Nutraceuticals. Nutricosmetics. Cosmeceuticals. Medical Foods. Let Us Sort a Few Things Out For You.

Where do you stand on medical foods? On nutraceuticals? On nutricosmetics? On cosmeceuticals? Or do you need us to define them before you can even answer?

It’s a good idea to understand the products behind these terms, because they are a quickly evolving part of the health-products landscape worldwide. They’re influenced by many things, all at once:

  • Economic factors of all kinds
  • Government policies on medical care
  • Pharmaceutical companies’ efforts to maintain profit margins
  • New and traditional views of medicine country-by-country

Some quick definitions:

Medical foods aren’t prescribed to cure illnesses, but doctors recommend them to battle specific nutritional deficiencies relating to illness. A recent Wall Street Journal story explained that large food companies like Nestlé SA and Danone SA are increasingly interested in this category: for example, Nestlé SA has bought a stake in Accera, which makes a milkshake that it says offers the brain an alternative energy source, ketones, after it’s been metabolized.

Neutraceuticals are what we call supplements, such as pills and powders you add to a drink. Sometimes manufacturers will present a new product as a supplement after failing to meet regulations for a medical food.

Nutricosmetics are supplements that seek to aid skin health through micronutrients like flavonids or Vitamin C, or foods like Frutels’ acne-care candy.

Cosmiceuticals are a category not recognized by the U.S. FDA – topical cosmetic products with bioactive ingredients that purport to benefit the skin.

If this sounds a little complicated, it gets even more so – but plenty interesting – in the marketplace.  Some examples:

  • In Japan, nutricosmetics such as drinks with collagen, have done well, even as the traditional cosmetics industry there has struggled. The category has shown strength in Malaysia as well, and in China, where these products combine the traditional trust in natural remedies (many of which do work) with the increasing availability of branded products.
  • Brazil appears to be poised for a nutricosmetic boom, as a Datamonitor survey found that nearly two-thirds of consumers find the idea of such products appealing, compared to just over one-third in Europe
  • This traditional “beauty-from-within” approach is slower to catch on in Europe and Western countries in general because these countries traditionally have turned to trained doctors and government-approved medicines.
  • In Western countries, however, younger people are more inclined to try all kinds of new, natural approaches, so manufacturers are targeting them, as well as baby boomers in some cases. The older the person, the less experimental. Proof of this is that elderly people in the U.S. are the least inclined to try even approved generic medicines.
  • Nutricosmetics are showing increasing appeal to men and young women in the West. For men, these include anti-hair-loss products and skin-care products.

Clear now? Not entirely? The point is, powerful forces (economies, governments, regulations, technologies, consumers) are at work reshaping the markets for products that are not traditional, prescribed pharmaceuticals. Big pharma companies are following these trends, and as a brand marketer, you can, too.