Healthy ageing: Immune, comprehensive nutrition, milk formula to drive NPD
Immunity and comprehensive nutrition are set to take centre stage in the healthy ageing sector this year, according to Nestle China.
“In the post-COVID-19 era, [consumers are] increasingly concerned about immune and health protection.
“[Moreover], the seniors are the ones who are more easily affected. As people age, they need to take in more comprehensive nutrition to protect their health,” Henri He, business director dairy at Nestle China told us.
In fact, the company has already developed such products since last year.
To support immune health, the company last year launched a protein powder added with Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus LGG under the Nestle Yiyang brand. The product is also part of the firm’s first set of ‘blue-hat’ certified health foods for seniors.
As for comprehensive nutrition, the Nestle Yiyang brand upgraded its A2 milk formula LiveATwo in May last year.
The previous version was targeted at individuals above 50 years old, while the upgraded version can be used by individuals above 45 years old.
The upgraded version contains Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BB-12, calcium, vitamin A, C, D, E, and has a glycemic index of less than 55.
“We are developing more new products in this area, including milk powder for seniors, as well as products beyond milk powder,” He added.
On the other hand, Michelle Feng, head of marketing consumer care at Nestle Health Science China, pointed out that Garden of Life – the probiotic brand under Nestle – has also launched a new immune health product under the Dr. Formulated series.
The product, Dr. Formulated Probiotics Immune+ 90B, contains 90 billion CFU of active probiotics that and claims to help strengthen the immune system.
There are 12 probiotic strains in the formula, including Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG.
The trend of developing milk formula and beverages for healthy ageing is also set to take off in South Korea, as the country’s regulator announced a list of nutritional requirements for elderly supplements – milk formula included – late last year.
Infant nutrition: Immune, digestive health, and allergy problems top of mind for parents
In terms of infant health, both Nestle China and Morinaga have pointed out how healthy growth, immunity, digestive health, and solutions for food allergies are top of mind for parents.
Nestle China noticed that the incidence of allergies in infants and young children has been growing in recent years. For example, the prevalence of cow milk protein allergy (CMPA) is about 2.5 to seven per cent in China.
“This has brought a certain impact on the growth and development of infants and young children,” said Yantao Yang, medical operation and scientific affairs director, Nestle China.
To address allergies, the company started a 16-month research project known as 'RASH', which studies a moderately hydrolysed whey protein formula added with Bifidobacterium animalis BB-12.
“The RASH research project launched by Nestle in Shanghai will provide scientific support for the preventive effect and mechanism of a moderately hydrolysed whey protein formula on infants with atopic dermatitis from a new perspective,” said Yang.
Japanese dairy giant Morinaga Milk, on the other hand, said that parents were conscious about immune and digestive health of their newborn babies.
“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, it is apparent that parents have become more conscious about keeping their child’s immune system healthy.
“In China, which holds the largest market share for infant formula, digestive health is a top concern for which parents are more concerned about healthy digestion and gut protection,” Dr Chyn Boon Wong, lead research associate at Morinaga Milk Industry said.
In terms of ingredients, there is growing interest in probiotics and prebiotics such as Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) for healthy gut microbiota development.
“Increasingly, studies have shown that HMOs have major beneficial roles in protecting the health of infants. They contribute to the development of healthy gut microbiota and immune systems in early life. Many health benefits result from consuming HMOs for whose ultimate role is to promote the growth of beneficial bifidobacterial,” Dr Wong said.
Bifidobacterium is an important and dominant member of the infant gut microbiome, carrying out key functions for maintaining host-homeostasis.
“We know that infants need probiotics human-residential bifidobacteria (HRB) strains for healthy development and we have some clues on the rationale behind but a lot of research is still needed to find out why and how specific HRB species are engaging in a miraculous bond with the infant host.
“The combination of a unique bifidogenic prebiotic with specific clinically validated HRB probiotics might be the next innovative trend in the area of infant nutrition,” Wong added.
