A Finger On The Pulse: Trends In Heart Health Supplements

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

With concern about cardiovascular disease growing across Asia, heart health has become one of the most important targets in dietary supplement markets. Here, Zev Ziegler, head of global brand & marketing at Lycored’s Health Nutrition Division, discusses new research into the motivations of supplement consumers.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounts for almost a third of all global deaths (31 percent) and has remained the world’s single biggest killer over the past decade, according to the World Health Organisation’s report on cardiovascular diseases published in 2014.

Across Asia, it is a serious and growing concern. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, in South Asia the number of deaths attributed to CVD in 2013 was 97.4 percent higher than in 1990—an additional 1.7 million deaths. East Asia, meanwhile, reported more than 1.2 million additional deaths in 2013, representing a 47.2 percent increase over 1990.

Accordingly, cardiovascular health is one of the most significant wellness targets in both developed and developing dietary supplement markets, with studies showing that more than half of supplement users are concerned about their heart health. This may reflect the fact that many consumers at risk of CVD are reluctant to take medicines such as statins and/or find it difficult to make changes to their diet to improve their heart health.

The risk of developing CVD increases with age, according to the World Heart Federation, while studies also show that dietary supplement users tend to be older. Research in the US in 2014 found that 58 percent of men aged 51-70 years were taking supplements, compared with 36 percent of those aged 19-30 years. Similarly in the UK, a 2008 report for the Food Standards Agency found that among people aged 55 or over, 41 percent were taking a supplement compared with 31 percent of the general population.

In light of the opportunities this older demographic offers for supplement manufacturers, Lycored commissioned an online survey of 200 UK consumers aged 50+ who take supplements regularly (at least five times a week). The survey explored the participants’ motivations for using supplements and perceptions of their value, as well as their awareness of the benefits of lycopene, a carotenoid that has suggested by research findings to improve cardiovascular health.

The results of the research reveal the qualities that make these consumers more likely to choose certain supplements over others to enhance their wellbeing. In this article, we explore the main findings in detail.

Lycopene Scores High On Recognition

Carotenoids are natural pigments found in plants and known to act as powerful antioxidants. Lycopene, the carotenoid responsible for the red colour of tomatoes, has been shown to offer a range of benefits to cardiovascular health.

The consumer research found that a high proportion of consumers (38 percent) had heard of lycopene. Of these, 62 percent said they were also aware of its health benefits. This means that almost a quarter of the entire sample (24 percent) had both heard of lycopene and said they were aware of its health benefits, indicating the huge potential this nutrient offers as an ingredient in supplements; consumers would be more likely to invest in products with ingredients that they know of rather than those they do not.

Heart Health Benefits Resonate

The heart health benefits offered by lycopene-based supplements were described to the respondents. They were then asked which they would consider beneficial to them personally. In total, 73 percent said they would consider support for a healthy circulatory system to be beneficial.

Other heart health benefits that scored well were: reducing bad cholesterol (69 percent), improving cardiovascular health over time (68 percent) and helping to maintain blood pressure within normal range (66 percent).

Further, once they had been given this information, 70 percent of participants said they would be more likely to use supplements containing lycopene in the future. This suggests that, with the right education, many more consumers could be persuaded to buy into the lycopene supplements category.

What Consumers Want From A Supplement

To understand better what drives consumers to purchase some supplements over others, respondents were presented with a range of properties a product might offer and were asked if they would make them more or less likely to use it.

Naturalness resonated more than any other factor, with 80 percent of respondents stating they would be more likely to use a supplement that contained naturally occurring ingredients.

In line with this, 75 percent said they would be more likely to choose a product free from artificial ingredients. Knowing that a product was derived from fruit and vegetables was also a major motivator (68 percent) and supplements containing ingredients made from tomatoes had strong appeal (70 percent).

Ranking almost as high as naturalness as a driver of supplement choice in the survey was ‘supported by extensive clinical trials’, a factor that appealed to 79 percent of participants. Furthermore, 60 percent of respondents to the survey said they were more likely to choose a supplement if they knew it was based on sustainably sourced ingredients.

Ingredients That Are On Trend

The responses generated by the survey help to form a picture of the ingredients that are most likely to appeal to consumers when used in dietary supplements.

An analysis of these results highlights that consumers want nutrient complexes that are free from artificial ingredients, derived from sustainable sources and supported by extensive clinical trials. These are the significant trends in the dietary supplement market today.

Furthermore, lycopene commands good awareness among consumers. By drawing its power from the tomato—a natural foodstuff that is sustainable and easily renewable— lycopene also meets consumers’ ethical requirements.

The research demonstrates that target consumers for heart health supplements are knowledgeable about their wellbeing and selective when it comes to the products they buy. This means that responsible marketing will resonate with these consumers and increase trust in the dietary supplements brands they buy.

It highlights the importance of using ingredients in supplements that do not come with exaggerated claims. Products should always go through extensive testing procedures, trials and periods of refinement before being brought to market.

Many studies suggest the benefits of lycopene are enhanced by the presence of other synergistic phytonutrients. These can include phytoene, phytofluene, beta-carotene, phytosterols and tocopherols (vitamin E). The beneficial effects of these on blood pressure, endothelial function and stress reaction following a high fat meal have been observed in clinical studies.


Research can offer valuable insight for manufacturers seeking to build a profile of consumers for dietary supplements. Perhaps the most important lesson is that they have multiple needs—they expect the nutrient complexes they buy not just to offer health benefits supported by clinical trials, but also to be produced from natural ingredients derived from sustainable sources.

Lycopene offers high name recognition and meets consumers’ ethical requirements—it is natural, sustainable, and easily renewable. Its potential as an ingredient that ‘ticks all the boxes’ and helps supplement manufacturers boost their appeal to consumers in Asia and beyond is clear.