The universe of nutraceuticals is rapidly expanding, and there’s a lot to discover. For example, the gourmet nutraceuticals market remains mostly untapped. But that is already starting to change…
Will you be ahead of the curve? Or find yourself struggling to catch up?
Here are some important factors to consider; from an experienced food scientist to any company hoping for further success in the nutraceuticals market.
- Account for bitterness from the beginning
Many of the highest quality botanical extracts or isolates are bitter. This is because the molecular structures of many healthful compounds tend to activate our bitterness receptors. Flavonoids are a perfect example.
But don’t worry—there are numerous ways to manage bitterness in nutraceuticals.
One smart, simple way is to use flavors that complement the extracts or bitter compounds in question. Picture sweet-tart ruby-red grapefruit, loaded with fruity and floral terpenes masking off flavors in a CBD formulation. Or you might use science-based bitterness masking ingredients that help block the perception of bitterness; either through central cognitive effects, or by preventing the compounds from actually making contact with bitterness receptors on the tongue and in the throat.
Sadly, too many nutraceutical companies just blot out the flavor with additional high-intensity artificial or other non-nutritive sweeteners. Don’t do that. Your customers won’t like it.
- Invest in quality ingredients
In general, use as few ingredients as possible—and choose the highest quality for each of them. Skimping just creates weak links in the big picture of your nutraceuticals formulation. You may be able to cut your bottom line out of the gate…but you won’t wrangle in those invaluable return customers who are searching for the best, and can be deeply loyal when they find it.
Quality ingredients make nutraceuticals taste much, much better, let you market clean-label products, and keep your customers drooling for more.
- Research your market
Don’t just start crafting blind. Know your audience. Who are you trying to help? What products are they buying? How do they like to dose?
Then once you’re formulating, set up sensory analysis panels with expert descriptive analysis panelists, and set up more with a set of untrained consumers.
Food science can help systematically determine which variation of your product is actually the best for the greatest group of consumers.
Solid, scientific research is increasingly crucial as the nutraceuticals market continues to open up with new applications, consumer demands, and continued growth.
- Packaging matters
At the end of the day, you’re not selling products. You’re delivering an experience to your customers related to something that means the world to them–their health.
Part of that experience includes the packaging and branding. Thoughtful, functional packaging can go a long way toward building a consistent and loyal customer base who keep returning for more—and equally important, tell their friends about it.
Nutraceuticals packaging people return for:
- Guilt-free compostable packaging
- Reusable containers, giftable even as empties
- Sleek, discreet, no-frills, ergonomic
- Creatively and completely child-safe
- Pay attention to shelf life
Whatever nutraceutical product you produce, it will change over time. And you really can’t plan for any best-case scenario. Your products have to last under real-world conditions.
For example, don’t assume that any emulsion (even nanoemulsions) will be stable for 6 months or longer once incorporated into a beverage. It depends upon formulation, packaging, and the chance of temperature abuse in the marketplace or during transportation. Make sure that the shelf-life of any emulsion you use has been characterized—and be aware that depending upon the formulation of the beverage you add it to, that shelf life can change dramatically.
The same is true of all ingredients. That’s why part of science-based nutraceuticals product formulation includes laboratory shelf-life testing.
One bad experience will make people shy away from your entire brand—even if they’ve had loads of great experiences before that—and you can be sure they’ll tell their friends the whole mortifying story.
There’s a saying in marketing: The price of one negative is 199 affirmatives.
- Extracts: don’t cut corners
Use a first-run extract from quality plant materials, or a distillate/isolate made from it, that has flavor components that enhance your recipe, rather than ones that you have to cover up.
Remember, the more that your active ingredients are purified from reprocessed waste-stream material, rather than raw, the higher the likelihood that they will bring more off-flavors. Please, people—there are plenty of raw nutraceutical ingredients available for making high-quality first-run extracts and distillations thereof. There’s no need to chemically squeeze out every last drop of active ingredient from the waste stream.
Would you cook with the dregs of a third or fourth olive-oil pressing? No. So why would you make nutraceuticals with the equivalent?
- Avoid (many) nanoemulsions
Nutraceutical nanoemulsions may offer the benefit of faster metabolization of the payload and higher bioavailability—but they are generally terrible for making delicious nutraceuticals. Why? If the active ingredient is bitter–see above–then a nanoemulsion of that ingredient will be even more extremely bitter because nano droplets present more total surface area for contact with taste-bud receptors.
Additionally, no emulsion is infinitely stable. Not even the best-made nanoemulsion on earth.
