Vitamins Gaining New Popularity with Consumers
Vitamins are gaining new popularity as they claim specific health benefits; the word on a food label has consumer appeal.
By Kantha Shelke, Contributing Editor | 01/21/2009
Vitamins once more are “in.” Consumers know and understand vitamins, and when all things are equal, they are more likely to pick the product with added vitamins. Vitamins generally imply the product is better.
Variety is more than the spice of life; variety is optimal for health. The same is true for vitamins. While some vitamins have managed to be recognized as independently essential for health, consumers are now beginning to understand the value of combinations and also know that today’s lifestyles need a boost of essential vitamins for optimal nutrition.
A major endorsement came when vitamins were added to, of all things, carbonated soft drinks. Coca-Cola in 2007 launched Diet Coke Plus, a calorie-free soda enriched with niacin, zinc, magnesium and vitamins B6 and B12. (Ironically, Coke was warned in December 2008 by the FDA to stop using the term “plus” – but that hasn’t been settled.)
A much more common beverage carrier for vitamins is water: think Vitaminwater. According to the Nielsen Co., vitamin-enhanced water is the growth leader in the water category, larger than the combined size of flavored and sparkling waters.
Coca-Cola Co. has been a proponent of adding vitamins to beverages. It bought Vitaminwater parent Glaceau in 2007, and late last year added vitamins B3, 6, 12 and E to its self-developed line of Dasani waters. Diet Coke Plus debuted in 2007.
In mid-2007, Coca-Cola Co. bought Vitaminwater parent Glaceau, also known as Energy Brands Inc. Coca-Cola subsequently added vitamins to its own water. Dasani Plus vitamin-enhanced flavored waters with zero calories come in three varieties: Refresh+Revive, Cleanse+Restore and Defend+Protect, each with 10 percent of the reference daily intake (RDI) of vitamins B3, B6, B12 (Defend+Protect also has 10 percent of the RDI of vitamin E).
One burgeoning application for vitamins, particularly vitamin D, is bone metabolism. This is another area growing because of the aging of the baby boom generation.
Apparently, the U.S. population is vitamin D deficient. The National Center for Health Statistics reports some 36 percent of all Americans lack enough of this crucial nutrient. The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine recently reported that 40 percent of infants and toddlers tested below the optimal blood threshold for vitamin D.
Richard Schilsky, a University of Chicago researcher, told Reuters, “Women with the lowest vitamin D levels have the highest risk of death from breast cancer.” Fortification can help offset the reduced intake of vitamin D; however, the fortificants need to be in a form that the body can assimilate.
Functionally, vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphorus allocation into bones. Supporting science generally points to the need for increased supplementation during the advanced years as for all bone-related nutrients. The National Osteoporosis Foundation predicts that by 2010, about 12 million people over the age of 50 will have osteoporosis and another 40 million will have low bone density.
The Coca-Cola Co.’s Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness at Boston University Medical Center emphasizes vitamin D supplementation in foods to compensate for low levels in modern dietary sources and inadequate exposure of modern lifestyles to sunshine.
Vitamin D includes vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which is produced in the skin on exposure to sunlight, and D2 (ergocalciferol), which is available to the body only through plant-based foods.
The body uses both D2 and D3 for storage and metabolism. Formulators typically add vitamin D3 in fortification of foods; it’s more stable due to one less double bond and can withstand the temperature conditions found during cheese ripening and heating during subsequent processing.
The future is bright for vitamin D, according to Gus Castro, senior technical marketing manager at DSM Nutritional Products Inc. (www.dsm.com), Parsippany, N.J. “The AAP [American Academy of Pediatrics] has doubled its recommended dose of vitamin D for children to 400 IUs per day. Meanwhile, the FDA approved a petition for osteoporosis risk reduction claims for calcium plus vitamin D fortified beverages.”
And while milk and other dairy products, because of their inherent calcium, are the most popular carriers for vitamin D, the nutrient can be added to milk replacements. In the Canadian market, Dean Foods’ White Wave Foods division adds vitamin D and calcium to its Silk soy milks, which also have NutraFlora, a prebiotic fiber from GTC Nutrition (www.nutraflora.com).
Also in Canada, vitamins A, D, B2 and B12 are added by Hain Celestial Group to Almond Dream Enriched Original Almond Drink made from almonds and to Oat Dream Enriched Original Oat Drink made from whole oats. Both products are kosher certified and cholesterol-free.
Fortifying for kids
Another application begging for vitamins is foods and beverages for children.
For decades, children’s food products have targeted their sweet tooth. Growing concerns about childhood obesity have prompted the emergence of healthy alternatives. Future growth in children’s drinks, however, will need to appeal to gate-keeper parents. Vitamins – intrinsic or added – legitimize the nutrition quality and value perception.