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The Future of New Product Development

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Dietary supplement and functional nutritional beverages are up, up and away—is anyone really surprised? The pandemic is largely responsible for the surge of interest and purchase in dietary supplements and healthier lifestyles that would strengthen resistance to immune assaults while increasing overall quality of life.

Non-GMO Project

And this is a boon for the industry.

On June 3, IRI Worldwide and SPINS released a report, “COVID-19 and Navigating the Path Ahead: Supporting the Natural Products Consumer.”

Steve Ramsey, executive vice president and general manager, strategic accounts, IRI Worldwide, explained in the report “COVID-19 and Navigating the Path Ahead: Supporting the Natural Products Consumer” (June 3, 2020, co-created with SPINS), “Dollar sales for natural products continue to grow over one year ago, as much as an astounding 78 percent in the middle of March during consumers’ initial stock-up period and continuing in the high teens at present. Given that natural products represent more than 8 percent of total store sales year-to-date and are outpacing sales of conventional products, there are significant opportunities for manufacturers and retailers alike to show support for consumers.”

Illinois-based FutureCeuticals’ customers are seeking superfoods known to fortify the immune system for new supplement, functional beverage, and food launches to satisfy increased global demand, according to Ryan Wories, director of marketing. From açai and acerola to leafy greens like spinach and kale, superfoods are some of the most sought-after ingredients right now as our customers look to innovate in the immunity space.

“Consumer needs and purchase behaviors have shifted since the onset of the pandemic, so brands are reassessing their innovation pipelines, observed Holly McHugh, marketing associate, Illinois-based Imbibe (The Drink Tank), a beverage formulating consultant agency. Brands have expressed increased interest in formulating immune- and wellness-support beverages and are keen on exploring ingredients and formats to deliver these benefits. “However, many brands have pushed back innovation or put it on hold completely until there is more clarity around the long-term impact of the pandemic and its influence on purchase behavior,” she reported.

BENEO Inc., New Jersey, has generally experienced a higher demand, as well as significant changes as customers have adjusted their planned volumes, “in spite of the onslaught of COVID-19 and the associated disruption,” said Jon Peters, president.

He reported that BENEO’s customers have had a varied reaction to the pandemic. Some are continuing as planned. In these cases, he said, he has found that it is often helpful to have direct contact with product development teams as they are often working from home office situations. Some other customers have put off development projects to focus on operational challenges. Still others have opted to rearrange innovation priorities or previously scheduled product launches due to COVID-19. “However, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new focus to the importance of health and the importance of nutrition on overall well-being,” he emphasized.

At New Jersey-based Sabinsa, customers are seeing a strong need to deliver the tried-and-tested products that their consumers have been using for many years, reported Shaheen Majeed, president worldwide, “and therefore supply chain integrity is being tested across the board, especially with suppliers for such high demand ingredients. New product development has seen some slow down during these last few months.”

According to McHugh, ingredient supply chains have been interrupted by travel bans, availability of workers and, in some cases, greater demand than the supply. Brands can alleviate the impact of supply chain challenges by building extra time into their product development timeline and having flexibility with ingredient choices.

In the viewpoint of Anand Godbole, assistant vice president, marketing and strategy, Nutriventia/Inventia Healthcare Limited, Mumbai, India, the industry also needs to address the new consumer needs that have arisen from the pandemic. He sees a “significant increase” in immune supplement sales and adjacent categories such as stress and sleep. As a result, he has seen supply issues and service disruptions. Good news, though, he said, “The pandemic has also sparked creativity in how to disseminate information on new innovations and ingredient solutions.”

2021 Challenges

When a global change disrupts all industries, challenges rain down, and as such can and will separate the wheat from the chaff. Despite the surge in demand for natural health products, we are currently in an adaptation phase.

“During 2021, we expect a gradual shift from our current situation of nearly all online communications to some hybrid of personal face-to-face interactions and digital communication,” predicted Godbole. He said he also expects a continued focus on immunity support with renewed interest in other areas like energy and focus, weight management and stress relief.

Majeed, however, believes it’s difficult to anticipate what next year will bring as there are still numerous unknowns. “By next year we will either be able to resume normal operations, or if that is not possible, we will have fairly well-established alternative ways of doing business together, remotely,” he stated.

