Riding the wave of consumer awareness for turmeric (Turmeric longa), the golden-colored spice used in Southeast Asian cooking, its bioactive constituent curcumin has been a shining star in the field of botanical supplements, with extensive documentation for its anti-inflammatory benefits. and antioxidants for health.1
Recently, there has been an increase in products offering turmeric or curcumin in liquid formats ranging from ready-to-drink (RTD) drinks and shots to ready-to-mix (RTM) products in stick packs, sachets and powders that meet consumer demand for choice and convenience. But creating these products presents several challenges for product developers and questions for brands marketing these products to a receptive but uninformed consumer.
Market interest is easy to explain. Global curcumin products market is witnessing solid growth, according to Grand View Research, with the segment reaching $58 million in 2020 and a CAGR of 16.1% expected to 2028; US turmeric supplement sales are the fourth largest market, reaching nearly $97 million, according to data from the American Botanical Council and Nutrition Business Journal. Add to that the growing appeal of functional drinks for specific health benefits, and you have the makings of a solid market opportunity.
“Curcumin has had a meteoric rise, and with the global functional beverage market expected to reach over $173 billion by 2025 (Business Research Co.), this powerful antioxidant and its popular applications were bound to cross paths and synergistically elevate to the next level,” said Sara Zoet, Senior Global Communications Expert at OmniActive Health Technologies.
Consumer demand for functional health foods and products suitable for an active lifestyle is helping to fuel this trend. Additionally, curcumin and turmeric both have a growing list of documented and desirable health benefits, ranging from supporting heart health2 maintenance of cognitive function.3 Certainly, growing awareness of the benefits of curcumin for recovery and athletic performance4 propelled.
Tablets and capsules still dominate in the United States, but “there is a steady upward trend for supplements in drink and liquid form, especially for younger generations,” said Kalyanam Nagabhushanam, Ph.D. , president, R&D, of Sabinsa Corporation. “Lifestyle and sports activities are among the main factors favoring this transition.”
Young consumers aren’t the only targets, noted Erin Costello, communications and events associate for Imbibe, a beverage product development company. “Arthritis and joint replacements, flu and pneumonia, and COVID-19 are all among the top 10 health issues facing baby boomers, which directly coincides with the benefits of curcumin,” said she said, referring to information published by Scripps.
Daily lifestyle choices and habits could also be part of the equation. “The pandemic forced consumers to look at their habits in a new light, and most realized they weren’t drinking enough water,” Noted Kristen Marshall, digital marketing specialist for Verdure Sciences. “You can take one capsule with a sip of water, or you can mix a flavored supplement with 20+ ounces of water and achieve two personal health goals.”
General fatigue from the pill can be another factor. “People are fed up with capsules and tablets, especially for curcumin, because you may need to take three or four to get an effective dose. It’s much nicer to take a smooth liquid format on a daily basis” , noted David Liu, Ph.D., and Chief Technology Officer of Chenland Nutritionals.
Companies like Bolthouse Farms, which has some of the earliest entrants to the RTD market, have also recognized that the rise of these products is not just about nutrition and health benefits, but also about enjoyment. “From our research, we know that consumers understand the nutritional benefits of turmeric, which are largely rooted in immunity and anti-inflammation,” said Amy Shoemaker, Marketing Director at Bolthouse Farms. “But a product must be both functional and enjoyable for consumers who want to incorporate it into their diet.”
While that’s probably true, creating user-friendly and health-promoting curcumin products is a lot more complicated than simply adding a pinch of turmeric to a drink. And many consumers may not understand the difference.
First, turmeric and curcumin are not interchangeable. Turmeric root contains about 2-3% curcumin, the bioactive compounds behind the health benefits. Most studies that evaluate the health properties of turmeric use turmeric extract, which contains a much higher dose, around 95% curcumin. That’s not to say that drinking a beverage with added turmeric might not be good for overall health in the same way that a diet high in turmeric is good for you. But this is a long-term proposition. The association between the two ingredients, however, may have created some confusion in the market.
That said, beverages as a delivery format for curcumin have potential. Beverage consultant James S. Tonkin of Healthy Brand Builders believes that a drink is always a good way to introduce bioactives into the body, as it avoids capsules and tablets that have to be dissolved in the stomach. . However, he added, it depends on the dosage and whether a drink or liquid contains enough of the compound to make a real difference. “I would say if a company has an effective dose in a drink, based on a peer-reviewed study, they could bark pretty loud about it,” he said.
Dosage can also be an issue in products like shots, Liu noted. “If 1,000 mg were the standard dose, it would be next to impossible to fit it into a two-ounce dose.”
Dosage is just one of many formulation and sensory challenges. Most RTM drinks and powders are attractive for use in sports and recreational activities, Nagabhushanam said, but “most curcumin products do not mix easily in liquids, leaving visible solids as of drink”. Curcumin is also unstable in alkaline pH and its bright color will impart a characteristic color to a drink even in small amounts, he said. “Therefore, having a reliable method of estimating the amount of curcuminoids in beverages is important if you want to guarantee a defined amount of curcuminoids per dose.”
“Manufacturing itself can be a hurdle to overcome as ingredient suppliers need to share stability, solubility and efficacy in various situations,” Marshall added.
Simply put, curcumin is hard to work with. “Curcumin has complex pharmacokinetic issues, so the issues aren’t just about a powder versus a liquid,” according to Michal Heger, Ph.D., Formulation Director/Board Member of Nurish.me and nanotechnology expert. A common solution, he explained, is to coat fat-soluble molecules with emulsifiers to make them more compatible with water, but that doesn’t mean the molecule itself becomes hydrophilic (miscible in water). . “The molecule retains its lipophilic character [mixable in fat/oil] properties and with it the absorption and biotransformation problems often associated with lipophilic compounds.
“The crux of the matter,” Heger added, “is really bioavailability, which can be modulated by either type of formulation (powder or water). So having a liquid curcumin product is, by itself, not advantageous unless the formulation is associated with better bioavailability, which means better absorption, reduced xenobiotic metabolism, and decreased blood clearance,” he explained. , curcumin formulations that contain P-glycoprotein inhibitors such as piperine or turmerone along with lipid constituents increase the bioavailability of curcumin compared to curcumin alone.”
There’s a curcumin for that
To address these issues, ingredient suppliers are introducing new ingredients and technologies that not only work more effectively in various delivery formats, but also target curcumin’s bioavailability issues…
Editor’s Note: This article is excerpted from a longer article in the digital magazine “Curcumin at the Crossroads”. Find the full version and related content by visiting the link.
Karen Rateman is director, New Leaf Communications, in Arvada, Colorado. She specializes in content marketing strategies and development, corporate communications, public relations and social media for natural brands, dietary supplements and botanical ingredients.
1 Kocaadam B and Sanlier N. “Curcumin, an active component of turmeric (Curcuma longa) and its health effects.” Clin Rev Food Sci Nutrit. 2017;57(13):2889-2895.
2 Jiange S et al. “Curcumin as a potential protective compound against heart disease.” Pharmacol Res. 2017;119:373-383.
3 Goozee KG et al. “Review of the Potential Clinical Value of Curcumin in the Prevention and Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.” British Journal of Nutrition. Feb;115(3):449-465.
4 Suhett LG et al. “Effect of curcumin supplementation on sport and physical exercise; a systematic review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2021;61(6):946-958.