Supplement and nutraceutical makers invest significantly to deliver new innovations within existing categories, as well as entirely new products in this highly competitive market.

We take a closer look at some of the innovations released in recent years, which help to keep products at the cutting-edge of this exciting sector and top of mind among discerning consumers.

Organic and natural ingredients

As the world grapples with a pandemic, more people are focusing on their overall health and wellness.

In their quest to improve their lifestyles and lose weight, many are focused on overhauling their diet by dropping overly processed foodstuffs and sugar and are including more natural and organic products.

And the same trend is emerging in the supplement sector as consumers demand products with healthier ingredients and products that positively impact their bodies and the environment.

While the demand for organic, ethically-sourced ingredients was already on the rise before the pandemic, the novel coronavirus has exponentially increased consumers’ appetite for these products.

In response, supplement manufacturers are creating formulations that contain non-GMO and organic ingredients.

A popular category is organic whey, which is created using dairy from organically-reared cows that are typically grass-fed, range freely and aren’t given artificial growth hormones or antibiotics. These products are often formulated without added sugars, preservatives and colourants.

Similarly, native whey products are popping up on more supplement store shelves. Native whey has gained momentum as the new trend in protein supplements because it is touted as a cleaner, less processed form of whey that delivers more nutritional benefit due to higher levels of leucine, tryptophan and cysteine, and improved bioavailability.

Raw-form ingredients also feature in new product releases. Biogen, for example, recently launched BULK RAW, an innovative mass gainer that bridges the gap between sports supplements and performance foods. Biogen has formulated this premium mass gainer using real foods such as sweet potato, raw oats and rice to provide quality carbohydrate sources, and plant-based proteins.

Botanicals blooming

An extension of the natural supplement theme is the rise in popularity of plant-sourced herbal extracts and botanical ingredients such as curcumin, echinacea, bromelain, green tea extract, garlic, berberine and ashwagandha, to name a few.

While traditionally found in cosmetic products, ingredients that originate from plant sources such as herbs, roots, flowers, fruits, leaves or seeds are making their way into more supplement products across various categories.

From pre-workouts and fat-burning supplements to mood and focus enhancers, botanical ingredients are increasingly used as an alternative or adjunct to pharmaceutical products by those who want a natural remedy and want to reduce their reliance on artificially-created chemicals.

Supplement manufacturers may also include relevant botanicals in their updated formulations as science affirms their effectiveness for fat loss, energy production or other benefits to performance or general health and wellbeing.

As a standalone supplement, CBD products are possibly the biggest innovation to emerge from the industry in recent years. CBD, or cannabidiol is a naturally-occurring, active non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis or hemp plant’s resinous flower.

CBD is removed from plants during an extraction process and manufactured into oils, tinctures or capsules, which help to enhance mood and memory, and reduce sensory perceptions such as pain. As such, CBD is commonly used to assist with pain management and inflammation, restlessness, sleeplessness and anxiousness.

Flavour innovations

In their quest to attract new customers and keep existing clients loyal, supplement manufacturers continue to innovate in protein powder options – arguably the industry’s gateway product and most popular segment, which makes it the most competitive supplement category.

Continually developing new product flavours has emerged as an effective means to capture market share and secure a market-leading position in a product category that hasn’t seen much innovation from a formulation and base ingredient perspective in many years.

Modern protein powders have evolved far beyond the traditional vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice-cream flavours, to now include a wide array of delectable dessert flavours like milk tart and cookies and cream, popular commercial chocolate options like Bar One and Tex, and indulgent and exotic treat flavours, such as crème Brulee and hazelnut latte, to name a few.

Licensing trademarked flavours is perhaps the most recent advancement in protein powder flavour innovation. This approach has become increasingly popular because it creates an exclusive experience for consumers that helps to separate brands and specific product lines from the competition.

