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Looking for a Bigger Bite—Selling Beauty from Within

By: Carrie Lennard, Euromonitor International
Posted: March 3, 2010, from the March 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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A sizeable majority of consumers, however, are unable or unwilling to undergo surgery, which fuels a market for a less expensive option and could open a window of demand for nutraceutical products. The concept of maintaining an outward appearance through ingestibles is nothing new to consumers, thanks to strong government and media emphasis on the effects of healthy eating on the skin. The leap from this to the concept of beauty foods and pills should, in theory, not be too great. Yet, in reality, many consumers remain highly skeptical about the efficacy of nutraceuticals.

Popularity of Nutraceuticals Varies Globally

In some countries, nutraceuticals play a big role in the beauty market. In Japan, for example, there are speciality stores dedicated to sales of such products. Beauty-boosting ingestibles are also widely sold through pharmacies in Western Europe, yet the category is still relatively underdeveloped in many countries—especially in key markets such as the U.S. Due to stringent regulations, the U.S. market is lagging behind, representing only 4% of the total beauty supplements market, but a growing interest is gradually blossoming as Americans become better acquainted with appearance-enhancing functional foods and drinks. In 2008, sales of beauty supplements in the U.S. totalled just $80 million—less than a tenth of the size of the Japanese market. However, it was by far the most dynamic growth market, with a 42% rise in beauty supplement value sales in 2008 compared to just a 4% growth seen in Japan for the same time period.

The Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare assess the quality of nutraceutical products and only issue the FOSHU (foods for specific health use) seal of approval if they meet up to its stringent standards. Unlike in many Western markets where functional food products are largely unregulated and, therefore, are often met with skepticism, the Japanese classification system lends a degree of credibility to products that measure up to its standards, and is driving sales of nutraceuticals in the country.

Clear Message; Ingredient Offering Key to Success

Part of the problem of selling nutraceuticals in many markets is that many consumers regard beauty foods, drinks and supplements as being chemically altered rather than natural. This means that the image of nutraceuticals does not sit entirely comfortably with the boom in sales of natural and organic foodstuffs and beauty products and the associated marketing messages that these products carry, which tend to emphasize their lack of added ingredients.

For example, consider British drink brand Innocent’s Superfruit Smoothies tagline: “Superfruit recipes are a blend of whole crushed fruit, pure juices and absolutely nothing else.” This contrasts with the unique selling position of Danone’s now defunct beauty yogurt Essensis, which contained a rather mystical sounding “Pronutris” ingredient. While such obscure ingredient terminology may still wash in the cosmetics industries (especially the antiaging segment), the zeitgeist of the consumer foods industry is leaning far more toward the former line of marketing: Consumers want to understand exactly what they are ingesting and tend to mistrust that which they don’t. This could well have been part of the problem in Danone’s failure to develop consumer confidence in Essensis and led to its ultimate withdrawal from sales in most markets.

Bite the Bullet; Conduct Clinical Trials