Similarly, Nestle China has highlighted the potential of HMOs and is studying its composition in breastmilk and its roles in infant growth.
Together with key Chinese scientific institutions, it is performing a follow-up study to understand the different nutritional needs of babies with special needs in order to provide more comprehensive and scientific nutritional solutions.
“Nestle also cooperated with related partners to carry out a mother-infant cohort study to observe the development of intestinal flora in the early life of infants and the impact of the intestinal flora on the health of the children in early life.
“This is to provide sufficient scientific basis for product formulation, R&D, and solution optimisation,” Yang said.
Nestle currently has more than 50 HMOs-related scientific publications and its first paper was published 30 years ago.
Last year, it presented at the EAACI Hybrid Congress 2021 on how its amino acid-based formula Alfamino HMO was safe, could promote normal growth, and was effective for infants suffering from moderate-severe CMPA.
The formula contains the HMOs 2’-Fucosyllactose (2’-FL) and Lacto-N-neotetraose (LNnT).
Kids nutrition: Evolving from meeting growth needs to immune health needs
Nutritional products for children have come a long way from helping kids meet their nutritional daily needs and preventing nutrient deficiencies to one of the largest trends seen today in immune health.
This is according to two Australian companies Little Etoile, which makes baby food, infant and toddler formulas and Sprout Organic, maker of plant-based infant and toddler formulas and protein shakes.
Little Etoile’s head of R&D, George Thouas, said: “Parents in Asia are still apparently preoccupied with height attainment and nutrition to promote cognitive ability. However there has been a strong shift in focus on immunity over the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Little Etoile is a brand under Max Biocare.
Selasi Berdie, director and founder of Sprout Organic shared the same view, “A focus on immunity is one of the largest trends being seen with infants and toddlers. This also encompasses people looking for allergen-friendly products with over 1 in 10 infants now suffering from an allergy, and upwards of 30% having some form of food intolerance.”
Thouas said the immunity trend is reflected by the increasing use of innovative and researched ingredients such as beta-glucan and lactoferrin.
In addition to products with immunity-related benefits, Berdie said there was a shift in parents wanting to feed their children natural, sustainable, and organic products wherever possible.
“We believe there is an increasing focus on quality and consistency, and an increased awareness of the benefits of specific nutrients,” Thouas added.
As we look into the future, Thouas thinks nutrition for the age group of 12 months and above is set to grow, as more families are now willing to spend towards improving their children’s health and growth during this period.
Women’s health: Beauty-from-within still popular, growing market for menopause-related products
Supplements for skin health and beauty-from-within continue to dominate the women’s supplement space, but there is also a growing demand for menopause-related products.
This is reflected in the many beauty supplements available in the market, targeting whitening, anti-ageing, hydration and hair care functions.
“More women and health professionals are looking at beauty as an integral part of wellbeing, as appearance is substantially determined by one’s overall health.
“Optimal skin health cannot be achieved by simply applying some expensive cream, if internal functions like liver or gut function are not optimal, and hormone fluctuations are causing havoc,” said George Thouas, head of R&D at Australian nutraceutical firm Max Biocare.
“In Asia, we have seen a big consumer shift from beautiful skin as being ‘light’ to being ‘radiant, bright and shining’. While skin lightness can be achieved with topical treatments, radiance is more a reflection of its underlying health.”
In China, consumers choose to take nutricosmetics partly because they are no longer satisfied with using only skincare products, according to Shiseido, which also owns beauty-from-within brands INRYU and The Collagen.
“Women think of beauty as something that is holistic. It is not just about what you put on your face or your body, but what you actually ingest…Consumers are becoming more sophisticated and are seeking more options,” Carol Zhou, SVP at Shiseido’s China Business Innovation and Investment Representative Office told us.
In China, ingestible hyaluronic acid products saw a boom last year after the ingredient – typically meant for topical use as a moisturising ingredient – was approved for use in food by the Chinese government.
