in health applications is not a new concept. With an extensive history of use across the centuries, botanical ingredients have long been popular with health-conscious consumers thanks to their nature-based origins. It is this appeal that has enabled herbals to stand the test of time, and has seen these ingredients become increasingly desirable in the dietary supplements space. This looks set to continue, with the global herbal supplements market expected to reach $8.5 billion by 2025, a projected 6.2 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) since 2018.

Proprietary research commissioned by Lonza also identified that U.S. consumers are increasingly aware of the potential health benefits of botanical-based supplement products. The report found, for instance, that up to 7 percent of participants had consumed supplements containing ingredients such as flaxseed, ginseng, curcumin/turmeric and echinacea in the 30 days before the survey was carried out. Consumers also reported seeking out herbal supplements to manage specific health conditions; 70 percent of consumers using St. John’s wort use it to manage stress, anxiety and/or depression, while 36 percent of those taking boswellia use it to support joint or arthritis conditions.

It is clear, then, that herbal supplements remain an area of interest within the consumer zeitgeist, with more and more emerging ingredients entering the spotlight as new applications and benefits are explored. It is, therefore, important that supplement manufacturers remain engaged with consumer preferences and the opportunities presented by these trending ingredients to keep pace in an increasingly competitive market.

Getting to the Root of Botanical Ingredients

There are, however, some complexities when working with botanical ingredients that brand owners must remain aware of to not only elevate the consumer experience delivered by their products, but also to optimize their own operational efficiencies.

Herbal ingredients are, by definition, from plant-based sources, which can make them more sensitive to oxygen and moisture than many other supplement ingredients. Degradation by these means can have a major impact on the ingredient’s structure, integrity and stability, which may, in turn, have a detrimental effect on the efficacy and appeal of the final product. The nature-based origins of botanical ingredients often also means that they come with a distinct taste, appearance and/or odor. While this may enhance the appeal for consumers seeking a more “natural” experience, sensory characteristics must still be factored in from the beginning of the product development process to ensure that all stakeholders have a comprehensive understanding of the end product’s expected look and feel.

Furthermore, the increased sensitivity of herbal ingredients must also be appropriately considered by supplement producers looking to incorporate them in combination products. While multi-component products offer a desirable option for consumers seeking supplements that deliver multiple benefits in a single dosage form, brand owners must explore how botanical ingredients may interact with other ingredients when developing these solutions. Failing to do so could see the product’s efficacy, or even safety, coming into question if the ingredient reacts negatively in a formulation.

Adulteration is also a key concern in the herbal ingredient arena, so testing raw materials and having a robust vendor qualification process in place are key to ensuring and maintaining quality and safety compliance.

Dosage Forms: Unlocking Ingredient Success

While these factors inevitably present challenges that supplement manufacturers must navigate when working with herbal ingredients, in many instances choosing the right dosage form is key to mitigating these complexities. Indeed, the dosage form is an integral piece of the puzzle.

For supplement producers formulating with botanical ingredients, understanding exactly which delivery system is best suited to their product is an important step. Collaborating with integrated solutions providers, such as Lonza, offers brands the support needed to fine-tune the details during every step of the process with their expertise, knowledge and trusted network. Manufacturers can benefit from their in-depth understanding of innovative dosage form technologies, such as capsules, to understand how the delivery system will support the design of the product they want to deliver.

There are, for instance, more opportunities than ever before for supplement producers to create products that deliver on consumers’ clean-label ideals thanks to the ever-growing range of plant-based capsules available on the market. By design, capsules offer cleaner labels than many other delivery form technologies, and manufacturers can now choose from a broad portfolio of vegetarian capsules that are pullulan or hypromellose (HPMC) based. Pullulan, for instance, is a plant-derived, water-soluble polysaccharide made from tapioca, which is then fermented. In addition to being a consumer-friendly alternative, thanks to their taste and odor masking capabilities, pullulan capsules can also be optimized to offer excellent oxygen barrier properties, making them the ideal solution for trend-conscious brand owners formulating with highly sensitive botanical ingredients.

Advances in capsule technologies now also mean it is possible to solve a variety of other formulation challenges associated with herbal ingredients. While there are, for instance, many capsules on the market that are designed to mask strong tastes and odors, supplement producers can choose dosage forms that allow the herb’s natural sensory characteristics to take center stage to optimize the consumer experience. Manufacturers looking to support specific health benefits, such as joint health, can also now combine clinically proven ingredients, such as undenatured type II collagen, with trending, herbal ingredients through capsule-in-capsule or tablet-in-capsule formats to offer additional synergistic effects. Furthermore, this technology also facilitates the combination of solid and liquid phase ingredients, which can be highly beneficial for brand owners as many botanically derived nutrients, such as essential oils and plant-based omegas, occur naturally in liquid form. As well as being well suited for formulators developing combination products, especially when combining previously incompatible ingredients, capsule-in-capsule technology can also enable manufacturers to optimize the ingredient release profile by offering both immediate and extended release.

Lipid multiparticulate (LMP) technology can also further facilitate more sophisticated release profiles, thanks to the homogenous distribution of ingredients that are achieved in droplets, or microspheres, created using this methodology. Products created with LMP microspheres can be tailored to deliver a broad spectrum of specific release profiles via capsule-in-capsule or liquid-filled capsule formats; indeed, manufacturers looking to truly optimize or tailor the release can combine LMP droplets with other ingredients in powder form to deliver a dual or multi-phase release. In addition, LMP technology can be utilized for its taste masking capabilities and the microspheres can also be incorporated into functional foods and beverages, without impacting the consumer experience. Liquid-filled capsules, which have been specially designed for the secure containment of liquids, can also be used to improve the bioavailability of botanical ingredients by delivering them in a solubilized, liquid form, supporting an improved absorption rate in the body.

Capturing Market Opportunities

With herbal supplement products continuing to rise in prominence in the dietary supplements market, the time for formulators to seize the opportunity and stay at the forefront of innovation is now. By considering the experience that the end product will offer today’s aspirational consumers at the very start of the production process—with help from industry leading partners with the knowledge and know-how—supplement producers are well placed to leverage the exciting opportunities presented by today’s advanced capsule technologies to create truly consumer-centric, efficacious botanical supplement products.

As an integrated solutions provider, helping customers solve their challenges and meet their objectives in the botanicals space is Lonza’s goal. Its portfolio of science-backed ingredients, dosage and delivery forms, as well as its extensive R&D and manufacturing expertise, support brand owners’ delivery of unique supplement solutions using herbs and botanical ingredients, offering targeted effects and increasingly diverse health benefits. NIE

Barri Sigvertsen, Marketing Manager, Lonza Consumer Health & Nutrition