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Our map of the sector

Welcome to ThinkingLinking’s map: the first multi-dimensional map of the natural ingredients sector!

A complex picture


When we stand back from the natural ingredients sector, we can see the enormous ‘cross over’ between the different dimensions. Individual ingredients can come from many origins, they can be produced by more than one process and are used in multiple verticals. The point is that it is not just that the industry at large touches so many origins, processes and verticals, but each individual ingredient also does.

At a glance: what is possible in natural ingredients?

Linkages found to exist based on analysis of 881 products

Main chart.png

source: ThinkingLinking

Natural Ingredients Database


About half the ingredient types can be produced using only one of the four principle origins: plant, animal, microorganism or soil. If we were to go down to the sub-origin level, ‘origin flexibility’ – the number of possible origins for an ingredient – becomes even greater. For example, we can easily see how the vegan trend can be accommodated in many ingredient categories by changing the biomass.

Unique or multiple origins?

Overlaps of possible origins for each ingredient, based on 881 products

Origin Venn diagram.png

source: ThinkingLinking

Natural Ingredients Database

Production process

We see that the three principal production processes of the natural ingredients sector can be used across all four principle origins, plant, animal, microorganism and soil. For example, we see that plant origins are used in all processes, not just extraction; and extraction itself is deployed across all four categories of biomass. We also see that ingredient types often repeat in different origin categories. 

Every living source can be processed in every way

Each of plant, animal, microorganism and soil origin can be processed by any of extraction, biochemical reaction, fermentation and combined processes

Origin _ process chart.png

source: ThinkingLinking

Natural Ingredients Database

Combination processes

There are in fact six processes at work in the natural ingredients sector, the three basic ones, extraction, fermentation and biochemical reaction, plus the pairing of each of them. Ingredient types are plotted to show which of these six can be used to produce the particular ingredient. Of course, though an ingredient type has many options, individual companies tend to use only one. The overall picture is that there is a lot of choice in production method for most ingredients. Only three ingredient types have a single production method option. Many have at least three options and, at the extreme, probiotics has four. These options of course result in an ingredient having different product qualities and economics at different production levels.

How many ways can each ingredient be produced?

A complex relationship

Ingredients diagram.png

source: ThinkingLinking

Natural Ingredients Database

Vertical markets

It’s well-known that individual ingredients have wide use across different vertical markets but the scale of this phenomenon can now be appreciated. Indeed, 85% of ingredient types have between four and five vertical market uses. 

Most ingredients have a multitude of markets

Based on 1,129 vertical market applications identified for 881 products

Market chart.png

source: ThinkingLinking

Natural Ingredients Database

Health benefits

We found that 83% of products in our opportunities database have a health benefit claim. In this sense, the health benefits dimension of course cannot be considered a universal one for the sector, unlike ingredient, origin, process and vertical market. Nevertheless, it’s majority relevance makes it critical to the sector.

We can see that some natural ingredient groupings have a very wide impact across the health spectrum and also some therapeutic areas likewise can be addressed by multiple natural ingredients groupings.

Ingredient Power

The therapeutic areas relevant to each ingredient

Ingredient Grouping _ Health Benefits.png

source: ThinkingLinking

Natural Ingredients Database

The data also shows that many sub-origins have wide healthcare uses and similarly many of the therapeutic and wellness categories can be addressed by multiple sub-origins.

This scale of ingredient and sub-origin choice for health and vice versa goes some way to explain the complexity of the sector and decisions facing the pharma and nutraceutical sectors, and indeed their consumers, when considering the choices they have from the natural ingredients sector. 

Origin Power

The therapeutic areas relevant to each sub-origin

Suborigin _ Health Benefits.png

source: ThinkingLinking

Natural Ingredients Database

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