Must-try flavour recommendations*:

  1. Biogen Lean Whey Strawberry Shortcake & Blueberry Ice Cream flavours
  2. Biogen 100% Iso Whey Choc Brownie, Cola Float & Choc Chip Cookie flavours
  3. NPL Diet Pro Choc Nut Sundae, Milk & Honey, Red Velvet & Vanilla Doughnut flavours
  4. USN BlueLab™ 100% Premium Whey Speckled Eggs, Tex, Bar One & Buttermilk flavours 
  5. Primal Skinny Whey Peanut Butter Cup & Berry Smoothie flavours 
  6. Youthful Living Gourmet Whey Protein Toasted Marshmallow & Unicorn and Rainbows flavours 
  7. SSN Nitrobolic Whey Chocolate Donut & Berry Sorbet flavours 
  8. Evox 100% Whey Protein Advance Double Decker, Milk Bottles & Milk and Cereal flavours 
  9. Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Whey Choc Mint, Cookies & Rocky Road flavours 
  10. Warrior Whey White Chocolate flavour

*Not all flavours available to all times.

New product categories

A new product category has emerged alongside the rising popularity of the low-carb lifestyle as more health-conscious consumers shun sugar and processed carbs.

The result is a proliferation of easy-to-consume products such as bars, snacks, powders and ready-to-drink beverages that support a low-carb or ketogenic lifestyle and fall under the ‘keto’ supplements banner.

These products not only help to make low-carb eating more convenient but can make this diet more effective by accelerating or amplifying the body’s natural processes as it enters a state known as ketosis.

This is the metabolic state where the body most efficiently converts stored and ingested fat into usable energy. And the performance and weight-loss benefits many people have experienced have ensured this innovative supplement product category will continue to grow in prominence.

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Functional ingredients

Modern supplement formulations now also often included added ingredients that deliver additional health, performance or lifestyle benefits.

Supplement manufacturers are leveraging functional ingredients to create innovative products and completely new categories such as diet proteins. These products offer unique or enhanced formulations with a mix of ingredients that cater to different goals and needs.

For instance, various supplemental protein products now contain compounds that aid digestion, improve digestive health and enhance absorption. These ingredients may include probiotics, prebiotics and digestion enzymes.

Primal Skinny Whey, for example, is enriched with prebiotics and digestive enzymes, which help keep your gut as fit and healthy as your body. And Biogen Lean Whey contains OatWell™, a patented form of oat beta-glucan fibre that helps to maintain blood glucose levels to curb hunger, maintain energy levels and aid digestion.

Including specific protein-digesting enzymes like proteases and peptidases, also ensures that more of the protein you drink in your shake or smoothie is absorbed by your body to benefit your muscles.

And amylase enzymes, which break down carbs, along with enzymes that digest fats and sugars, can reduce symptoms associated with lactose intolerance or other forms of digestive discomfort commonly experienced by sensitive individuals.

Collagen is another ingredient rising in popularity amid the ‘beauty from within’ trend. This structural protein is vital to support skin, hair, nails and connective tissue health and repair damage that occurs from activity and ageing.

As such, supplement manufacturers like Biogen now include collagen in products like its Keto Meal Shake with Collagen. The manufacturer also recently released its RE NU nutraceuticals range.

And a review of supplement labels may also reveal line items referred to as proprietary blends, stacks or complexes, or patented ingredients.

As manufacturers continually look for ways to boost product efficacy or separate their product from the rest, many choose to include patented ingredients or blends that independent nutraceutical companies have developed and often tested.

Supplement manufacturers may also patent a unique combination of ingredients to ensure that no competitors can copy their formulation. You’ll commonly find patented ingredients in pre-workouts and fat burners, but they can also appear in other supplements.

Here are a few common patented ingredients currently dominating modern supplement formulations:

  • AstraGin® is a patented, 100% natural compound that increases absorption of many vital nutrients to promote a healthy gut environment.
  • GlycerSize (formally known as GlycerPump) is a stable form of 65% glycerol powder, which offers enhanced hydration and increased stamina, and fully saturates muscles.
  • Sinetrol® is a non-stimulant-based weight-loss ingredient with benefits supported by 3 clinical studies.
  • Bioperine® is sourced from piperine and has patented status for its ability to increase the bioavailability of certain nutritional compounds.
  • Teacrine® is a patented compound that delivers energy, mental clarity, and improved motivation and mood.
  • Nitrosigine® is a safe, non-stimulant-based, patented complex of bonded arginine and silicon, that is scientifically engineered and proven to deliver performance benefits.