Special edition: Polyphenols

Global tea polyphenols market set to hit $368 million by 2020

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Tea Green tea

The popularity of tea as a beverage helps drive awareness of the polyphenols extracted from the plant.
The popularity of tea as a beverage helps drive awareness of the polyphenols extracted from the plant.
Tea polyphenols are poised to enjoy strong growth over the next decade, with a new market report calling for the global market in the ingredients to hit $368 million by 2020.  That makes sense to observers, who say the popularity of tea, green tea in particular, boosts awareness of the ingredients derived from the plant.

“I would say tea polyphenols are a leading light (among polyphenols in general) because, outside of water, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world,”​ Randy Kreienbrink, marketing director and certified food scientist at BI Nutraceuticals, told NutraIngredients-USA.

Strong growth forecast

According to the research firm, Grand View Research, growing aging populations mainly in Japan and Western Europe is expected to drive the market for tea polyphenols over the next six years. In addition, the changing lifestyle has led to increased global prevalence of diabetes and cancer, which has resulted in a shift to consume nutraceutical products including tea polyphenols.

Green tea polyphenols emerged as the leading product segment consumed worldwide and accounted for over 70% of the total market in 2012, the company said. Green tea generally contains high amount of polyphenols such as catechins, flavanols, etc. which makes it ideal for the consumers seeking to management lifestyle conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Green tea generally contains 30% to 40% of water extractable polyphenols. Along with being the largest type, it is also expected to be the fastest growing type tea polyphenols at an estimated CAGR of 8.8% over the forecast period, Grand View’s research indicates. Green tea polyphenols were followed by oolong tea polyphenols which accounted for just over 16% of the total market in 2012.

As far as overall volume is concerned, Grand View pegged global tea polyphenols demand at about 9,200 tons by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 8.3% from 2013 to 2020.
Functional beverages were the largest application segment of tea polyphenols and accounted over 40% of the total demand in 2012. Functional beverages are also expected to be the fastest growing application segment with an estimated CAGR of 8.6% from 2013 to 2020. Functional beverages were followed by functional food which accounted for over 30% of the total demand in 2012.

Kreienbrink’s company doesn’t handle whole tea, leaving that to the commodity traders.  But BI Nutraceuticals does handle the higher value fractions of the plant.

“Leading the charge would be the extracts, and then the powders,”​ Kreienbrink said. “Over the years the cost has been steady, and has held with the cost of living change. But as with anything, with increased demand it will increase the cost.”

Science backing

Along with the big push tea polyphenols get from the beverage, there is also a long history of use and a lot of data to support the use of tea fractions as functional beverages, said Mark Blumenthal, executive director of the American Botanical Council.

“Some of the most impressive studies on green tea are long term studies on the tea itself, not the isolated catechins or other compounds form the tea,”​ Blumenthal said.

“Some of the best population-based data on the cancer risk reduction effects are the population studies that have been done in Japan and China.  That has fueled the research in the last decade focusing on the polyphenols.”

One of the most active sectors for green tea polyphenols has been in weight management products.  As with any nutraceutical, the way in which it is used is not under the control of the manufacturer, and Blumenthal said some questions have arisen about green tea polyphenols as a result.  Some diet regimes in the past, which might have included supplements containing green tea polyphenols, have called for dramatic calorie restriction.  Or consumers, trained to expect fast results from the advertisements they have been bombarded with, may have starved themselves on their own accord.

“There have been some questions raised on whether high polyphenol concentration green tea extracts marketed for their potential benefits in helping wight loss may have an adverse effect on human livers when consumed in a fasting state,”​ Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said another issue with cases of possible liver toxicity associated with some green tea extracts could have to do with residual solvents.  Data collection related to adverse events is slowly getting better, but he said there is still too little data to parse out whether certain products were not correctly manufactured and so had too much solvent remaining in the finished goods.  Nor is it possible to say exactly what those solvents might have been, he said.

“I’m not saying that green tea extracts are unsafe,”​ Blumenthal said.  “I do think the market will continue to grow, especially if this concern about possible hepatotoxicity can be clarified. USP did a review of green tea hepatotoxicity and did not come out with any definitive conclusion.

“But green tea as a beverage has been so clearly effective that I do believe there is compelling evidence that warrants more research into green tea as an extract, as a beverage as well as the green tea polyphenols in their isolated form,”​ he said.

Bioavailability boost

One issue that hovers over tea polyphenols in their isolated form as it does with other polyphenols is that they tend to be poorly absorbed by the body.  Italian ingredient supplier Indena has gotten around that issue with its phytosome technology, which unites the polyphenol molecule with a carrier phospholipid.

“We use our phytosome technology to enhance the absorption of thees catechins,” said Greg Ris, vice president of sales at Indena USA.  Indena called its ingredient Greenselect Phytosome and it is aimed primarily at weight management applications.

“Our volumes are increasing.  We have two clinical studies related to this ingredient,”​ he said. But predicting future volumes is tricky in the weight management sphere because it is so prone to fads that skyrocket and then fade.

One reason why so many people are drinking tea is because they like the taste, Ris said. It provides a big boost to green tea polyphenols as opposed to other polyphenols, which tend to be bitter or astringent.

We have phenols from olive that are water soluble but they are very, very bitter and require masking.  With green tea, the soluability is good and the taste is good.”

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