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Vitamins Gaining New Popularity with Consumers

Jan. 21, 2009
Vitamins are gaining new popularity as they claim specific health benefits; the word on a food label has consumer appeal.

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).

Tenacious D

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.

Cutting Edge Beverages (www.cuttingedgebeverages.com), Tulsa, Okla., makes H2Organics Kids Nutrient Enhanced Water. It contains 100 percent of the recommendation of vitamin C with added calcium for strong bones and teeth. The natural product is available in aseptic packs with straw in a Grape Berry, Orange Tangerine and Strawberry Apple varieties. Certified organic, it’s low in calories and carbs and contains half the sugar of juices.

Nestle’s Gerber unit (www.gerber.com), Fremont, Mich., based added ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to Gerber Graduates for Preschoolers Fruit Twists Real Fruit Snacks. The front of the package touts the “antioxidant power of vitamin C.”

Campbell Soup Co. (www.V-8juice.com), Camden, N.J., combines fresh fruits such as mangoes and strawberries with colorful vegetables such as purple carrots and sweet potatoes to create the 100 percent juice blend V8 V-Fusion. The taste is more fruit than vegetable. An 8-oz. glass of each of the five flavors (Acai Mixed Berry, Pomegranate Blueberry, Strawberry Banana, Peach Mango and Tropical Orange) delivers a full serving each of vegetables and fruit, as well as vitamins A (100 percent of the RDI), C (100 percent of RDI) and E (20 percent).

Jina Sohn, associate brand manager at Campbell, says these healthier drinks also solved a problem for school vending, following the movement to healthier snacks at schools. An alliance with Coca-Cola Co. provides a new distribution channel for Campbell while give Coca-Cola a product to replace its full-calorie soft drinks in school vending machines.

Ironically, Campbell’s marketers may not appreciate vitamins as much as they do antioxidants. They renamed A-C-E Vitamin Rich V8 as Essential Antioxidants V8 Vegetable Juice with no change to the recipe nor added vitamins A, C and E.

“Nano- and micro-emulsion processing have allowed for high nutrient density per serving and maintaining biological activity of vitamins A and C, which are slated to grow even more popular with all age groups,” says Ram Chaudhari, chief scientific officer at Schenectady, N.Y.-based Fortitech Inc. (www.fortitech.com).

Not just for nutrition

Vitamins are not just for the elderly and kids … and not just for internal health. Women are beginning to understand the beauty and anti-aging properties of vitamins.

Vitamins A, C, and E occur naturally in the skin and control free radicals that cause skin degradation and aging.

Vitamin A is a carotenoid and may be found in nature as an alcohol (retinol), aldehyde (retinal) and acid (retinoic acid). Some of those terms should be recognizable to women fighting the battle against skin aging. But retinol is highly susceptible to oxidation during processing and storage, especially at a pH below 5. Beta carotene is typically preferred because it is more stable than retinol and is converted to vitamin A in the body.

Vitamins are being touted to fight skin aging. Vitamin C ester is one of the key ingredients in Anti-Aging Whole Food Bar from Regeneration USA.

Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, prevents oxidative reactions and free radical formation. When combined with vitamin E, C shows synergy, according to two clinical trials that compared the effects of vitamins C and E taken individually and together. Vitamin C rejuvenates vitamin E to its antioxidant form; maintaining antioxidant levels higher than that of free radicals prevents collagen and elastin from breaking down and forming fine lines and wrinkles.

Nestlé (www.glowelle.com), Glendale, Calif., launched Glowelle, a vitamin-enriched supplement drink currently sold exclusively at Neiman Marcus stores, “to protect and hydrate the inner and outer layers.” Glowelle formulators specifically incorporated vitamin C to sustain vitamin E functionality to fight free radicals with the other core bioactives. 