If buying or preparing your own microemulsions or nanoemulsions, make sure that droplet size can be verified in some meaningful way (e.g. laser diffraction particle size distribution analysis, or in some cases a Coulter Counter to measure individual droplet sizes).
- Beverages are risky—there’s a better way
Formulating consistent, shelf-stable nutraceutical beverages is a challenge. Especially when you can’t rely on dispensaries to have refrigerated display space.
But here’s a little food-science secret for you: There’s a way you can launch an infinite product line of nutraceutical beverages—with variable dosages!—by instead offering a series of flavored nutraceutical drops for transforming any existing beverage into a far more nutritious one.
Flavored nutraceutical drops might include:
- Winter spice
- Tropical Fruit
Then part of your nutraceuticals marketing strategy could include recipe ideas or pairings with existing beverages.
Make your own nutraceutical-infused Vanilla Cola, or warm winter workdays with a cinnamon nutraceutical latte. Lighten up a dim day with an alcohol-free mint julep. The possibilities are endless. The goal now is to create the best product line of flavored nutraceutical drops that food science can deliver!
- Everyone is making gummies. Don’t do the same thing that everyone is doing.
But if you have to make gummies, make them in a way no one else is!
Get your R&D team building an exhaustive list of what your competitors are doing, and then come up with something that is new and different. You may actually notice that the gourmet nutraceutical niche is still pretty wide open. There are a million and one much-loved flavors that still haven’t really been explored.
Here’s a pro tip, though. If you’re making gummies, use real fruit! This is one way to stand out in the gummy crowd. Most nutraceutical gummy producers are still using sugar, syrups, and sometimes even artificial flavorings. Using real fruit purees instead not only tastes better, but can also clean up your ingredient list and help you capture a lucrative niche of loyal customers who want top quality real foods.
- Consistency is crucial
Trained food professionals like chefs can only get you so far. Especially when it comes to scaling nutraceutical production for growth.
Up-market nutraceuticals and all other dietary supplements are the result of careful scientific formulation accounting for multiple variables.
Food production variables:
- Food safety
- Available manufacturing techniques
- Consumer expectations
That’s a lot to juggle. Take it from a fellow entrepreneur who learned long ago the importance of delegating to experts. And as a result, I have much love for CPAs, electrical engineers, and HVAC professionals. Experts rarely cost you more because they make up in efficiency for their higher hourly price tag.
- Things will go wrong
It’s inevitable in food production that issues will arise and formulations will need tweaking. Especially if you try scaling a recipe without adequate food science knowledge.
Part of being a successful nutraceutical firm includes recognizing problems you can’t solve before they become major (and expensive). Food scientists have a lot of experience with empirical problem-solving. The upfront expense can save you time and money down the line, fixing errors that magnify with every step of the production process.
- Don’t be afraid to seek outside help
If you’re still reading this, you already realize you can’t make top quality nutraceuticals on your own and often even if you have a solid in-house R&D team. Fortunately there are many types of consultants in the food industry, with a wide range of experience and training. Naturally each brings their own strengths and weaknesses.
You’ll pay less for someone without a PhD, without formal experiment-design capabilities, and without two decades of experience making best-of-class, record-award-winning foods and beverages.
But you’ll also get a lot less in return. It all depends on where you want to go with your business.
- Invest in food science; get massive returns
Daunted by the price tag of experienced food science consulting? That’s understandable. I ran a small manufacturing business for years, so I know the feeling of expenses adding up.
But think about it this way: Putting up $10-$15k for a delicious science-based formulation isn’t expensive—it’s valuable. Infusing your products with unbeatable consistency, gourmet quality, and standout creativity can vault your nutraceuticals over the heads of the competition.
That’s the key to attracting those critical return customers and nurturing brand loyalty.
Plus outsourcing science problems to a scientist frees up your R&D team to work on things where they can be the most efficient. Only you know how much that would be worth for your business.
Does any of this really matter?
After all, you can spend market research dollars on figuring out the highest price people will pay for the mediocre flavors you’re turning out.
You can ask your customers to accept a nutraceutical experience far below the threshold of what’s possible, while depriving them of the chance to experience the soaring potential of delicious, precise, consistent gourmet nutraceuticals developed for pan-sensory enjoyment and long-term brand growth.
And you can push them toward other companies who are doing it right.
And in the process, you’ll wind up shaving away some of that profit margin anyway, because it invariably costs more to market to new customers than it does to nurture loyal ones. Not to mention the cost of fixing errors down the line that could have been prevented.
As always, in the free market system the choice is yours whether to focus on quick short-term gains—or tap into the magic of food science and put out products that build deep customer loyalty, wow influencers, and potentially change the nutraceuticals game.
Whatever you decide…we’ll be here.