Nutraceutical market is a high-growth and ever changing market, requiring companies throughout the supply chain – packaging manufacturers included – to find new solutions tackling the challenges and the opportunities arising globally.
As a recent PMMI Business Intelligence demonstrates, the global market for nutraceuticals will grow at a 7.5% rate, and will transform from a $241 billion market in 2019 to $373 billion in 2025, with considerable growth especially in the US, in Asia Pacific and Western Europe. Asia Pacific, in particular, accounted for a dominant share and is anticipated to witness the fastest growth over the forecast period due to rapidly increasing product demand in India, China, and South Korea. Expansion of the retail sector in emerging economies such as China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India, in light of increasing regulatory support, is expected to increase accessibility to buyers over the forecast period.
Despite these positive figures and insights, nutraceutical market is all but an easy business. Consumers around the world are indeed more and more looking for alternatives that ensure a better health and supply all their nutritional needs, for their general well-being or specific tasks such as diet integration or weight management.
Nutraceutical packaging is strictly related to these market trends, and the industry is moving away from standard containers towards the development of new customer-friendly solutions, aimed at making simpler and more effective the consumption of nutraceutical products through ergonomic design, new materials or technologies.
When referring to nutraceuticals, we describe a broad array of products. The term describes any product derived from food sources with extra health benefits in addition to the basic nutritional value naturally found in foods. Even though there is no common categorization for nutraceuticals, this kind of products are divided into four types, namely, functional food, functional beverages, dietary supplements, and personal care. Functional food is further sub-segmented into probiotics fortified food, omega fatty acid fortified food, branded ionized salt, branded wheat flour market, and other functional food. Functional beverages are further segmented into fruit & vegetable juices and drinks, dairy & dairy alternative drinks, non-carbonated drinks (bottled water, tea, and coffee), and other products such as herbal teas, sports drinks and energy drinks. In addition, dietary components include proteins & peptides, vitamins & minerals, herbals, fatty acids and fibers.
In such a fragmented market, packaging specifically conceived for this industry must consider the different peculiarities of the categories, that also imply strong differences in packaging materials and features.
Anyway, in this highly diversified scenario, Bormioli Pharma has identified some common, incisive, here-to-stay consumers trends that need to be addressed by companies aiming to benefit most from the market’s growth.
First of all, a cross trend that is affecting society and economy as a whole, and also has strong impacts on the nutraceutical market and in consumers’ purchase behavior: sustainability. As a Natural Marketing Institute survey demonstrates, 67% of consumers indicates that environmental responsibility is among the top 10 criteria used in the purchase decision in dietary supplements, being it more relevant – just to make an example – of the organic nature of the supplements (63%) and the relevancy of the brand in the national market (59%). Moreover, according to another recent research conducted by Accenture, more than half of consumers are willing to pay a premium price for sustainable products designed to be reused or recycled.
This means packaging is a crucial factor of success of a nutraceutical product, and relying on suppliers that provide sustainable solutions can have a direct, considerable effect on sales and revenues for the companies in the industry.
In this scenario, Bormioli Pharma is working since more than a decade to promote green plastic solutions suitable for food contact, developing a wide range of sustainable plastic packaging: for example, a bottle made of 100% rPET, which features exactly the same performances of its virgin counterpart (PET), allowing the creation of a highly-customized solution according to customer needs, is already in production on an industrial basis.
The product also features an excellent transparency, low levels of contamination, as well as physical and mechanical properties comparable to virgin PET, and – as an additional certification of excellence – has been rated compliant according to the European Pharmacopoeia.
Moreover, green plastic solutions can also be applied to packaging accessories, such as caps, cups and spoons. That’s why the development of accessories in food-grade PLA – fully degradable within 60 days in industrial compost facilities – and caps in green PE is already in place.