However, Zhou believes it remains to be seen whether consumers will warm up to this trend.
“The China market was flooded with hyaluronic acid water, hyaluronic acid gummies in the beginning of last year. However, that might not be due to consumer demand, but mainly because it was something different and new.
“In fact, you do see that there is some kind of resistance in the market towards ingestible hyaluronic acid.
“[This is because] most consumers in China are familiar with hyaluronic acid that's applied or injected, and its not quite natural for it to be ingested, and so they have a slight concern with its safety and the long-term effects.”
Zhou said that Chinese consumers would prefer natural ingredients backed by science.
“I personally love turmeric and I feel that turmeric will become much more popular in China in the near future. I am seeing more discussions about it on the social media, including its anti-inflammatory properties and it is backed by more scientific data,” she said.
While beauty-from-within continues to dominate, Thouas said there is a growing market for supplements catered to menopausal and post-menopausal women.
“There continues to be a demand for options for when conventional approaches (eg HRTs) are not suitable. Health care professionals are open to alternative therapies and supplements as there is more evidence of their efficacy and safety of complementary approaches.”
“It is still a small market (compared to beauty-from-within), however there is now a greater recognition that the symptoms associated with menopause can be managed. It used to be that Asian women accepted issues related to hormonal changes as part of life and tried to endure it.”
Max Biocare has developed a herbal formulation of soy germ, black cohosh, chase-tree berry and evening primrose seed to improve menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, sweating, while improving sleep quality and mood. The same product was also shown to improve skin roughness in post-menopausal women.
“We believe however the key trend now will be beauty from within, which involves slowing down the ageing process, as well as assisting systems to function as they did before menopause,” Thouas said.
Max Biocare is working on supplements to improve or maintain cardiovascular health for women of this age group.
Men’s health: Feel good, look good
Products targeted at men are no longer focused on feeling good on the inside, and there is increasing pressure on looking good on the outside as well.
According to Deepak Agarwal, founder of Indian brand Auric, “The focus on men's need to look good and feel good have increased. This is reflected in their intent to discover products made especially for them in both the beauty and wellness space.”
Auric makes Ayurvedic cold beverages targeting a range of health areas including skin, immune, cognitive, metabolism, women and men’s sexual health.
Earlier this year, it released a men’s energy drink containing herbs such as ashwagandha, shedheveli, gokshura to increase stamina and fight fatigue, contributing to men’s sexual wellness.
One example of a product catered to help men look good is Japanese firm Toei Shinyaku’s hair-growth supplement BEROOT.
The supplement contains the medicinal mushroom King Agaricus (Agaricus blazei/brasiliensis), capsaicin, and isoflavone.
Toei Shinyaku’s president Akitomo Motoi described how hair loss in men is caused by excessive androgens (hormone), and is often treated with pharmaceuticals like Finasteride Propecia and Dutasteride, which suppress androgen and help hair grow.
However, these pharmaceuticals may induce side-effects like impotence in men.
“If men can solve their health issues with safer solutions like dietary or functional supplements instead of chemically synthesised pharmaceuticals, they are more inclined to try new solutions.”
Both Motoi and Agarwal agreed that the use of natural ingredients was a key factor in men’s supplements purchase.
According to Agarwal, male users look for three factors when buying supplement, “The most important trend is ‘Made for Men’ followed by the need for healthy lifestyle and natural living as demonstrated by the presence of bioactives and promotion of clean labels.”
Motoi added, “If dietary supplements are developed based on evidence supported by clinical trials, more male consumers are likely to buy functional or dietary supplements.”
Toei is deepening research on King Agaricus, its functional ingredient, in more areas of anti-ageing, athlete health, and immune booster.
Toei Shinyaku’s King Agaricus ingredient emerged as a winner at the NutraIngredients-Asia 2020 Awards in the Product of the Year, Botanical category.