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The Rise of Ingestible Beauty and Gender-Specific Functional Food

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The concept of ingestible beauty attracts growing consumer interest

The demand for ingestible beauty is rising as consumers are increasingly taking a holistic approach to improving their appearance. An increasing number of consumers seek food products that they perceive to benefit skin and hair and prevent age-related and other issues that might emerge in the future.

Skin care in particular, is developing on a global level and packaged food products with skin health claims are becoming increasingly prevalent. Globally, the number of SKUs claiming skin health grew by 53% from 2019 to 2020. Products supporting hydration are also continuing to emerge, and grew by 11% in 2020. Antioxidants, which provide wider health benefits including skin and heart health, are more commonly used as a health claim in packaged food. As consumers’ attention to beauty through food increases, switching the claim from antioxidant to beauty-related claims when applicable, helps brands to differentiate.

imagekc588.pngSource: Euromonitor International, Product Claims and Positioning

While skin health is rapidly emerging, ingestible hair care comes from a lower base and is developing at a much slower pace. Hair health is, however, another common beauty concern among both male and female consumers globally. Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Beauty Survey, fielded June to July 2021, revealed that one in five global consumers have concerns about thinning hair.

Both proactive and reactive approaches are effective to prevent thinning hair and hair loss. Although common causes of thinning hair and hair loss are hormone-related, nutrition such as protein, biotin, vitamin A, B, C, zinc, and iron can help maintain healthy hair levels.

Men become the new target of inner beauty

Females are not the only consumer group to be interested in improving their beauty. Skin and facial appearance are also playing important roles in attracting male consumers. Demand for men’s skin care products is increasing and continuing to rise in all regions across the globe towards 2025. 2021’s Beauty Survey fielded also revealed that the ratio of male consumers using skin care products, such as facial moisturisers and face masks, jumped rapidly from 2016. In 2021, globally, 50% of male consumers are using facial moisturisers at least 1-3 times a month, and 38% of them use them daily.

Even the usage of colour cosmetics among male consumers is increasing. Male consumers who use BB creams or CC creams daily account for only 4% in 2021, while the ratio jumps to 19% when including those who use these products more than 1-3 times a month. The big gap between daily users and occasional users of colour cosmetics is showing the demand for improving one’s appearance for special occasions or when skin issues appear such as dark circles or blemishes.


Skin issues for example, are preventable by improving lifestyles and intake of certain nutrients. However, ingestible products targeting men’s beauty remain underdeveloped. The innovation is also at an emerging stage in the supplements industry. Hims from the US, for example, is a brand that sells beauty and dietary supplements with gender-specific targets, including in a gummy format called Biotin Builder Gummies which supports the maintenance of healthy hair for men.

While still niche, functional food players are also noticing the potential and have started tapping into the space. For example, Meiji, a major packaged food player in Japan, launched a collagen powder targeting men called Amino Collagen Men in 2020 to appeal to male consumers who want to improve skin as well as their overall health. The product contains fish collagen, ceramide, vitamin C and zinc.

Women’s health-related issues create opportunities for functional food

In addition to beauty, women’s health is also an emerging hot topic within the trend for functional products even though it is still at a nascent stage. PMS (premenstrual syndrome) alone impacts a huge number of women. PMS has a wide range of symptoms including mood swings, anxiety, skin issues, and headaches. Euromonitor International’s Health and Nutrition Survey highlighted that 89% of women under 40 years old had a period in the past 12 months, while up to 75% of menstruating women claim to experience PMS.

Functional food positioned to address PMS and menopausal symptoms by having a calming effect are emerging and the demand and the potential are strong. The Functional Chocolate Company in the US for example, offers a wide range of functional chocolate targeting women’s health. Its Rhythm Chocolate and Hot Chocolate targets PMS and menopause, respectively. Evening primrose oil, extracts from red clover, wild yam, liquorice root, dong quai, black cohosh and chasteberry are some of the ingredients contained in its Hot Chocolate that have functional benefits.

Identifying the gaps

While there are functional food products emerging that target beauty for men and women, and women’s health including PMS, menopause and fertility, support for men’s health is missing from the market. While the momentum of femtech innovation has helped women’s health to become a more openly discussed topic, there is less of a focus on men’s health. However, the demand for products promoting men’s health, such as boosting testosterone, is growing, and there are functional ingredients such as maca root which support men’s health.

Looking further ahead, functional food targeting beauty has strong potential as consumers are increasingly taking an inner beauty approach to improving their appearance. At the same time, innovation should include wider consumer groups including men, and go beyond beauty by moving on to gender-specific topics which create opportunities in this white space.

For further insight into functional food targeting beauty and gender-specific topics, read the full report here.

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