New Zealand-based Fonterra has seen sales of colostrum rise significantly in key Asian markets, following the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Demand for other natural products said to boost the immune system is also expected to grow as consumers take increasing interest in preventive health.
Colostrum is taken from the first four milkings after calf birth from pasture-fed, non-immunised cows. Research has shown that colostrum may fight bacteria and viruses. It is also thought to stimulate tissue repair and cellular reproduction and is increasingly being taken in supplement form for anti-ageing.
Fonterra reported last year that the SARS virus boosted Chinese market demand for colostrum by over five times forecasted figures. It also saw a 50 per cent rise in sales of its Stolle milk, obtained from cows which are immunised to induce the formation of antibodies in their milk, in the Taiwan market.
"Chinese and Taiwanese consumers are drawn to natural remedies which they believe can thwart and cure diseases. They use colostrum and Stolle as preventative therapies," said Patrick Geals, Fonterra general manager of Health and Nutritional Solutions, part of the firm's new Growth Business unit, last year.
Rodd Hodgson, shareholder relations manager at the firm, says that demand for colostrum is again up significantly on last year and will continue to grow.
"Our network people are telling me that there are new colostrum products going into the market, particularly in both the United States and Asia that will continue to drive demand for colostrum supply from our farmers," he said.
Colostrum-based products have also been cropping up in Europe. Austrian energy drink maker Bomba unveiled a new wellness beverage with added colostrum, called Solution E, at the Anuga trade show in Germany last year, thought to be the first drink on the market to contain the novel ingredient.
Other ingredients enjoying success on the back of a heightened interest in preventing infection include probiotic bacteria. Probiotic products have seen strong growth despite the difficulty in proving their action against infection.
Indeed Datamonitor research shows that products that promote gut health are driving sales of functional foods in Europe, outpacing those foods targeting consumers at risk of heart or bone diseases. This is because consumers of functional foods are no longer limited to those with specific medical needs but also people who are merely concerned about future health risks and even those who find that functional foods offer lifestyle benefits, the market analysts suggest.
The report, 'Changing needs in functional food and drinks', adds that the advice given to consumers about health issues increasingly focuses on diet and lifestyle as much as on medicine, and as a result, consumers more readily accept the idea that changes in diet can have significant effects on health. This means that consumers are more likely to choose functional products based on their ability to make long-term changes to the overall quality of life.
Fonterra has committed to a minimum three-year colostrum collection programme and will be paying five per cent more for the ingredient than last year - $168 per kg of IgG (immunoglobulin type G) for 0.75 per cent strength colostrums - with a premium for higher strength colostrums.