Trending this year: Five nutra developments not to be missed for 2024

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Check out the health and nutrition trends that are set to shape the APAC industry in year 2024. © Getty Images
Check out the health and nutrition trends that are set to shape the APAC industry in year 2024. © Getty Images

Related tags Trends Innovation New product development Nutrition

As we step into 2024, we dive into the five key trends that health and nutrition brands believe will dominate the sector in Asia-Pacific this year, spanning categories such as metabolic health, immunity, skin health, gut microbiome, and mobility.

Metabolic health intertwined with gut health and phytonutrients  

Tackling metabolic health conditions through the gut microbiome and the use of phytonutrients is one of the key trends identified for this year.

Metabolic health related diseases include type II diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases (NAFLD).

eimele, an Australia plant-based nutrition company, which is known for hero products such as Metabolism Plus Coffee, believes that phytonutrients and prebiotics are key ingredients that could improve metabolic health.

This could be seen from one of its recent launches known as Calibrate Reds, which is designed to regulate blood sugar, which in turn produces a cascade of effects.

“Maintaining your overall metabolic health is related to how you manage your blood sugar level. When your blood sugar level goes up, it will increase your body’s fats storage, and this stimulates appetite, and you tend to eat a lot more,” ​said Clare Chan, product manager, eimele.

To break the cycle, Calibrate Reds uses the mulberry leaf extract marketed as Reducose and blood orange extract marketed as Morosil as key ingredients.

A study has shown that Reducose could inhibit the breakdown of sucrose and carbohydrates​ by up to 40 per cent, which also means that the spike in blood glucose levels post-meal could be brought down by 40 per cent.

The undigested carbohydrates then arrive in the small intestine where they are turned into resistance starch, producing a feeling of satiety.

Morosil, on the other hand, acts on fat accumulation, body weight, and body mass index.

eimele's Essential Rainbow powder, on the other hand, also contains pre, pro, and postbiotics, as well as polyphenols, fibre, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 to support overall metabolic health.

“Phytonutrients is the ‘it’ word when it comes to plant-based nutrition nowadays. A lot of consumers are starting to understand why plant-based nutrition is good for combating suboptimal health issues,” ​added Cici Chen, head of brand, eimele.

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Nestle Health Science is also tapping on the benefits of phytonutrients for its metabolic health supplements.

“Products that help people manage their metabolic health, especially as it relates to controlling blood sugar level, continue to be very important.

“Nestlé Health Science, for example, launched low glycemic index Nutren Diabetes, and one of our most recent launches was GlucoSmart ​which contains mulberry leaf extract,”​ the firm told us.

Chan pointed out that in Asia Pacific (APAC), at least one in five adults is affected by a metabolic health condition. At the same time, metabolic health is closely related to the gut microbiome.  

“When it comes to the leading cause of death in APAC, the number one cause of death is cardiovascular disease, which is closely related to metabolic health.

“Your gut microbiome is no longer related to gut health only, but also your overall health, including your metabolic health.”

Hong Kong-based microbiome firm GenieBiome, is also of the view that the gut microbiome is linked to various health conditions.

Its new product development pipeline would therefore include a product for obesity.

“Gut microbiome is an innovative field for addressing various health conditions. Increasingly, we are discovering the interaction of our gut microbiome with our body,”​ said Jonathan Wong, regional business manager, GenieBiome Limited.

Immune care not dying down

Immune health products might have seen a slowdown in 2023 due to destocking and lower footfall for these products, but some companies, such as Japan’s Kirin, is seeing opportunities in making immune care “a habit” ​by linking it with other functional benefits, such as body fat reduction.

“A new product is being prepared for launch by the end of this year, and we will continue our efforts to make immune care a habit and strengthen profitability,”​ Hiroaski Takaoka, senior executive officer and general manager, Corporate Strategy Department, Kirin Group, said during the firm’s Q3 financial results presentation last year.

The new product that he was referring to, was its “iMUSE Immune Care and Healthya Visceral Fat Down​” product launched on November 28 last year.

Described as a “immune care” and “visceral fat reduction” dual function food, it is formulated with Kirin’s flagship immune health ingredient Lactococcus lactis ​strain Plasma, also known as LC-plasma or IMMUSE.

