L-carnitine: Getting Noticed in a Challenging Market Place
In 2009, Frost & Sullivan turned its attention to the dynamic global weight management ingredients market. This research was presented at the 13th annual Supply Side West and market growth, product and application trends by region was discusses and included the following markets segments:
- Appetite suppressant and satiety ingredients
- Fat burning ingredients
- Fat blockers
- Carbohydrate blockers
- Metabolism regulators
As an example, one of the ingredients covered in this research is the global L-carnitine market. L-carnitine is a vitamin-like GRAS product that naturally occurs within our bodies to convert fatty acids into metabolic energy, fuel vital organs, and assist in increasing lean muscle tissue. The body can only produce 10 percent of its required carnitine level, making supplementation through diet necessary for certain individuals. This supplementation is especially important for those who experience above-average stress related to strenuous exercise, obesity, pregnancy, poor diets, and those suffering from various diseases. If L-carnitine levels are deficient, an individual can suffer a decrease in energy, lower performance standards, and decreased ability to effectively lose weight.
The global market for L-carnitine was valued at $US 76 Million in 2008, growing at a CAGR of 4.5 percent from 2004 to 2008. In 2008, the global revenue share of L-carnitine tartrate was 63.2 percent. Base L-carnitine, a highly hygroscopic ingredient used only in liquid formulas, had a 24.5 percent share of global market revenues. The global market revenue share of L-carnitine fumarate accounted for a relatively small share of 3.6 percent. Finally, other L-carnitine compounds, such as acetyl L-carnitine, made up the remainder of global market revenues at 4.5 percent.
Chart 1 shows the L-carnitine market demand shares by key market regions in 2008.
Global L-carnitine Market: Units Shipped Demand Shares by Key Regions (2008)
Source: Frost & Sullivan
Despite the scientific benefits of L-carnitine, there continues to be relatively low consumer awareness of its benefits. Specifically, there has been little exposure of this product relative to other functional products, such as omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics. Its current level of marketing activity remains very niche and oriented towards business-to-business promotions including trade shows, newsletters and clinical research. In addition, L-carnitine’s health benefits are not directly noticeable in comparison to other ingredients such as creatine. Marketers of L-carnitine must increase effective marketing for this promising ingredient. Otherwise, growth in the L-carnitine market will continue to be constrained.
Also challenging the market is the increasing threat of new entrants into the L-carnitine market. Chinese manufacturers continue to enter the market despite the relatively low number of potential buyers. Currently, the U.S. market for L-carnitine is concentrated among few key market players. However, Chinese manufacturers are increasingly able to supply L-carnitine with higher quality standards at lower prices (by as much as 30 percent less in price) due to lower production costs and increasing production capacity. In 2008, Chinese manufacturers produced over 1,300 metric ton of L-carnitine for the global market, which is over 45 percent of global production.
Consumer awareness of dietary supplementation continues to increase due to increasing interest in health, fitness and diets. L-carnitine, which can be promoted for its use in weight management, post-exercise recovery, delayed onset of fatigue, and optimization of performance, continues to take advantage of this increasing demand. However, this ingredient has always played a niche role with little recognition in its present markets and has been dominated by only a few ingredient suppliers. Heightened attention toward the effective marketing of L-carnitine’s health benefits is likely to positively impact the L-carnitine market demand and ensure its recognition as a key product in the weight management ingredient market