A second trend is about lifestyle, that is progressively shifting – temporary sanitary emergencies aside – towards out-of-home experiences and consumptions, with an accelerated, fast-paced way of living that privileges and incentives on the go consumptions. A very good example to describe this trend is sports integrators, that require a small packaging, an immediate consumption and the possibility to consume it even while the workout is taking place. That’s why the development of dual-chambers single-dose products is trending, combining a travel-size format with an instant activation of the product. This procedure guarantees the effectiveness of the integrator, with fresh ingredients and a comfortable consumption.
A third growing trend in nutraceutical packaging is product safeguard against external agents (i.e, humidity, oxygen, light). As nutraceutical products are particularly sensitive – being mostly based on vegetal APIs – and more perishable than pharma ones, a special attention must be paid to protect them, in order to preserve their integrity for a longer time, allowing companies to supply a more effective product and a better service to end users.
This is not just a matter of shelf life: for some niches, such as probiotics for example, external agents and more specifically humidity determine whether the product is effective or not. In highly regulated markets, such as Italy, this is a hot topic as the minimum amount of bacteria CFUs (Colony Forming Units) contained in a single dose is set. But also the European Food Safety Agency reported that, even though “increasing the number of any groups of bacteria is not in itself considered as beneficial […] the Panel considers that support a balanced/beneficially affect intestinal microflora in the context of decreasing potentially pathogenic intestinal microorganisms might be beneficial to human health”.
Innovations are in place to give an answer to this trend: Bormioli Pharma has done this through the development of a new barrier technology, soon available on the market, that does not allow moisture to penetrate inside the container, also featuring an active absorption function, preventing the generation of humidity inside the packaging. At first, this technology will be applicable to EasyRec, one of the best-selling Bormioli Pharma’s dual chamber solutions. In a second time, it could be applied also to AccuRec and PowerRec, the other two systems of the company’s dual chamber family.
This new technology will be presented at Vitafoods Europe in Geneve, featuring a performance increase of 75% compared to the previous version.
Tackling counterfeiting is another challenge that also the nutraceutical industry has to face. The wide range of products – hundreds of thousands of references on the global market – leaves the nutraceutical market open to counterfeiting.
The most common, and therefore the most reported ways, of counterfeiting nutraceuticals are to undercut its ingredients with other substances partially or to replace them with other substances completely, and then misrepresent the ingredients on the label.
Bormioli Pharma is developing a vision in which the packaging produced in the manufacturing sites can be electronically traced, storing any relevant product and lifecycle management information. A unique and not counterfeitable code, strictly linked to the product and hosted in the only element where counterfeiting cannot happen: primary packaging.
Our challenge is to work on the packaging single elements to establish and guarantee an intimate and secure relation between physical and digital, making them effectively connected in a safe, unique, sophisticated and complex way.
Our track and trace solution, developed in collaboration with the Center for Nano Science and Technology (CNST) of Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), will work through product marking, building a not editable technologically advanced tracking solution. Bormioli Pharma tested several marking technologies currently developed and available on the market; among all them, Bormioli Pharma would like to focus the attention on ultra-fast pulse laser direct writing, an innovative technology that has not yet been deeply explored in pharmaceutical or nutraceutical packaging, providing complex information throughout the supply chain and also accessible to consumers.
Last but not least, there is a brand new, high growing segment such as supplements based on CBD, especially in Italy where regulation has been recently loosened allowing the sale of CBD-derived nutraceutical products. In this case, glass amber vials fit particularly well – as they allow a stronger protection from external agents, such as humidity and oxygen – combined with a child-resistant closure dropper pipette. This said, for other forms in which CBD-based products can be sold – syrups, pills, capsules – all the existing range of oral products can serve effectively the purpose.
All these trends show how companies can take benefit from a continuously evolving market. But in order to do that, there is a final step nutraceutical companies and the supply chain must undertake: establishing a closer and closer collaboration. In this way, nutraceutical products manufacturers can take greater and greater benefits from the solutions specifically conceived by their partners, and the supply chain players can take advantage of a more open, porous environment, addressing emerging and latent market needs through innovation.
To read full published article, see Spring issue, Nutraceuticals now 2020.