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Interest grows in Vitamin K2 addition

18 March, 2011

Vitamin K2 appears to be in line to become the next big thing in functional foods, as evidence has grown about its beneficial role in bone and cardiovascular health.

It has already been finding increasing use in dietary supplements. However its early 2011 awarding of GRAS status for dairy foods in the USA has followed on from its EU Novel Foods approval in 2009.

Along with the rising number of natural and synthetic branded ingredients now appearing on the market, it all seems to be pointing in the direction of new growth.

The number of products launched which contain vitamin K2 remains relatively limited globally, although the Innova Database (www.Innovadatabase.com) reveals that introductions recorded rose by over 40% in 2010. 

The key focus to date, according to a review of the Innova data, has been in dietary supplements. These include sports nutrition lines, with a growing range of products appearing that highlight the use of natural vitamin K2 derived from the traditional Japanese soy-based health food, natto. 

The USA, with its large and highly developed supplements market, has been particularly active in this area. 

There has been increasing use of vitamin K2 as an additional component of bone health supplements and vitamin D complexes.

Products which more prominently feature the vitamin K2 content include Doctors Best Natural Vitamin K2 MenaQ7, Life Extension Super Booster SoftGels with Advanced K2 Complex and Nature’s Sunshine Krill Oil with K2, all launched in the USA in 2010. 

A cereal bar with vitamin K2 was even launched on the US market in 2010, although it maintained a dietary supplement positioning in the Nature’s Plus Source Of Life Gold range, marketed as blood-supporting and bone-building. 

This type of product had already been launched in Japan, which often tends to lead globally in terms of novel ingredient awareness and use. 

The launch of Kirin Yakult’s Lieta soybean cereal bars was recorded by Innova in 2008, emphasising the vitamin K2 content. Even prior to that, some launches of natto in Japan were marketed as being rich in vitamin K2 for bone health, as exemplified by Mizkan Drops of Gold Natto, launched as long ago as 2006.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of vitamin K2 ingredient suppliers have been actively promoting its use and benefits.

The market remains highly branded, with natural products such as Nattopharma of Norway’s MenaQ7 and Danisco’s ActivK, as well as more cost-effective synthetic lines such as Kappa’s K2 MK-7 (also to be marketed by Danisco, following an agreement in March 2011). 

While the natural version is most suited to manufacturers wanting to focus on a natural label, the less expensive synthetic lines may prove a better approach for developing mass market use. 

According to Lu Ann Williams, Research Manager at Innova Market Insights, vitamin K2-fortified food and drink product launches are likely to start imminently in the USA, following the recent GRAS approval of Nattopharma’s MenaQ7 for use in dairy foods. 

"Dairy is an excellent starting point," she contends "appearing to be well suited as a delivery system for vitamin K2 because of the strong existing links between dairy products and bone health, and the natural levels of calcium and vitamin D in many dairy lines, which can act synergistically with vitamin K."

"Meanwhile in Europe" she adds "work is still ongoing on a heart health claim for vitamin K2, which will extend its potential even further if it is granted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), as hoped, during 2011."

For further information on the Innova Database, the representative for Australia and New Zealand is Glen Wells (Glen.Wells@innova-food.com.au).

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