Sales of eye health supplements reached $419 million in 2012, up 6% according to Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ). Among the 59% of adults who are taking dietary supplements, 7% use a supplement for eye health, according to Multi-Sponsor Surveys “2011 Gallup Study of U.S. Eye Health.”
In the mass market multivitamin category, eye supplements were second only to Centrum Silver and Flintstones as top sellers. Leader Bausch & Lomb’s PreserVision and Ocuvite brands posted Food/Drug/Mass sales of $80 million for the year ended 6/10/12, +14% vs. 2011, according to IRI.
However, the biggest opportunity may well lie with foods and beverages. While only 11% of grocery shoppers bought a food/beverage for eye health benefits last year, 77% strongly/somewhat agreed that eye health had an influence on their food purchase decisions, which is 29% above the average for condition-specific foods, according to Packaged Facts’ 2012 “Targeted Health & Wellness Foods and Beverages.”
Nearly half (49%) of adults are aware of nutrients that can be helpful in promoting eye health or preventing eye health problems. However, unaided, while 42% associated vitamins in general with eye health, only 23% cited vitamin A or beta-carotene, 19% antioxidant vitamins, 19% B vitamins, 13% vitamin C, 13% lutein, and 11% omega 3s/fish oil or minerals, Gallup reported.
The National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute (NEI) Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS 2) is expected to be released in 2013. AREDS 1, released in 2001, confirmed that consumption of high-dose antioxidants (vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, zinc and copper) reduced the risk of progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 25% and the risk of moderate vision loss by 19%. The AREDS 2 study includes these five antioxidants from AREDS 1 plus lutein, zeaxanthin and omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.
Those experiencing any eye disease or trying to reduce the risk of age-related diseases are significantly more likely to use eye health supplements, according to Gallup. With 107 million Americans now over age 50, products that help to prevent AMD, glaucoma and cataracts will have strong appeal.
With 40 million contact lens wearers in the U.S., preventing infection is an important new segment, as is night blindness, dry eye and computer eye strain. New 2012-13 NEI findings revealed that targeting cholesterol buildup in the eye may slow age-related vision loss, that the immune system may play a central role in AMD, and there is a sharp rise in diabetic eye disease, creating other high potential areas of opportunity.
According to Sloan Trends’ TrendSense, while vision/eye itself is of “Mega” market status, nutrition as related to vision/eye health is projected to become a mass market opportunity in 2013. Most important, it is just crossing the Medical Threshold, which signals the beginning of a long-term sustainable trend.
Antioxidants remain the most marketable nutritional ingredient in the vision/eye health sector and are highly likely to become a mainstream market opportunity in the near future. Antioxidants/eye health has been a strong and highly marketable concept in the health foods/specialty channel throughout the decade, flirting with becoming a mainstream market in 2007-09 when phytochemicals were mainstreaming. However, a subsequent lack of publicity/promotion for antioxidants, along with well-publicized Warning Letters from FDA for non-compliant health claims and reports questioning the effectiveness of antioxidant supplements have caused this class of nutrients to lose momentum during 2010-12.
With only 23% of consumers connecting vitamin A/beta-carotene to eye health, 13% lutein and 11% minerals or omega 3s/fish oil, per Gallup, it is not surprising that these ingredients remain low in terms of their individual marketability for eye health. More than one-third of Baby Boomers, the key eye health target, were not aware of lutein, according to Virginia Dare’s 2012 Boomer Health Study.
Serious eye conditions (e.g., glaucoma and cataracts) are much larger markets today than in the past. According to Gallup, 3% of all adults are currently taking omega 3/fish oil at least in part for eye health benefits, 2% multivitamins with lutein, 2% antioxidants, 2% multivitamins formulated for eye health, 2%, multivitamins with omega 3s, 1% lutein or zeaxanthin and < 1% AREDS supplements (net). In contrast, the percentage of those that have any eye disease taking these supplements is nearly double, respectively, 7%, 5%, 4%, 4%, 3%, 2% and 1%.
Functional Foods & Beverages
About half of grocery shoppers agree strongly/somewhat that they’re willing to pay more for grocery products with eye health benefits, +24% above the average for condition specific foods, according to Packaged Facts.
Naturally functional eye-health promoting foods (e.g., Green Giant’s Healthy Vision vegetable blend) or blended beverages are a very strong direction applicable to a wide variety of applications, from soups to juices.
Half of supplement users say supplements are important to eye/vision health, according to Packaged Facts. Clearly, due to the relatively low awareness of the relationship between many of the most effective eye health nutritional ingredients, combination supplements stressing their antioxidant properties will have the highest appeal as well as supplements directed at preventing/improving serious eye conditions.
Children’s eye health is also an opportunity for supplements. The children’s supplement segment registered stronger than usual overall growth, up 12% in the mass market for the year ended 6/10/12, according to Packaged Facts.
Dr. A. Elizabeth Sloan and Dr. Catherine Adams Hutt are president and chief scientific and regulatory officer, respectively, of Sloan Trends, Inc., Escondido, CA, a 20-year-old consulting firm that offers trend interpretation/predictions; identifies emerging high potential opportunities; and provides strategic counsel on issues and regulatory claims guidance for food/beverage, supplement and pharmaceutical marketers. For more information: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.sloantrend.com.