Eight water-soluble vitamins make up the vitamin B complex: thiamin (B1); riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3 or B4), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), bioin (B8 or vitamin H), folate (B9), and cobalimin (B12).
In its new report US Vitamin B Market, the consultancy valued US revenues at $166.6m in 2006, and expects them to reach the $300.9m by 2012.
Sangeetha Srinivasan, industry manager for Frost's Food and Beverage Ingredients Group, told NutraIngredients.com that since B vitamins are commodities the market is unlikely to decline.
But the rise appears to be pronounced as consumers take more measures to reduce their risk of getting ill so as to avoid being hit by rising health care costs and reduced allowances.
The trend is manifesting itself in the emergence of more products in the vitamin water, sports drinks, and vitamin-enriched confectionary categories.
Of all the B vitamins, folate (B9) is leading the pack with annual growth of eight per cent annually thanks to mandatory folic acid fortification of grain products. The others are experiencing growth of around four per cent.
Moreover Srinivasan said that the consumer interest in preventative health care is augmenting growth for most vitamins as supplement-taking is one of the preferred illness prevention methods. "However this trend is particularly true with water soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B complex, with well established safety parameters."
While the report is positive, it does some stark caveats for vitamin producers - most notably over price pressure and decreasing profit margins as a result of Chinese players entering what is a relatively mature market.
It says that while companies tend to try to improve margins by lowering production costs, there are gains to be made in stepping up research and development activities, especially with regard to value-added products with superior physiochemical characteristics.
Srinivasan said that, in particular, nutricosmetics and cosmeceuticals are areas showing significant potential for future growth: for instance, B vitamins have been show to help promote healthy skin, hair and nails; and niacinamide has been recognised for its anti-aging potential.
This later use has already been seized upon by Olay, with its Total Effects with VitaNiacin anti-aging cream.
Another way to beat the price pressure, says Frost, is by forming strategic alliances and joint ventures.
"This would enable market participants to expand geographically and tap developing markets such as Asia Pacific," it says.
This advice echoes that given by Frost and Sullivan last year in relation to amino acids - another market that is presently facing stiff competition from Asia.
Frost and Sullivan researched the European vitamin B marketing in 2005, valuing it at US$534.1m and estimating an increase of more than 100 per cent to $1.16bn by 2012.
Srinivasan said that most of the qualitative trends between the US and Europe are the same, there are some points of difference.
For instance, in the US the food and feed industry is the biggest user of folic acid, whereas in Europe it is the pharmaceutical industry, which supports higher prices.