“While 2014 (year to date) dietary supplement market growth as a whole is comparable to 2013, we surmise that the enzyme category will continue to experience high single/low double digit growth, based on the significant increase we’ve experienced in recent years,” noted Scott Ravech, CEO of Deerland Enzymes, Kennesaw, GA. “Digestive enzymes are identified as one of the top supplement ingredients for 2013-2016, with projected growth of 6.3%, by Sloan Trends, Inc.”
Growth in the nutritional enzymes market coincides with the larger trend among consumers toward preventive medicine and natural heath approaches, according to Chris Penet, vice president of BIO-CAT, a custom bulk enzyme blender based in Troy, VA. The popularity of probiotics has helped fuel demand as well.
“People are looking at enzymes and probiotics as those natural alternatives to having to go to the doctor and get a prescription for a pharmaceutical,” he said.
Enzymes are starting to get the credit and focus they merit, according to Melony Fuller, director of marketing and formulations at National Enzyme Company (NEC), Forsyth, MO. “As more consumers are taking a proactive role in their health and looking for holistic preventive care rather than treatments for various health issues, many are discovering the power of supplementing with enzymes.”
While enzymes are a key pillar in perpetuating the popularity of nutritional supplements, Ms. Fuller noted that it’s difficult to track enzymes specifically in the marketplace because they are not yet given their own distinct category under the larger supplement umbrella. “For example, a product that includes mostly probiotics with added enzymes is often categorized as a probiotic supplement. Likewise, products that are primarily enzymes are often included in the broad digestive health supplements category, which also includes fiber and laxative supplements (among others).”
However, with heightened awareness, Ms. Fuller said she is hopeful enzymes will become a household name, like probiotics, as the popularity of enzymes goes more mainstream.
Overall though, market research firm Packaged Facts, Rockville, MD, has projected that the nutritional supplement market will grow 6% annually through 2018, Ms. Fuller noted. “We know that much of that growth is linked to interest in supporting digestive health, as digestive health and probiotic supplement sales in the multi-outlet channel increased nearly 25% in 2013.”
“As Baby Boomers with disposable incomes lead the demand for healthy products,” she continued, “it’s predicted that products that contain enzymes and support eye, joint and tissue recovery will continue to grow in popularity, as this generation along with the mature generation looks to support their health—and the younger demographics look to maintain their health.”
Brent Bauer, MD, director of the Mayo Clinic Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program, recently co-authored a paper in the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings on the pros and cons of over-the-counter enzymes.
“Like so many dietary supplements, patients are looking for something to help their health, so they’re reading about over-the-counter enzymes as one of those many dietary supplements, and all of a sudden we’re seeing sales go through the roof. A huge challenge with dietary supplements is that most haven’t been tested as most drugs are. We have a lot of information, but we don’t have definitive information. So our patients hear a lot of positive things, but they do not always hear the negatives or the side effects. So we’re trying to be very evidence-based. We don’t want to say no, there’s no reason to ever take an over-the-counter enzyme. By the same token, we don’t want to just rush out and buy it because we heard somebody say something positive on TV.”
From a scientific perspective, Mr. Penet noted “there’s more and more evidence—whether it’s anecdotal or based on good clinical science—that probiotics and enzymes can provide benefits in a number of areas. I think the challenge for the industry going forward, is how you prove that.”
Faced with the task of crafting permissible claims language for marketing purposes, he added, the industry as a whole needs to validate products with more science.
Continued investment in clinical research to demonstrate and solidify product efficacy could position the segment positively for the future. “Industry can’t hide from FDA,” he said. “Companies need to adhere to the rules and be truly ethical with what they put on their bottles.”
Considering a significant increase in the number of SKUs from Deerland’s customers, Mr. Ravech said it seems the industry as a whole is investing more than ever in enzyme-based products for a variety of health conditions.
Enzyme dietary supplements are gaining recognition among consumers for their role in supporting digestive health as well as bioavailability of nutrients from foods, he noted. “Bioavailability is a key consumer concern, according to Sloan Trends, and the ability to break down food into its basic and useful components is of critical concern for sports performance and for consumers interested in functional nutrition for growth, development and supporting healthy aging.”
Ultimately, digestive health remains the most popular category for enzyme supplements. The role of digestive enzymes is to break down food-derived fats, carbohydrates and proteins into smaller substances that our bodies can use, Mr. Ravech explained. “Although the body produces its own digestive enzymes, it may not be enough to completely break down cooked or processed foods. During cooking and processing, the natural enzymes present in raw foods are destroyed. Fortunately, supplements can provide additional enzymes and help to optimize the digestion process. The complete release and absorption of food nutrients can result in fewer digestive problems.”
Dr. Bauer noted there are many natural enzymes in our bodies. “There are clearly medical reasons to use enzymes. If a patient’s pancreas isn’t working, for example, that patient may need to take a medically prescribed enzyme supplement. That’s a little different story from a healthy person who wants to use over-the-counter bromelain, or papain—the enzymes that come from the pineapple and the papaya—or trypsin, or chymotrypsin. The reasons people might use those center around digestion: Maybe they’re getting older, they’re having more gas and bloating, so they think if they take an enzyme it will help their digestion. There are also some anti-inflammatory effects, so some people will use those enzymes to try to reduce inflammation, maybe help with osteoarthritis. And there’s a long history of these being used as anti-cancer agents. The challenge from a physician standpoint is that the evidence for each of those is pretty limited.” (For a list of common enzymes found in U.S. dietary supplements see Table 1.)
