Nutricosmetics: A New Way to Beauty


Cosmetics and toiletries are taking new forms, with beauty products moving from tubes to foods. Interest in nutricosmetics has begun to grow alongside interest in functional products, leading to the addition of new products that are complementary to the traditional beauty industry.

Nutricosmetics have emerged as a segment of nutraceuticals, initially gaining popularity in Japan and Europe and now gaining ground in the U.S. The term derives from the combination of foods, pharma and cosmetics. Nutricosmetic products generally focus on three areas: skin, hair and beauty. In the skin segment, nutricosmetics address a range of problems—including skin repair, pigmentation issues, firmness, whitening, slimming and aging. For hair, nutricosmetic products claim to aid growth, restoration, nourishment and volume, while nail-specific products concentrate on improving strength and the overall appearance of nails. Nutricosmetics are available in pill, tablet, liquid and food formats. Foods and drinks positioned and marketed as beauty-enhancing are a newer concept, with added-value functional foods becoming the next logical step for innovation in the cosmetics and toiletries industry.

Innovation Faces Regulatory Concerns

Competitive pressures in the cosmetics and toiletries, OTC health care, and food and drinks industries alike are seeing manufacturers expand their offerings with high added-value products. The introduction of nutricosmetic products in Europe remains problematic due to the lack of a regulatory system. As things currently stand, the regulatory environment for nutricosmetic products is more favorable in Japan, where an established system is in place for the approval of functional and nutricosmetic products. The likelihood of introducing similar legislative procedures in Europe and the U.S. could prove more problematic, thus making the introduction of new product innovations in these regions more difficult. In Europe, nutricosmetics would fall under both food and medicinal law, but the decision as to which applies varies by country.

Media Feeds Demand

Frequent media exposure and concerns about the adverse effects of beauty products on the skin and their general effectiveness are changing the attitudes of consumers, who, in turn, are increasingly turning to natural products. On the one hand, the rise in health and wellness and growing consumer appreciation of the role of nutrition in beauty is being spurred by the soaring obesity rate and media attention—television shows such as the U.K. produced You Are What You Eat are prime examples. In addition, pressure to look good and stave off the signs of aging is pushing consumers to pay a premium for added cosmetic benefits.

Antioxidant Wonderland

Age-defying antioxidant ingredients have benefited from the advertising push for so-called superfruits—such as pomegranate, blueberries and goji berries, all carrying claims for health and beauty.

Women age 40 and above is the core target audience for nutricosmetic products because this particular group demonstrates a particular concern with health and wellness and, generally, view beauty as part of that concept. Women in their late 20s and early 30s are developing an interest in nutricosmetic products for environmental reasons in addition to cosmetic benefits. Nutricosmetic products and natural-based products have become somewhat intertwined in consumers’ minds. Nutricosmetic products are becoming increasingly popular with consumers concerned with green issues, as there is less waste associated with these products.

Surgical intervention horror stories and a surge in lengthy spa treatments and wellness tourism, too, are driving both the natural cosmetics and nutricosmetics markets.

Beauty in Dietary Supplements

Companies in the consumer health care market are also tapping into the inner beauty trend, and many established brands have introduced combination dietary supplements with claims that these help to improve skin, hair and nails—particularly favored by consumers who opt for natural beauty alternatives. Dietary supplements are also classed as nutricosmetics, as these are ingestible products.

Japan is one of the leaders in beauty supplements, as a subsector of the dietary supplements category, with beauty supplements accounting for 15% or $819 million of overall sales of dietary supplements. Demand for these products is also high in China, with beauty supplements commanding 13% or $558 million of all dietary supplement sales. In the U.S., dietary supplements for beauty commanded only 1%, just $100 million, of the total dietary supplement market. Demand is on the rise in certain European countries, such as Germany where these supplements hold an 11% or $115 million share of the total dietary supplements market.

Japan Leads Nutricosmetics Markets

Japan is the leading nutricosmetic products market, although the Asia-Pacific region as a whole is generally an important market for these products. Consumers have a long-held awareness of the role of food, drinks and dietary supplements—particularly in the form of nutritive tonics—in health, wellness and beauty. Their receptiveness to this concept has opened the way for an innovative nutraceuticals market, crowded with products so novel that they struggle to find credibility beyond Japan. Examples include collagen-enriched soup from Nissin Food Products; although it sounds unappetizing to Western palettes, it should be well-received in markets that already associate chicken soup with health benefits. Shiseido’s pureWhite skin whitening drink, and edible fragrance, Fuwarinka, which releases a vanilla scent via the sweat glands, are also notable.

Collagen-filled marshmallows from Japanese confectioner Eiwa failed to sell when they were brought to U.K. shelves in 2006. However, they did receive considerable media attention, even from the mainstream press, and a range of other nutraceuticals products have been making moderate progress in Western markets. Ferrosan’s Imedeen, Inneov (the result of a joint venture between L’Oréal and Nestlé) is one of the better-known beauty supplements on the market, and the concept has become so widely accepted that private label ranges have started to emerge to challenge these brands.

Beauty foods are a newer development in Western markets, but they are gaining ground—particularly in dairy, a key sector for fortification. In February 2007, dairy giant Danone launched Essensis beauty yogurt in France and other select Western European markets, and functional bottled water and ready-to-drink tea are the other main categories where beauty benefits are claimed. Coca-Cola, for example, is teaming up with L’Oréal to produce a tea-based skin care drink, Lumaé, due to be launched in 2008. Like Borba Skin Balance waters, which are stocked in beauty specialist Sephora, Lumaé will be distributed through upmarket cosmetics retailers, such as department store Saks Fifth Avenue, rather than the usual soft drinks channels. Some smaller companies are forging new ground with more experimental offerings, including French firm Laboratoires Noreva’s Norelift antiaging jam. Chocolate could also become a key beauty sector. Rich in antioxidants, the food industry has already put a lot of work into repositioning this guilty pleasure as healthy.

In terms of Western markets, Spain is emerging as one of the most important for beauty foods. There is already strong demand in Spain for fortified foods—the country has the third highest per capita consumption in the world, and functional claims are increasingly focusing on beauty—partly due to local consumers’ high priority on looks (according to the Spanish Association of Cosmetic Surgery [Sociedad Española de Cirugía Plástica, Reparadora y Estética], more women undergo cosmetic surgery in Spain than in any other European country). The predominance of ultra-high temperature (UHT) sterilization of food before packaging, as opposed to fresh dairy, is also driving this market because long-life products are more easily fortified. This has also allowed the slimming supplement tonalin, among other ingredients, to find its way into the dairy sector. This type of ingredient implementation in food also has strong potential in the U.S.

Nascent Market Needs Food for Growth

The nutricosmetics market is still in its infancy, commanding $2.1 billion, a small fraction of the beauty market, and accounting for just 3% of the $66 billion skin care market in 2007—the vitamin and dietary supplement market, in contrast, is worth $56 billion. The condition of skin and the role it plays in the perception of beauty are becoming increasingly important, making skin care products a must. As a result, skin care products stand to benefit from the nutricosmetic trend.

The challenges for manufacturers will be to raise awareness and educate consumers as to how nutricosmetic products work and prove their efficacy. Western consumers will be harder to convince, as they are much more skeptical about product claims that relate to beauty. The use of nutricosmetic products is expected to be more widely accepted among Asian consumers—particularly in Japan, where the use of functional products, vitamins and dietary supplements is the highest.

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