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Day 1 of Vitafoods Europe 2024 revealed how B2B innovation and B2C consumer education will shape nutraceuticals

Vitafoods Europe 2024 once again solidified its position as the premier gathering for nutraceutical experts, showcasing the industry’s rapid response to evolving consumer demands. This year’s edition highlighted consumer adventurousness and a strong appetite for holistic, sustainable solutions offering multifunctional benefits. Plant-based ingredients endure in popularity, with alternative protein sources and omega 3 from algae taking centre stage, reflecting a commitment to promoting environmental sustainability alongside preserving well-being. The rise of mushrooms in the nutraceutical space, driven by a deeper understanding of the holistic benefits of mycelium networks, aligns with consumers’ desire for ingredients supporting a more interconnected approach to health. Sea-based ingredients like algae and seaweed are also making waves, attracting consumers with their unique nutritional profiles, rare minerals and novelty factor. 

For B2B companies, these trends present a golden opportunity to capitalise on the evolving market by developing cutting-edge health solutions using natural, sustainable ingredients that provide a ‘wow-factor’ for consumers. However, success in this dynamic landscape requires more than just innovative products; it demands strategic partnerships and effective consumer education. Vitafoods Europe 2024 emphasised the crucial role of B2B brands in collaborating with B2C businesses to share scientifically substantiated and proprietary data, empowering them to educate customers about ground breaking ingredients in popular categories like healthy aging and holistic health. As the nutraceutical industry continues to evolve, the integration of advanced technology with sustainable, evidence-based health solutions will define the new vanguard of excellence. The future of nutraceuticals belongs to B2B companies that can successfully navigate this exciting and transformative landscape. 

The future of functional, beneficial ingredients in the spotlight 

The presentation from Nicole Johnson, Team Manager of Insights and Innovation at Innova Market Insights, delved into how consumer demands for healthier products are evolving and the role functional ingredients play in meeting these expectations. For B2B marketers in food and beverages, Johnson’s insights provide a valuable roadmap for navigating an increasingly health-conscious market. The growing focus on healthy ageing, particularly among younger generations, underscores the need for companies to prioritise incorporating functional ingredients that promote resilient ageing from within into their portfolio. The presentation highlighted the surging popularity of sea-based ingredients, with algae as an alternate omega-3 solution experiencing a remarkable 40% increase in CAGR. Alternate omega-3s were notably on display across the show floor, representing the next articulation of a solution long established for its heart, eye, brain and immune health benefits.  Johnson emphasised the ‘mushroom revolution’, with Chaga and reishi mushrooms showing growth rates of 72% and 53%, respectively. Mushrooms are gaining properly alongside an increase in understanding of the holistic benefits of mycelium networks, demonstrated by the popularity of books like Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save The World and TV shows such as Netflix’s Fantastic Fungi, alongside recognition of their impressive health benefits, including immune system support, antioxidant properties and stress reduction. 

Ingredient marketing experts have a unique opportunity to leverage these insights by aligning with the broader shift towards holistic wellness across consumer categories, including food and beauty. Johnson cited innovative food examples that successfully incorporate functional ingredients: Renourish soup, a nutrient-fortified “super healthy” soup, and Happy Cookies, which feature a range of healthy ingredients like carrots, parcels of grain or seed and flaxseed. These products reveal how functional nutrition can expand beyond the typical supplements and beverages, providing valuable inspiration for B2B professionals looking to market functional ingredient solutions beyond conventional nutraceuticals or supplements.  

Success now more than ever lies in the strategic use of digital tools and platforms to educate and engage consumers on the benefits of functional ingredients, and Johnson highlighted two compelling case studies that demonstrate the power of this approach. Neutrogena collaborated with a food company to create ‘skin stacks’, personalised supplement packs designed to support skin health from the inside out. This partnership demonstrates how attractive nutritional solutions are currently for beauty brands trying to meet the intersecting health from within and healthy ageing trends. Similarly, Nivea launched a commercial campaign that utilises AI technology to specifically address the impact of sugar consumption on wrinkles, promoting their lotion as a targeted solution. Both campaigns utilised personalisation alongside technology effectively, providing a blueprint for how digital tools can support brands in fulfilling multiple consumer needs (healthy aging, health from within, personalisation) simultaneously.  

What does science-led mean to Holland & Barrett? 