Relatedly and not to be forgotten is the continued need and demand for human clinical studies on existing and emerging ingredients—research that drives the industry. As more and more brands demand human studies over in-vitro analyses, the COVID pandemic has created a spanner in the works when conducting human clinicals. As such, said Majeed, “come next year, companies may experience a drought of human-subject research. There could be some studies that were based on COVID specifically, and companies will have to evaluate their potential use in the supplement marketplace.”

According to McHugh, beverage brands will be faced with several challenges in 2021, including innovating in an uncertain marketplace, supply chain interruptions and delayed pipelines. “Before the pandemic, consumer needs were a moving target and trends were evolving faster than ever. Over the last six months, several trends have progressed, including that consumers are flocking to the familiar, shopping more online and seeking out beverages that support immunity and relaxation,” she said.

She added that manufacturers are forced to adapt to new operational strategies, working on creating new processes and procedures to keep product development moving forward. Many brands rely on consumer feedback for validation that a product meets taste quality expectations. Testing products with real consumers before a launch is a challenge because brands aren’t able to sample products in stores or at tradeshows.

Supplier News

Ingredient suppliers and formulators are not cowed or in a bunker waiting for COVID to move itself into the history books.

The sources who replied here represent the vitality and innovation in the supply side arena.

According to Wories, FutureCeuticals is relaunching its plant-based beauty-from-within ingredient, Dermaval with new clinically researched claims. Dermaval supports the body’s collagen levels and provides pro-collagen nutrients that contribute to endogenous collagen production. “Made from a natural complex of nine superfoods, Dermaval supports collagen from within in a single low, 50 mg dose. It is ideal for a wide range of beauty and healthy aging products—including RTD and RTM beverages, capsules, and tablets,” he described.

Ingredient launches do continue. For example, Sabinsa just introduced LivLonga, a blend of three of Sabinsa’s scientifically validated ingredients: 250 mg of Curcumin C3 Complex Turmeric (Curcuma longa) Extract, 50 mg Livinol kokum fruit (Garcinia indica) extract and 5 mg of BioPerine black pepper (Piper nigrum) extract. “The combination is protected by U.S. Patent #10,653,643 for liver protectant compositions and therapeutic applications,” Majeed announced.

According to Peters, BENEO has announced a 50 percent production capacity increase at its Wijgmaal, Belgium facility to respond to rising customer demand for its rice starches. A two-stage expansion process valued at $56 million, will lead to increased capacity by March 2022. “BENEO forecasts that the growing demand for natural and clean label products, in applications such as coated confectionery, will intensify in major existing markets, including the Americas and Europe. Rice is widely considered a familiar and recognizable product, with 61 percent of consumers worldwide regarding rice starch as natural, making it the ideal ingredient for the development of products that respond to the increasing trend for clean and clearer labels,” he elaborated.

Additionally, results of human clinical trials that occurred pre-COVID have been recently announced. For example, Deerland Probiotics & Enzymes has announced publication of a study (in Nutrients) which showed that supplementing B. lactis BL04 with its PreforPro bacteriophages can significantly modulate gut ecology to favor beneficial bacteria.

Another study (“RESHAW”) published in Clinical Nutrition showed that menopausal women who consumed resveratrol exhibited a 33 percent improvement in cognitive performance.

Also, recently, it was shown that one dose of Nitrosigine arginine silicate from Nutrition 21 boosted performance in mental tests of visuo-perceptual abilities, executive function and cognitive abilities compared to placebo. This study was published in the Journal of Exercise and Nutrition.

Business partnerships still continue for enhanced formula innovations as well. For example, in mid-August, AIDP has announced it will represent the branded ingredients for Spain-based biotech company Biosearch Life, which offers science-backed probiotics (Hereditum), Eupoly-3 EPA and DHA, plant extracts (Exxentia), and Go-functional, a service of functional food development.

In summary, despite one of the most challenging situations we can all experience in our lifetimes, the desire, ability and fortitude to collaborate in a new environment to produce quality, effective and safe products for consumers to thrive will remain energetic and exciting. NIE

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