It also contains chlorogenic acid derived from coffee beans, which is said to help reduce visceral fat.

Kirin also announced that it has made new discovery on visceral fat and immune activity through joint research with Kao.

The research found that high visceral fat levels are associated with low plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) activity, signifying low immune function.

“High visceral fat levels and low pDC activity are associated with a high risk of contracting novel coronavirus infection and influenza. ​ 

“Thus, it can be said that it is important for people with high visceral fat area values and low pDC activity to address both visceral fat mass and immune function,” ​said the firm.

Aside from body fat, the firm has also launched Foods with Function Claims (FFC) that contain LC-plasma for supporting immune health and sleep, hydration, and muscle support.

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Elsewhere in China, the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Medicines and Health Products (CCCMHPIE) believes that products that support immune health will continue to gain traction.

“Several years of COVID-19 has increased consumers’ awareness of the importance of immune health. Therefore, products that could support immune function, such as vitamin C, vitamin D, the elderberry Sambucus williamsii, protein powder, and probiotics types of products have seen a spike in demand, especially vitamin and mineral products, and they are still the biggest dietary supplement category,” ​said the report published in October last year.

On the other hand, consumers’ demand for high quality immune health supplements remains high although they might not be taking such products consistently.

“In 2023, while the use of immune health supplements may have become less consistent and regular, consumer awareness and desire for higher quality solutions that they could trust in remained high in Asia-Pacific. 

“This is why we have seen a continued increase in demand for our high quality Quali-C vitamin C produced in Dalry, Scotland,” ​said Tina Low, business unit head, Health, Nutrition, and Care, APAC, dsm-firmenich.

Skin health – the intersection between the skin and gut  

The link between skin and digestive health has been cited as the trend moving forward, says Australia’s JSHealth, which is known for its hair growth supplement and has been on a rapid expansion into the US and Europe.

“I believe the link between the gut and skin is going to be a massive thing in beauty this year,”​ said Sarah Lawman, head of Australia at JSHealth.  

This could be seen from the company’s new product development process.

Lawman shared that all the firm’s products were created based on customers’ requests, and digestion, alongside skin concerns, was one of the most seen issues.

“All our products are basically made based on customer requests. Digestive concerns were on the back of people struggling with skin concerns,” ​she said.

This was how one of the firm’s bestsellers, Skin + Digestion, a tablet formula, had come about.

The product claims to support skin health, including reliving symptoms of acne and pimples, mild eczema, and relieve digestive discomfort with the use of key ingredients such as vitamin B2, vitamin C, zinc, burdock, and turmeric.

“The product focuses on the connection between the skin and the gut, and I think gut health is becoming increasingly popular as a trend by addressing what's going on in the outside of our skin by looking on the inside. 

“And I think there's so much in the nutraceutical space that hasn't quite possibly linked probiotics and ingredients that are linked to digestive health, but then have outward benefits. This is going to be a trending topic,” ​she said.

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On the topic of skin health, gut microbiome specialist firm GenieBiome is also looking creating new products for hair loss and adult eczema.

It has already developed a formulation for kids’ eczema which could also help support immunity through its use of zinc acetate and calcium acetate.

The product, suitable for children aged one to five, was first launched in Hong Kong last March.

“We have developed this product because we have seen that if you are able to modify or strengthen your gut health, your ability to regulate inflammation will improve,” ​said Wong, added that regulation was one of the causes of eczema.

The product has been trialled, which showed that eczema severity had reduced from ‘severe’ to ‘moderate’ in 50 per cent of the participants after three months of supplementation.

There was also a 100 per cent reduction from ‘moderate’ to ‘mild’ condition.

Findings of the trial, which was conducted in the paediatric department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, are expected to be published in an international journal early this year.

Gut microbiome solutions for bloating, vaginal health and beyond just biotics

This year, it is expected that there will be a sustained demand for probiotics addressing bloating, diarrhoea, and vaginal health, as well as gut microbiome solutions beyond just biotics.

“In 2024, we anticipate a sustained demand for probiotics targeting bloating, diarrhoea and vaginal health. A notable shift towards personalised solutions is also expected, taking into account demographic and lifestyle variations,”​ said Alan Yi, general manager of Life-Space Group.

