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Buying into Functional Foods

Alisa Marie Beyer

So much confusion swirls around the topic of nutricosmetics. Beauty consumers ask: What are they? How do they differ from nutraceuticals? Are they safe? Even with all of these questions, the fact remains that women are open to just about anything when it comes to beautifying themselves. East has definitely met West with an explosion of new nutricosmetics and nutraceuticals, already popular in Asian markets, flooding Western markets. What will it take to get them to go from confused to convinced?

Swallowing the Idea

The old adage, “You are what you eat,” is a seemingly simple concept, but when it comes to nutraceuticals and nutricosmetics, the idea is a bit harder to swallow. Foods specifically developed to enhance beauty are one of the newest trends, but perhaps the hardest to market in North America. Convincing skeptics that the products are both cosmetically effective and food-grade is the biggest challenge.

According to the 2008 Pink Report “The Age of Naturals,” 72% of women who bought natural or organic beauty products believed in the concept of inside-out beauty—that what is ingested is equally key to physical beauty. Even so, women buyers still remain cautious in trying nutricosmetics, with an astounding 91% not knowing what a nutricosmetic is. But, don’t fret, their lack of education has no correlation with their willingness to try, swinging the doors wide open to marketers and manufacturers.

In Asian markets, notably Japan, nutraceuticals are anything but uncommon. The Japanese have a long-standing and rich culture with herbal remedies. Something like collagen-enriched chicken soup for lunch followed by collagen marshmallows for dessert might seem an odd thing to order in the West, but the Japanese find nothing at all unusual about it. It certainly won’t be long until the West catches up, but, for now, an emerging nutraceutical and nutricosmetic market is beginning to sprout. From gummy bears to yogurt, eating and drinking to attain beautiful skin remains the newest segment of beauty, and savvy marketers and formulators should not wait any longer to make their foray into the category.

Currently, teas and waters are the biggest product categories, but experts maintain that the largest potential for growth in the U.S. lies with dairy and chocolate products. Because Western beauty consumers are late to the game, and clearly more skeptical than their Asian counterparts, dairy and chocolate are a much less scary proposition. But why? An unsophisticated palette? Absolutely not. Western palettes love chocolate, and if consumers can eat it and gain beauty benefits, it’s a no brainer—they’ll happily eat it. Also, the perception of dairy, especially when it comes to yogurts, is very adventurous. Consumers are already comfortable with knowing that it is packed with all kinds of things that they don’t clearly understand anyway—so why not have it offer a beauty benefit? This is not sneaky, it’s just smartly tapping into what women are more likely to accept.

The Proof is in the Punch

In late 2008, Nestlé launched a clinically backed beauty drink dietary supplement. The drink, cleverly named Glowelle—playing on the words “glowing/wellness/woman”—has made its way to the top tier of the beauty market, selling at prestigious Neiman Marcus. Already, other retailers are clambering to get it into their doors. “It’s really exciting to bring a clinically proven product to women that helps them get healthy-looking, beautiful skin from the inside out,” said Kimberly Cooper, chief beauty officer of Glowelle.

One serving contains a proprietary blend of skin-beautifying antioxidants and ingredients such as vitamins A, C and E as well as lycopene and maritime pine bark extract. Perhaps the product’s most innovative inclusion is the 15,500 units of oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) per serving. ORAC—a measurement system developed at the National Institute on Aging in the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and utilized by the USDA—measures the antioxidant capacity of substances. A buzzword to the everyday woman, she now knows that antioxidants are critical to fighting free radicals, a common cause of skin aging. The clinical trial showed Glowelle protects skin from some of the damaging effects of the sun, helps even out skin tone and helps replenish antioxidants. Today’s beauty buying consumer wants to simplify her life, and this type of beauty-on-the go product seems to fit perfectly into her lifestyle.

Youth Seekers of all Ages Ignite Antiaging

The core demographic for nutraceuticals and nutricosmetics on the market tend to be baby boomers looking for additional antiaging solutions. With more disposable income, nutraceuticals can command a higher price point. One caution for a price structure such as this is that the younger beauty seeker could be alienated. It is key to note that much younger women are rushing to buy anything that keeps them looking young, and this a huge demographic to tap into. Distribution of nutraceuticals in the mass market will certainly prove to be fertile ground for growth, as it is much more price-sensitive. Even in this shaky economy, the antiaging category has continued to grow, and topped out at $1.6 billion in 2008. Inside-out beauty products have unlimited potential and the opportunity to be beauty blockbusters. With proper marketing to women of all ages and a heavy emphasis on education, these beauty consumers will inevitably become more comfortable and open.

Alisa Marie Beyer is CEO of The Benchmarking Company (TBC), a research and branding firm focused on the beauty industry. TBC’s women-only, permission-based Pink Panel provides beauty consumer data for the award-winning Pink Report, the quarterly research report that reveals what consumers of female beauty products want, what they’ll buy and why. E-mail:;

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Five Ways to Get Over the Functional Food Hurdle

  1. K.I.S.S.—“Keep it simple, stupid!” Educate the beauty consumer on the ABCs of nutricosmetics and nutraceuticals through packaging, marketing and advertising. This is a brand new category for her and she needs a lot of information.
  2. Communicate the safety of your product. Women want to know what they are ingesting is as safe as possible.
  3. Stress the ease and convenience of on-the-go beauty or a once-a-day dietary supplement.
  4. Emphasize and RE-EMPHASIZE the importance of a long-term commitment to the regimen for true beauty benefits.
  5. Don’t promise a magic potion. Overpromising and under delivering on efficacy is the kiss of death for your product.

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