Holland & Barrett is the UK’s leading health and wellness retailer – and its new approach to harnessing emerging science provides an interesting blueprint for how the B2B sector can work with consumer businesses to expand their market reach. Abbie Cawood, Holland & Barrett’s Head of Science, provided a valuable perspective on how consumers are increasingly valuing evidence-based solutions, holistic wellness and efficacy, with 81% considering it important.  

It will come as no surprise to B2B marketers that it’s essential to focus on scientific substantiation while developing new solutions. What’s particularly interesting is that retailers like Holland & Barrett are now creating opportunities for nutraceuticals developers to share research which advances consumer education. The business recently launched an educational app that answers consumer’s questions about ingredients and shares advice on clinically proven effectiveness, making technical content easily accessible and clear. “Holland and Barrett is overlaying customer questions with scientific evidence to provide personalised guidance through initiatives like their app and ‘Your Hormone Health Guide’, a campaign which has 600 trained women’s health coaches in stores to provide advice and support.” Sara Houghton, Consultant at BDB who attended the talk, shared. “This expands possibilities for ingredient companies to partner with Holland & Barrett, sharing insights that can inform and enhance awareness and help customers find the best solution to meet their needs.” 

As consumers become more educated about the health benefits of various ingredients, they are likely to be more receptive to trying new formulations proven to be effective, aligning with the broader trend of consumers proactively managing their health through a preventative, holistic approach. While many companies effectively communicate scientific evidence to businesses, the direct translation to consumers remains a challenge. Holland and Barrett’s initiative to bridge this gap sets a commendable example. 

The future of innovation: Top start up trends transforming the nutraceutical industry 

Data-driven personalisation emerged as a central theme at a panel discussion delving into the top trends propelling the nutraceutical industry. The panel included Imran Afzal, the R&D open innovation lead for the EU at Mondelez International; Aline Santa Izabel, startup ecosystem services lead at Health Data Sweden; and Nard Clabbers, founder of NCNC Nutrition Consultancy. The panel was hosted by Martyna Halas who leads the Vitafoods Europe Startup Innovation Challenge.  

The experts cautioned that the challenge of translating real-world insights into actions lies not in data collection but in effective analysis and interpretation, communicated in a way that consumers understand. “For startups considering data-driven product development, the speakers recommended focusing on a small, targeted dataset that can be thoroughly analysed is more impactful than amassing a large, complex dataset,” shared Sara. This allows developers to innovate specialised solutions that address specific consumer needs. 

Panellists also emphasised the need for simplicity and guidance in delivering personalised nutrition. “The speakers highlighted the fact that consumers can become overwhelmed by an influx of complex data. The key is to provide streamlined, actionable insights that empower them to make informed decisions about their health,” noted Sara. Wearable devices and biomarker testing is only effective if consumers understand how to respond to the data they’re receiving and integrate it into daily life. This is where digital therapeutics, which combine hardware, software and mobile applications to provide personalised health insights and guidance, can bridge the gap between data collection and actionable behaviour change.  “This talk, when considered alongside the Holland & Barrett presentation, indicates there’s a growing opportunity for B2B businesses to strengthen their partnerships by providing educational material and scientific research that B2C brands can use to positively affect the lifestyle of their consumers,” adds Sara. 

Looking ahead, the intersection of personalised nutrition and public health initiatives presents exciting possibilities. Panellists cited examples of private healthcare schemes incentivising preventative behaviours, such as reimbursements for purchasing healthy foods or meeting fitness goals. As governments increasingly recognise the value of proactive wellness, there may be opportunities for nutraceutical companies to collaborate on population-level initiatives. 

What we learnt from day 1 

Vitafoods Europe 2024 revealed a clear trajectory for the nutraceutical industry. Consumers are increasingly adventurous in their pursuit of holistic wellness, embracing novel ingredients like mushroom-based solutions and alternative omega-3 sources. B2B brands can capitalise on this emerging adventurous spirit by providing scientifically substantiated and proprietary data to B2C brands for consumer communication. Not only will this solidify partnerships, the education piece can propel the popularity of novel ingredient solutions, particularly in trending categories such as healthy ageing, health from within and holistic health. The integration of cutting-edge technology with sustainable, evidence-based health solutions represents the new vanguard of nutraceutical excellence, and companies that successfully navigate this exciting landscape will be well-positioned to lead the industry into the future. 

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