Whether to add extra health benefits to a product, or replace nutrients lost in processing, mineral fortification is an attractive proposition to manufacturers and consumers alike, says Marigot Group
With ageing populations and the continuing growth of the functional foods market, the future offers considerable opportunities for developing the category. Marine-based ingredients are likely to play a key role in this development. As a natural source of important nutrients, they appeal to a consumer audience that is increasingly concerned with provenance and wary of artificial ingredients.
Seaweed mineral sources enable manufacturers to enrich end-products by incorporating one ingredient with a range of health benefits, causing little or no disruption to existing manufacturing processes. Lithothamnium is the richest seaweed mineral source available, with 95% of its make up being mineral based.
Aquamin, manufactured by Marigot Ltd, is made from this particular type of marine algae. Aquamin is a completely natural ingredient and contains more than 70 beneficial minerals and trace minerals, all of which have specific health benefits. Here we look in more detail at five of the key minerals contained in Aquamin and the potential for fortified food and drinks.
Calcium: Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our bodies, making up approximately 1.5% of our total body weight. Its bone health improving properties have been well documented, although calcium has also been linked to weight loss and reducing cholesterol.
It is especially effective when taken in conjunction with magnesium, which aids transportation around the body. The calcium fortification market is already well established with a range of products — from dairy to fruit juices — being enriched with this mineral.
Magnesium: Magnesium is traditionally used less frequently by food and supplement companies than calcium. But, this trend is changing as consumer demand rises. Most unprocessed food contains magnesium, but the content has decreased during the years as a result of increased processing and refining to create a better quality product.
In recent years, the dairy industry has shown interest in adding magnesium to milk products to aid calcium absorption. Demand for magnesium fortification has further grown following studies showing that one in five women between 19 and 34 is classed as having low magnesium intake (www.nutrition.org.uk). This has led to concern that dietary consumption alone may not be enough to promote the optimal magnesium status required to maintain muscle and nerve function, as well as bone health.
Selenium: Selenium is a mineral that, although still essential, is required by the body in smaller amounts than other minerals such as calcium and magnesium. It is therefore classed as a trace mineral. The market for selenium-enriched products is still in its infancy. However, selenium-enriched bread was launched onto the market following the publication of an 8-year study revealing low levels of the mineral in European soil and wheat. Selenium performs many tasks in the body but is best known for boosting the immune system to help prevent disease.
Zinc: Zinc is present in every part of the body and has a variety of functions. It is particularly important for a healthy immune system and resistance to infection. Fortification with zinc is becoming increasingly common, as the range of health benefits becomes better known. Studies have shown that zinc can reduce the severity and duration of the common cold. Although this is not the only benefit of the mineral, most products currently fortified with zinc — such as fruit juices — are marketed based on its immune-boosting benefits.
Iron: A key component in haemoglobin, iron is a trace mineral that supplies energy to every cell in the body. A lack of iron is recognized as being the most common mineral deficiency in the Western world. Intake is especially important amongst women, as it is lost through menstruation; many women have iron deficient anaemia without being aware. Statistics indicate that in the UK alone, 11% of women under 50 are iron deficient (www.wholehealthmd.com). Mainly used to fortify flour and bread, the current market for iron-fortified food and drink has potential for future growth.
Healthier lifestyles and an increasing awareness of specific health issues continue to drive demand for mineral fortified food and drinks. Offering natural, organic, clean label credentials, combined with the benefits of numerous minerals that are essential for the healthy functioning of the human body, marine ingredients — such as Aquamin — meet current demands and look set for future growth.