From supplements tailored to you, to truly inclusive beauty, Matt Chittock takes the lid off the nutricosmetics category 

Will 2022 be the year that nutricosmetics truly break through to the UK beauty market? 

The promise of functional foods and supplements to improve appearance has been there for decades – and products like collagen drinks have made some major inroads in the last ten years. But there’s still plenty of scope for a hero product to win market share, especially since the category is expected to be worth $12.6 billion by 2024, according to America News Hour.

Beauty nutrition specialist Star Kechara has seen the potential for potent beauty-from-within products, especially for skin, and firmly believes that ‘diet [is] becoming the new dermatology’. 

“Just as we see skincare products become more ‘nutritious’, so we also see foods, diet and nutrition become more beauty- and skin health-focused. These two health fields coming together is one of the greatest marriages in the holistic health sector,” she says. 

Skin superfoods
For the future she tips functional botanicals (aka superfoods) as a growth area as they have the benefit of already being well known among consumers, with accepted health benefits. 

One ingredient to keep tabs on in this area is celery. Last year US brand Sweet Chef launched a Celery + Hyaluronic Acid Serum in Target stores, cashing in on buzz generated by Goop and a raft of influencers bigging up the beauty benefits of this formerly humble dip vehicle.

Kechara also cites the potential for nutricosmetic products tailored directly to consumers’ individual skin. “We are now in the age of the microniche – companies need to own their specialized spot in the global markets and one of these trending specialisms is the growing trend of nutricosmetics and nutritional dermatology,” she says. 

Fiona Klonarides, director of the Beauty Shortlist awards, agrees that specialism is a key trend and sees tailor-made nutricosmetics – especially supplement formulations based on a personal questionnaire – as ‘a space to watch’. 

This one-to-one approach could also help the category become more inclusive – since currently many beauty-from-within products appear tailored to White skin by default. Despite this bias, customers’ natural skin tone can dictate what they want from a product. 

For example, Lycored – a manufacturer of carotenoid ingredients for ingestible skincare – surveyed a diverse range of people about their skincare goals. Consumers with the darkest skin tones were significantly more likely to select ‘healthy glow/radiance’ compared to 51% of those with pale or fair skin. Manufacturers need to take this on board to win inclusivity-minded Gen Z consumers, while also doing the right thing.

Making the sector more inclusive will also be driven by more diverse innovators entering the market. Sheiliesh Shah, CEO of Ayurveda Wellness, describes the company as ‘minority-owned’. Its new Ayurvedic nutritional supplements range, Hesh, can’t help but be informed by this rich heritage.

“We’ve been a minority-owned business from the 1970s, and we know internally what we stand for – we know we represent our community,” he says. 

“Our challenge years ago was not being taken seriously. If we approached a multiple retailer we’d face reluctance as they thought we were too small or there was an innate suspicion of our set-up, whereas now the door is often open and welcoming because there’s much better acknowledgment that diversity matters.”

That also means consumers are more open-minded about accepting the benefits of Ayurvedic products, which he says were formerly often dismissed as ‘mumbo jumbo’ in the West.

A focus on wellbeing
Elsewhere, the global movement towards wellness and better mental health is doing its bit to shape the nutricosmetics space.

“While nutricosmetics have been primarily about inside-out beauty and great looking skin up until now, we’re already seeing more emphasis on emotional and physical wellness,” says Klonarides. “For example, formulas for keeping centred and calm amid the uncertain vibe of the world at the moment. This is where CBD, adaptogens and plant-origin supplements like saffron (used to lift one’s spirits) will play an important role in this really interesting sector.”

Klonarides cites Fushi Wellbeing Calmaid as an example, which features superfoods, vitamins and minerals for frazzled nerves, lack of sleep and a calmer disposition. More widely, she’s a fan of Elle Macpherson’s WelleCo The SuperElixir, a potent energizing, alkalizing blend of supergreens, fruit extracts, mushrooms and probiotics.

A no-brainer 
In the natural products arena, mental health and agility was formerly the preserve of nootropics. So could the two come together to create a new break-out category some-time soon? 