In addition, there might be more demand for probiotics catering to pregnancy and lactation needs in markets such as China due to a potential higher birth rate in the Year of the Dragon this year.

“Areas with higher fertility rates might require specialised products catering to the needs of pregnancy and lactation. This is also in line with the cultural significance of the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese culture, where family planning becomes crucial,” ​he said.

On the other hand, while pre-, pro-, and postbiotics are the hottest go-to ingredients when it comes to the gut microbiome, other solutions, such as faecal microbiota transplant (FMT), have been cited for new product development this year. 

GenieBiome, for example, believes that there will be a trend for FMT solutions.

“There is a higher acceptance of gut microbiome rejuvenation treatment or therapy for various conditions and that awareness is increasing and it will for sure, continue to be a trend.

“At the moment, the gut microbiome intervention is mostly through probiotics, but we also believe that there will be a trend in FMT, because probiotics, sometimes, might not be able to address all our gut microbiome issues, and so we may need to rely on FMT,” ​said Wong.

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He said that GenieBiome would start to “move more into that [FMT] direction” ​in terms of products.

“We will look into offering FMT services for certain disease and hopefully will have our first service offered to the market. We have something in the pipeline and so we will not limit ourselves to providing therapeutics and screening kits,”​ he said, adding that the FMT service would be provided through hospitals.

At present, all of the company’s products contain synbiotics – the combination of pre- and probiotics.

Wong emphasised that probiotic strains used in the company’s products were carefully picked for the Asian population, while the prebiotics were chosen depending on how well they could work with the probiotic strains.

Elsewhere in Australia, bone broth supplements were sold out​ because of its perceived benefits for overall health and gut health.

Melrose, which acquired bone broth firm Best of the Bone last August, said that the consumers were resonating with the product from

“Probably the biggest reason is that a lot of people are identifying this type of product as being beneficial for their overall health, not only from an anti-inflammatory perspective, but from a gut health perspective,” ​Nathan Cheong, CEO of Melrose Health Group, told us earlier.

Meeting mobility needs through milk powder products  

Milk powder products for mobility needs will continue to drive growth, especially in markets such as China and Vietnam.

China is no doubt a big market for adult nutrition milk formula, with milk powder brands such as Nestle, a2, Abbott, and Australia’s Maxigenes and BTNature making it into the top 10 bestselling food products chart on Tmall during last year Double 11.

Just a month ago, Nestle also launched a series of milk powder marketed as the N3 milk ​ in China. The range includes a SKU for supporting bone health, muscle growth and strength, and another SKU for immune support, both designed for the ageing population. A full cream and a skimmed milk powder were also launched.

Made from cow’s milk, the products contain essential nutrients including proteins, vitamins, minerals, probiotic fibers, and has a low lactose content with 15 per cent lower calories.

Its greatest selling point, is perhaps, the use of Nestle’s proprietary enzymatic solution that could naturally turn lactose into dietary fibre and reduce total sugars at the same time.

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“In terms of adult formulas, we can see that particularly in China, with the birth rate declining that there is growing demand for adult products. China is a big market to look out for when it comes to adult nutrition…We see the same in Vietnam too,” ​said Jeremy Okraglik, co-founder of Australia’s organic milk formula firm Nutura.  

Bone and muscle health is one of the key reasons for consuming adult milk powder, he said.

“Bone and muscle health is one reason [for taking adult milk powder] as you begin to age,” ​he said.

Australia’s Back to Nature (BTNature) added that the adult milk powder market has gradually matured, with more people choosing milk powder products for daily health needs and also out of price consideration.

Product quality and price are areas where brands could work on to grow their market shares in China, said Eddy Luo, CEO of BTNature China.

Currently, the firm’s bestsellers in China are its premium full cream instant milk powder and its premium skim instant milk powder.

Using a patented medium heat powder spraying technology, Luo said that the technique could protect actives such as vitamin A, D, whey protein in the milk powder.

Okraglik also noticed that Vietnam was another country with huge consumption of adult milk powder.

“In Vietnam, there is a big consumption not only in infant formula, but milk powder for adults as well. That market is quite familiar with milk powder and nutritional milk powders, so there's a big opportunity in Vietnam,” ​he said.

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