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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, and view it in terms of the picture painted by our taxonomy and real-life data, we see its vast scope. Not only does the sector cover so many ingredients, origins, processes, and vertical markets, but what is particularly interesting is that any particular ingredient can have so many alternative origins, processes or vertical market applications.
This complexity and insight has not previously been revealed for the sector. The point is that it is not just that the industry at large touches so many origins, processes and verticals, but each individual ingredient does so too.

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 from more than one of the four principal origins (plant, animal, microorganism or soil). For example, we can easily see how the vegan trend can be accommodated in many ingredient categories by changing the biomass – there is a wealth of alternative plant and even soil choices at hand depending on the ingredient.

source: ThinkingLinking

Natural Ingredients Database

Unique or multiple origins?

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

Origin Venn diagram.png

Production process

We see that the production processes of the natural ingredients sector can be used widely across the four principal origins of plant, animal, microorganism and soil. Despite the broad applicability of “everything to everything”, some of the origin-process correlations are much more prevalent, as seen in the number of ingredients from an origin that are concentrated in a particular process.

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 are used widely across different vertical markets, but the scale of this phenomenon can now be fully appreciated for the first time. Indeed, 57% of ingredient types have products that cover 4 to 5 different vertical markets.


source: ThinkingLinking

Natural Ingredients Database

Most ingredients have a multitude of markets

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

Market chart.png

Health benefits

We found that 73% of products in our opportunities database have a health benefit. Unlike the type of ingredient, the origin, the process with which the product was made, and one or more vertical markets, the health benefit dimension cannot be considered universal. Nevertheless, its relevance to the majority of products makes it critical to the sector. We can see that some natural ingredient groupings have broad impacts across the health benefit spectrum, and some therapeutic areas can likewise be addressed by multiple natural ingredients groupings.

source: ThinkingLinking

Natural Ingredients Database

Ingredient Power

The therapeutic areas relevant to each ingredient

Ingredient Grouping _ Health Benefits.png

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

This wide range of ingredient and sub-origin choices for a particular health issue, and the wide range of health benefits coming out of each ingredient and sub-origin, is seen in the chart. This helps to explain the complexity of the sector and of the decisions facing pharma and nutraceutical companies, and indeed their consumers, when considering the choices they have among the permutations of ingredient sources and benefits.

Origin Power

The therapeutic areas relevant to each sub-origin

Suborigin _ Health Benefits.png

source: ThinkingLinking

Natural Ingredients Database

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