“In order to innovate and capture vital consumer attention, product formulators are acknowledging that beauty brands are betting on beauty and brain-boosting products to drive skin health and wellness from within,” says Carla Felgueiras, global product manager (ingredients) at Novastell – a lipids and phospholipids expert. “The goal is to integrate physical and mental health with beauty science.”

Felgueiras says that the brand is very excited about Neuroserine, its branded phosphatidylserine. “The most recent scientific evidence indicates that phosphatidylserine enhances the functioning of neuromodulators and receptors,” she explains. 

“[It has] been strongly associated with slowing, halting and reversing the progression of age-related cognitive decline, and has also been shown to enhance mood, motivation, and quality of life at all stages.”

That could be all win for consumers looking for an all-in-one brain and beauty boost to lift their spirits and care for their skin. 

Meanwhile, a promising sector means plenty of new players. One of them is Hux Health, which launched its portfolio this year following a £1 million funding round. The offer includes its new Beauty supplement – the straightforward ‘does what it says on the box’ name reflecting the company’s mission to disrupt what co-founder Damien Byrne sees as a ‘boring’ category.

“The supplement category is currently dominated by confusing messages and boring design codes,” he says. “Most beauty supplements sit at the poles of either highly clinical messaging that requires deep knowledge to decipher, or highly emotive magic potion cues. Ours is neither. We offer a product that has clean, simple messages of what it does backed by a product where the science-backed work has been done to ensure it delivers.”

Interestingly, Hux Health will be an omni-channel brand, consisting of both a direct-to-consumer subscription offering and retail presence. Subscription has become a growing channel for challenger brands that want to (partially) bypass stores to get straight to consumers.

Looks count
For nutricosmetics, appearance is vital. Premium products need the right upmarket packaging to position themselves as serious players that look good in consumers’ bathroom cabinets.

Byrne says the brand has taken ‘[aesthetic] cues from fashion labels we admire’. However, he says that the only way to keep people really interested, and coming back for more, is ‘substance’. 

He also notes that nutricosmetics sales often have ‘a female slant’ – but adds that there’s space for male consumers, especially as hair health can be a concern. This need is currently being filled by products like Skinglo, a collagen drink specially designed for male hair and skin.

In 2022 there’s plenty of innovation out there in the marketplace – with lots more to come – and not all of it is welcome. Consumer perceptions have been damaged by scam
products like lollipops that promise weight loss, or pills that allegedly promote a bigger butt. The noise from these (which are often touted by online influencers) makes it harder for credible companies to win trust, especially since results from nutricosmetics are often a naturally slow burn. 

Regulators, in particular, have their work cut out to catch up with what’s new. 

“The obvious barriers to market will be the blurring of lines between food and medicine,” says Kechara. “The licensing for products to make clinical claims is difficult, expensive and mostly unattainable, but the scientific evidence is gathering speed and at some point we may see a paradigm shift where ‘food as dermatological medicine’ may become the new normal. 

“The Venn diagram of beauty and nutrition are already overlapping to the point where food is the new cosmetic and the natural progression is to move more into clinical ‘skincare from within’ products and services.”

Formats frenzy
For nutricosmetics brands, formats matter – not just for delivering nutritional benefits, but for making ingesting them more convenient for the consumer. And with a wide range of formats now on offer – from gummies to drinks – sector experts are keeping an eye on which ones win out.

Fiona Klonarides, director of the Beauty Shortlist awards, says that ‘ease of delivery’ and ‘on-the-go portability’ are both important factors for manufacturers. After all, shoppers want to keep their nutricosmetics within easy reach during their busy lives. “[We’re seeing a trend for] modern apothecary handbag wellbeing essentials – like gummies, drinkable gels and powdered drinks,” she observes. 

Elsewhere, John Lewis’ influential Beauty Bets report suggests that liquid and powder formats are set to remain strong, while capsules and tablets will grow in popularity as
customers demand ever more convenience. 

The report also rates collagen’s prominence, identifying Australian brand The Beauty Chef’s Collagen Inner Beauty Boost liquid as the upmarket retailer’s best-seller, with sales up 230%.

Taste is another consideration – and it’s an area where zero flavour is often thought best. This is why Cytoplan has worked to develop a ‘clean (free from ocean contaminants), tasteless and odourless’ Marine Collagen powder that can be added to water and smoothies.


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