The nutraceuticals sector is in constant motion. Innovations are constantly emerging, and companies are increasingly turning to consumers to meet their needs and expectations. In recent years, environmental impact has become an important purchasing criterion for 1 in 2 consumers(1).
The term “eco-design” is now appearing on the market. It describes products for which environmental protection is an integral part of the design process. The aim is to reduce the environmental impact of products throughout their life cycle: extraction of raw materials, production, distribution, use and end-of-life(2). Eco-design is also reflected in packaging, by reducing its negative impact on the environment.
Ecodesign in nutraceuticals: new opportunities.
Opportunities for eco-design at all levels of dietary supplement production.
Designing a nutraceutical product can involve many stages. All the more reason for players in the sector to take action to eco-design. This may involve reducing carbon impact, working on the location of supply chains, or sourcing ingredients. Production also involves significant energy costs, which can be reviewed. Packaging also represents a real source of innovation for reducing waste, both in industry and at the consumer level.
Ecodesign: a response to customer expectations.
Consumers are demanding greater respect for the environment. Indeed, almost 75% of consumers say they are interested in products with upcycled ingredients, if these have a lower environmental impact(3). Labels are also a selection criterion for consumers. For plant extracts, for example, there’s the Phytolia label, and for fish products the MSC and Friend of the Sea labels.
These expectations of the general public are positioned within a global approach of respect for nature and transparency. This approach is reflected in the key success factors for dietary supplements in 2022: naturalness, origin and sustainable sourcing(4).
Market trends are also evolving in line with consumer expectations. We are currently seeing eco-innovative ingredients, designed using greener extraction processes and environmentally-friendly sourcing. Another major market trend is anti-waste, with upcycled solutions in particular. And last but not least, fair trade products.
Eco-design in nutraceuticals starts with more sustainable ingredients.
More environmentally-friendly production methods.
Eco-design is integrated at the very beginning of the supply chain, right from the production of ingredients. To name but a few, there are a number of cultivation methods that are more respectful of the environment: regenerative agriculture, conservation agriculture and permaculture. And also organic farming, which is already well established in the sector. Organic produce is growing faster than conventional produce(5).
Relocation and transparency in sourcing.
Sourcing ingredients is an essential element in eco-design. Manufacturers can aim for local sourcing, with the carbon impact of transport kept to a minimum, as well as local development. However, certain assets are sometimes produced in specific areas and cannot be sourced elsewhere. In such cases, actions can be taken to choose low-emission means of transport, or to monitor local growing methods. The challenge is to justify these choices and maintain real transparency with the consumer.
A key stage in the design process is the extraction of the active ingredients. This stage is often carried out using products that are not very environmentally-friendly. Progress can therefore be made here, by using alternative solvents. Particular attention can also be paid to energy consumption during extraction. Finally, another “greener” option is to limit waste production and encourage the synthesis of co-products.
A proven solution: upcycling ingredients.
Upcycling is already well established in all sectors. Upcycling follows a simple principle: transforming a material into a valuable object of superior quality. This production method is a solution to the problems of wastage and overproduction of raw materials. In the nutraceuticals sector, for example, we can think of downgraded fruit and vegetables with upcycled co-products, or plant extractions that use 100% of the plant.
Packaging: an innovation lever for eco-design in nutraceuticals.
Many options are available for eco-designing packaging, reducing waste and environmentally toxic materials. Here’s an overview of the eco-packaging options available:
- Use recyclable materials (glass, paper, cardboard). Cardboard pillboxes, for example, are already available.
- Turn to biodegradable and compostable raw materials. There are bottles and corks on the market that have been developed from plant products to be biodegradable.
- Renewable materials such as starch or wood offer a sustainable solution for some packaging. This is the case for wooden closures, for example.
- Biosourced packaging, made from materials derived from living organisms (tomato pulp, biosourced plastic), is also making its appearance.
Finally, to limit the carbon impact of production, it is also possible to design home-made kits based on powders and capsules.
Nutraceuticals players have the opportunity to innovate right along the value chain, from sourcing through extraction processes to packaging and distribution. It is essential to integrate this notion into future product design from the outset. So, in addition to being more respectful of the environment, eco-design can be a differentiating factor in this booming market!
- Harris Interactive for Synadiet. Barometer 2022 of dietary supplements consumption in France. March 2022
- L’éco-conception des produits | Ministères Écologie Énergie Territoires (ecologie.gouv.fr)
- Innova Market Insights. “Shared Planet” leads Innova Market Insights’ Top Ten Trends for 2022. 2022.