Gluten & Dairy
Consumers increasingly recognize they have difficulty with normal digestion of some wheat and dairy foods. For example, 18 million Americans reported feeling sensitivity to gluten, and approximately 30-50 million Americans are lactose intolerant.
“Enzymes are now being used in products for more than just basic digestion,” said Bret Wyant, vice president of sales, American Laboratories, Inc. Omaha, NE. “They can be used to help with inflammation, help build immune support and aid in breaking down gluten proteins and milk sugars within foods to reduce digestive side effects like bloating.”
Mr. Penet agreed that digestive health dominates the market, but noted that companies are beginning to branch out from that general platform to condition-specific indications.
“I think FDA is open-minded enough that if a company wanted to structure a clinical trial and address a specific condition, the agency has a pretty clear path for that. The industry has grown so much and there are a lot of opportunities from a scientific point of view, but the industry has to make sure we do it ethically with a sound scientific approach.”
Through its applied research platform, Mr. Penet said BIO-CAT is investigating how to better use existing enzymes and studying how they may affect digestion and ailments related to poor digestion.
With new gluten-free labeling laws going into effect, companies are continuing to focus on the ever-growing popularity of gluten avoidance, Mr. Ravech noted. “Deerland Enzymes’ latest products Glutalytic and Dairylytic are designed to optimize digestion of gluten and dairy proteins. These enzyme-based products hydrolyze wheat and dairy proteins and break them down into smaller protein constituents so they can be more easily managed by the body. Glutalytic helps minimize the unintended consequences of inadvertent gluten consumption. Dairylytic works to help break down not only the lactose associated with dairy foods, but also the proteins that can be difficult to digest and may cause discomfort to sensitive individuals. Fewer dietary restrictions can yield huge quality of life benefits.”
From casual fitness enthusiasts to extreme athletes, more people are consuming whey protein supplements than ever before, Mr. Ravech added. Enzymes for protein hydrolysis can be an ideal complement to these types of protein supplements.
“Deerland Enzymes has developed a unique, proprietary protease blend called ProHydrolase that digests protein into bio-usable form, taking full advantage of the availability of essential amino acids for building muscle and improving muscle recovery, while also reducing the potential for digestive discomfort. Backed by two human clinical studies that demonstrate its superiority to other protease blends, ProHydrolase has been shown to increase levels of amino acids in the blood, as well as decrease levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). ProHydrolase has been shown to be effective with whey, soy, casein, hemp and pea proteins.”
Glucose management for overall health and energy has become a popular indication area for enzymes as well, he noted.
Transglucosidase (TG) is an enzyme that blocks the conversion of starch into sugar and transforms dietary carbohydrates into non-digestible oligosaccharides. “Instead of allowing starch to be converted into sugars that spike blood glucose and trigger an excessive release of insulin, TG converts starch into beneficial prebiotic fibers (oligosaccharides),” he said. “Laboratory studies performed in vitro under physiological conditions, as well as in vivo (human and animal) have shown the ability of TG to reduce insulin and glucose levels by converting dietary starches into beneficial prebiotic fibers. Transglucosidase has been submitted to the FDA as a New Dietary Ingredient (NDI).”
The demand for enzymes with systemic (cardiovascular, circulatory and joint health) benefits is also increasing. “Protease enzymes have long been studied for their systemic benefits for cardio and joint health, due to their ability to degrade certain proteins associated with blood clot formation, such as fibrin.”
While Baby Boomers are a significant force in the market, NEC’s Ms. Fuller noted that Millennials are the fastest-growing segment of supplement users. “Within that group, we see an increase concern for holistic, homeopathic preventive care, of which enzymes can fulfill. That also feeds into the trend that more consumers across generations are taking charge of their health and quality of living, and in doing so, are being more proactive in looking at label claims and ingredients. These trends support the notion that enzymes themselves are going to start getting more notice and sought out by all consumer groups.”
In terms of delivery format, she said capsules are certainly a popular mechanism to efficiently deliver enzymes and nutrients.
“Powders to make a beverage—like protein powders and green food powders—are becoming increasingly popular, as are raw juice and smoothie drinks, all of which deliver enzymes in addition to their mainstream nutrients, vitamins and minerals.”
American Laboratories’ Mr. Wyant also noted that dosage formulation into gelatin capsules is the largest delivery method currently, “but manufacturers are implementing new ready-to-use powder delivery methods for enzymes, allowing the products more flexibility in use in liquid beverage applications.”
Deerland’s Mr. Ravech noted that non-GMO is one of the fastest growing consumer trends affecting the food and dietary supplement industries. “While most consumers may not fully understand the intricacies of non-GMO, it is nonetheless still high on their list of priorities when choosing products. It’s a common misconception that enzyme products are GMO, due to some enzymes’ association with food processing and industrial applications. However, the proteins and organisms used for dietary supplement enzymes are, in most cases, non-GMO. Along with other categories in the supplement industry, such as vitamins and probiotics, we are currently working closely with the Non-GMO Project team toward certification for enzymes. Deerland Enzymes considers this an important issue, and has taken a leadership role as a driving force in the effort to establish guidelines for Non-GMO Project verification of enzymes.”