UK: Nutraceuticals And IP – Increasing Your Product's Longevity

Last Updated: 29 March 2017
Article by Rebecca Matheson

Over recent years, there has been a rise within the food and drink industry in healthy alternatives, as consumers become more conscious of their diet, and more wary of what goes in to their food and drink. Health and longevity are becoming of increasing consumer concern, and associated governmental regulation is also on the increase. But, in a food and drink context, does the term "healthy" always equate to what consumers perceive to be "natural"? At least a proportion of consumers have a negative association with "chemical" or "unnatural" ingredients being added to their food. Yet, despite this, a variety of successful products have been launched over the years that may broadly be classed as "nutraceuticals".

Although usage can vary, the term "nutraceutical" generally refers to a food-based or food-derived product that provides an enhanced health benefit compared with its "natural" food counterpart. A nutraceutical may be classed as a dietary supplement, or a "functional food".

Dietary supplements

The principle of a dietary supplement is to isolate a chemical that is present in food and theorized to be responsible for improving health, and then to formulate this chemical in to a capsule, powder (and so on). For example there is an array of dietary supplements based on lycopene (which is present in tomatoes) marketed as having beneficial antioxidant effects.

Functional foods

Whilst dietary supplements are consumed in a pseudo-medicinal manner, "functional foods" are consumed in their traditional food form. These are products that are altered in their makeup in some way so as to impart an improved health benefit. Functional foods can be readily found on the supermarket shelves, for example:

  • margarines that include stanols or sterols, (e.g. BENECOL® spread, stated to reduce your cholesterol
  • yoghurt or milk drinks with bacterial cultures (often marketed as "friendly bacteria") stated to be of digestive benefit

The array of functional foods now available is becoming more and more varied. For example, US company Puration are selling water infused with a cannabis extract (minus the psychoactive compound, THC) stated to be an "ideal component of a pre and post workout regime", and purported to work as an anti-inflammatory and relieve muscle spasms.

Japan boasts a particularly eclectic mix of functional food products, ranging from the well-known fermented milk product Yakult, to a perhaps more unusual product called " Precious" – a collagen-containing beer said to improve your skin.

Meanwhile, university institutions are also innovating in this area, and some are even looking to bring healthy ice-cream to the table – the product in question being gelato with antioxidant properties, developed at the University of Rome. Antioxidant enrichment of food seems particularly on trend for making "unhealthy" products, "healthier", and consumers can now buy flavanol enriched cocoa, and antioxidant boosted wine.

What do consumers think?

Consumer reaction to these products can be mixed. For some, the potential health and longevity aspect of these products has proved highly popular. Taking the example of Yakult once again, the milk product has shown steady growth and is now available in 33 countries. Yet, to others, these products may be less appealing. Some consumers may object to these products simply on the basis that there has been scientific meddling in their food (perhaps more so when the food ingredients are genetically modified), while others may merely be skeptical as to whether or not these products work.

Fueling this consumer scepticism are stories of companies having to withdraw the health claims of their nutraceutical products, after authorities deemed the evidence supporting these health claims insubstantial. For example, in 2010, Danone withdrew claims that Actimel and Activia boost the immune system and aid digestive health, after doubts were raised by the European Food Safety Authority and the UK Advertising Standards Authority.

It is stories such as this that highlight the importance of regulating the health claims made by companies towards nutraceutical products, to avoid misleading consumers. At present, the standards of regulation vary across the globe. But, as we (the general public) become ever more health conscious, it may be that the health claims of nutraceutical products come under even closer scrutiny. This is not in itself a bad thing, however – stringent regulations and sceptical consumers may well fuel innovation, as companies compete to develop new nutraceutical products with watertight health claims, and quite possibly as a result, very desirable and successful products to market.

What does this mean for IP?

With continuing innovation in this area, it is important to consider your patent position, as well as your broader IP strategy. A new nutraceutical product with improved results over previous products may be eligible for patent protection, and the more data that demonstrates these improved results, the better. If you have developed an improved process of making your product, then this process may also be eligible for protection. A strong patent could lead to increased revenue, thanks to licensing opportunities or simply keeping competitors out of a lucrative market.

Aside from potential health benefits, is your product improved in another sense? E.g. is it more stable in terms of shelf life, less prone to microbiological spoilage, or does it solve an existing technical problem around flavour or consistency? If so, then again patent protection might be an option.

Of course, as well as being mindful of your own IP, it pays to be mindful of your competitors who will also be innovating in this area. You may decide not to patent your product, but you should still check to see if your competitors have done so – and if so, if there is a risk of infringement. Launching a new product without assessing the competitive landscape can have costly implications, e.g. if you are forced to recall products and to reformulate your product as a result of someone else's IP.

Even if patent protection is not appropriate for your product, don't forget that there is value in obtaining registered trade mark protection for your brand name. A registered trade mark means you can prevent someone else using or applying to register something identical or similar for an identical or similar product. A registered trade mark, like a patent, is an asset that can add real value to your business either by licensing its use to a third party or by selling it. Again, when launching a new product you should also make sure that you have searched to establish whether your use might infringe an earlier right owned by a third party.

The future

The trend for healthy eating and living looks set only to increase and new products are continually hitting the market. This presents consumers with a dizzying array of choice, but it also means we're in a time of great opportunity for companies innovating in this space. Investing in innovation does require resources, but this investment can pay off if you arrive at the right product, and protect it with the right IP.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.