An Anti-Aging Whole Food Bar comes from Regeneration USA (www.regenerationusa.com), Alpine, N.J. The anti-aging power of vitamin C ester is touted along with anti-inflammatory nutrients, including fruit flavonoids, DMAE, alpha lipoic acid and omegas 3, 6 and 9 – to nourish the body from the inside out with nutrients that may slow aging.

Vitamins seem to sell condiments and marinades, too. Lucio DiCicco, founder of DiChickO’s (www.dichickos.com), an Augusta, Ga., maker of gourmet sauces, figured taste was not the only criterion for those seeking premium foods. DiChickO’s makes a number of sauces and marinades using peri-peri peppers. In addition to 175,000 Scoville units of heat, peri-peris are a rich source of vitamin A, C and beta carotene.

Beverages are a key vehicle for vitamins largely because the large serving size allows product developers ample room for “per-serving” levels of vitamins. Encapsulation can help disperse the fat-soluble vitamins A and E for optimal distribution and stability, while minimizing deleterious effects on finished-product characteristics.

The encapsulant material has to be selected carefully so as to not affect the finished product quality. Gelatin encapsulants tend to react with polyphenols in fruit juices and create sedimentation. The emerging micro- and nano-emulsions can help disperse fat-soluble vitamins without cloudiness.

Charlotte Fredrickson of DSM Nutritionals suggests modified food starch-based oil-in-water emulsions of vitamin E. The resulting nano-sized particles (less than 100nm) are no longer visible and create the illusion of clear solution without creaming up or sedimentation. “Microencapsulation helps overcome the stability and interaction with other ingredients issues with vitamin C,” she says.

In and out of the pipeline

Vitamins can lend a health halo to a number of foods.

While the marketing spin focuses on the skin nourishment, the added vitamins (A and C along with biotin, zinc and of course cocoa flavanols) add to the attraction of Dove Beautiful milk chocolates from Mars Inc. (www.mars.com) Hackettstown, N.J.

DCI Cheese Co. (www.dcicheese.com), Richfield, Wis., launched Meza VitaHummus with 25 percent of the RDI of vitamins A, C and E per serving. Frank Chow, marketing manager, says the added vitamins “encourage consumers to eat hummus every day.”

If vitamins can fortify hummus, they can expand into a number of other, perhaps unexpected, categories. Denver-based Humm Foods (www.hummfoods.com), now a subsidiary of General Mills, added vitamins to enhance the nutritionals of Lärabar JamFrakas, a “crispy chewy food bar for kids.” The four varieties are fortified with vitamins and minerals. 

Generex Marketing claims to deliver “instant sustainable energy” thanks to the vitamins in its spray Baboom.

There is even an energy spray made by Generex Marketing & Distribution, Toronto. Adding vitamins B3 and B6 along with taurine and caffeine create the energy boost in Baboom.
Vitamin K is a relative newcomer to the vitamin spotlight. It includes K1 and K2 forms; the former is poorly absorbed while the latter is highly bioavailable.

Norway-based NattoPharma’s (www.nattopharma.com) MenaQ7 is a commercially produced vitamin K2 that was recently declared self-affirmed GRAS for dairy foods by an independent panel of experts. PL Thomas (www.plthomas.com), Morristown, N.J., is the distributor for the U.S.

Late in 2008, researcher Leon Schurgers at the VitaK institute at the University of Maastricht, Netherlands (www.vitak.com), published recent discoveries that natural vitamin K2 menaquinones – and particularly the longer menaquinones called MK-7, 8 and 9 – had a pivotal role in preventing calcification of the arteries and the decalcification of the bones. The study used MenaQ7 produced by NattoPharma.

So far vitamin K2 has been showing up only in dietary supplements. The Rotterdam Study followed approximately 4,800 subjects between 1990 and 1993, and again until January 2000. It showed vitamin K2 reduced the risk of coronary heart disease mortality and arterial calcification (www.menaq7.com). In this study, vitamin K1 had no effect at all. Rodger Jonas, national business development manager at PL Thomas, says vitamin K2 is being tested in cereal and salad dressing applications.

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