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Boom in bone health

20 September, 2011

Dairy products marketed on a bone health platform have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years, having originally primarily focused on a naturally high calcium content or calcium fortification, while largely relying on consumer awareness of its benefits.

More recently, bone health products have tended to see the greater use of ingredient blends, not only with calcium, but also vitamin D or other ingredients to help boost calcium absorption and bone formation.  Ingredients now promoted in bone health applications include vitamin K2, lysine, prebiotic fibres and soy isoflavones. 

While gut and digestive health remain the most popular claims for functional dairy products, there is also ongoing interest in bone health. Dairy launches using bone health or added calcium claims (or both) featured in over 17% of all dairy launches on an active health platform recorded on the Innova Database in the 12 months to the end of June 2011.  This was 4% of dairy launches as a whole.  The majority of bone health launches in the sector were in dairy drinks or dairy alternative (mainly soya) drinks, which accounted for over two-thirds of the total, well ahead of yoghurt with just over 15%.

Functional drinking milks have traditionally focused on ingredients being added (vitamins, minerals, probiotics, etc.) and a general health positioning rather than using more specific health claims and as a result have not always been regarded as functional, if a strict definition of the term is used.  This is starting to change, however, with the launch of more specialist milks, although the market remains fairly fragmented and highly regionalised, with countries such as the USA and Spain having large markets, partially reflecting large liquid milk consumption levels.

Spain has one of the largest European markets for vitamin-and mineral-enriched milks, with particular strength in calcium-fortified products. The first calcium-fortified milk on the Spanish market was introduced by Puleva in 1993, and a burst of activity in fortified milks followed, consistently building the market up to its current level where calcium-enriched lines accounted for over 16% of the Spanish milk market in 2010.  Product activity in calcium milks is now focusing more specifically on bone health ingredients used in addition to calcium, as exemplified by Puleva’s late 2010 introduction of its Calcio con Isoflavonas de Soja – a skimmed milk with calcium and soya isoflavones.

Meanwhile, in the yoghurt market, specialist bone health products are starting to appear in Europe, with Innova Market Insights recording recent activity led by Danone with its Densia yoghurt with added calcium and vitamin D. It was launched in Spain in 2009 targeted at older women, whereas most added calcium products in the past have tended to be aimed at the children’s market.  It met with some initial success in Spain and has since been launched in Portugal and also in Italy, where it is called Danaos.  Testing of Densia in France proved disappointing, however, and it was announced in the autumn of 2010 that it would not be launched onto the French market. In 2011, it was introduced in Brazil in both the more usual spoonable and a dose-delivery drink format. 

Interestingly, General Mills, which has just purchased a 51% controlling share in the world’s number two yoghurt brand Yoplait, having held the US licence for the brand since 1977, announced in July 2011 that it was looking for new ingredients or technologies for fermented dairy products to move ‘beyond the known impact of calcium and vitamin D’ to boost the bone formation process, as well as looking at solutions to increasing calcium absorption.

Source: Innova

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