Technology expands the realm of possibilities for cleaner and more effective natural ingredients.
Natural ingredient suppliers are seeing an increase in demand for minerals, vitamins and other compounds obtained through natural processes and from natural sources.
In response, Santiago Vega, director of marketing, Health & Wellness, with Naturex Inc. in New Jersey, said the company has stepped up to answer this demand through a number of new ingredients obtained via patented technology. “These include products like Ultimine, a whole-food fermented iron obtained from a vegetable feedstock using patented fungal fermentation, a totally natural process,” he said. “An additional example is our Acerolife range of acerola ingredients with high naturally occurring vitamin C content, including the highest vitamin C content acerola in the market. Another important trend that we are seeing is the desire of consumers to know that the health ingredients that they take are effective once consumed.”
To address this need, Naturex in partnership with Olene, has introduced a solvent-free patented technology, Aqueosome, which is used to create a highly concentrated ginger powder: Gingest. “These types of processes offer numerous advantages, including higher concentrations for better compliance, increased bioavailability for enhanced efficacy, and in the case of Ultimine, improved taste,” Vega said.
Eric Meppem, co-founder/commercial director with Pharmako Biotechnologies Pty Ltd.—a partner of Gencor (Irvine, CA), which distributes its ingredients and technologies in the U.S. marketplace, said, “By improving how nutrients are used, we are helping improve health outcomes and contributing to reduced waste with more sustainable use of resources.”
Pharmako specializes in fat-soluble nutrients—its technologies improve the bioavailability and functionality. According to the company, its formulations:
• Reduce the dose (due to the disliking of large tablets)
• Increase the efficacy
• Improve patient compliance (people often take less)
• Offer innovative and different formats due to “pill fatigue”
• Speed up onset of action
Pharmako’s technologies are AquaCelle a patented SMEDS or emulsion system, LipiSerse a patented dispersion technology and CPOs (Compressible Powdered Oils). “Currently,” Meppem said, “there are some AquaCelle formulations commercialized around the world for omega-3 oils (fish, algal and krill), coenzyme Q10 and lutein. These have human pharmacokinetic studies supporting them. We have also already developed AquaCelle formulations for boswellia, curcumin, nigella sativa, CLA, EPO, vitamins A, D3, E, K2 and other nutrients.”
At Arla Foods Ingredients in New Jersey, Anne Louise Friis, sales development manager, North & South America, noted that the sports and nutrition bar category has experienced a period of strong growth and has become highly competitive as a consequence. “Protein is a frequently used ingredient in many of the successful products in this sector. However, in most protein bars, texture deteriorates quickly on the shelf, turning a tasty product into a tough-to-chew and far less pleasant experience. Arla Foods Ingredients has developed a single whey protein solution, Lacprodan TexturePro, to address this problem. It provides softening effects in protein bars, extending the texture shelf life by reducing hardness and improving chewiness. It is also suitable for other products, including low carb bars, high fiber bars and protein balls.”
Another processing system is Synergy Flavors Single-Pass Extraction (SPE) method. Will McCormack, business development manager with the company said, “At our facility in Hamilton, OH, Synergy Flavors produces a range of Synergy Pure Extracts and Essences. These include tea, coffee and a wide range of horticultural offerings, which are derived from the proprietary, integrated SPE processing system. The naturally sourced, plant-based ingredients used to create Synergy Pure Extracts and Essences are distinguished by their freshly picked flavor components.”
Once the aromatic flavor components are captured (essences), McCormack explained, the soluble solids are extracted and concentrated in the continuous processing system using flavor-friendly techniques that preserve natural flavor components at their peak. The company’s Wauconda, IL facility, on the other hand, specializes in microencapsulation, which is a technology used to protect and preserve flavor components.
“I think there is a big surge in functional food and beverages in the Millennial demographics and the willingness to try new products that will enhance their overall health and wells,” said Elyse Lovett, MS, MBA, Kyowa Hakko, New York, NY. “On-the-go technology, like stick pack and gels, are definitely some of the new and innovative ways to reach this audience. Stick packs provide an easy-to-use product that manufacturers can fill with great ingredients. I also think we will see a surge in gels as a new technology/delivery form in the market. Gels that are easy to use but also multi-versatile like a coffee gel that can be taken as a shot, or as a cold or hot drink with functional ingredients could make for a really great product.”
New extraction technologies are moving the natural products industry forward by providing ingredients that are more natural or more effective, thanks to their bioavailability, Vega said. “They’re also expanding the realm of possibilities in terms of applications. For example, in products like Ultimine, an iron ingredient derived from fungal fermentation of rice, the iron is encapsulated in the mycelia. Presenting iron in this form eliminates much of the unpleasant taste typically associated with these supplements. As consumers look for additional delivery formats beyond capsules, these technologies open up the possibility for use in products like beverages, gummies, and other applications. Other technologies, like Aqueosome, used in the production our ginger ingredient, Gingest, deliver much higher concentrations of key compounds than other processes.”
George Kokkinis, co-founder/technical director of Pharmako Biotechnologies, listed two processes being used by the company—AquaCelle that allows lipophilic (fat soluble) nutrients to be used at lower doses, and LipiSperse, a new and interesting technology in the market. “LipiSperse was developed in Pharmako’s laboratory in Sydney in 2017. It is truly unique, and unlike any other technology currently used in food, nutra or pharma,” he said. “LipiSperse is a dispersion technology that allows lipophilic crystals or particles to disperse in water. By eliminating agglomeration of hydrophobic particles, it increases the specific surface area, which in turn greatly improves bioavailability or absorption in the gastro-intestinal tract. Another point of difference with LipiSperse is that it only requires 1 percent excipient, so it delivers 90 percent active nutrient.”
Innovative processes allow customers—food and beverage manufacturers—to deliver ultra-clean label products, offering the opportunity to call out the named ingredient on the ingredient declaration, McCormack explained. “For example ‘natural cucumber essence’ or ‘cucumber essence’ could be cited as opposed to ‘natural flavor.’ In addition, since these ingredients are naturally sourced from the named raw material, they deliver the most authentic taste experience possible, transporting the end consumer from places like the tea and coffee fields of Sri Lanka and Columbia or the watermelon farms of Georgia. Using these ingredients, our customers can make a providence claim on their finished product, offering the experiential journey today’s consumers crave when looking for new food and beverage products that fulfil a need in their lives.”
According to Lovett, some of the technical challenges that the industry faces in these new processes are flavor/taste and possible stability, depending on the ingredient. “I think it is important that an ingredient supplier know how their products affect the flavor in a wide variety of delivery forms and be able to provide stability data for new processes.”
In addition, the desire for natural products produced without solvents or carriers creates a number of challenges for the industry in terms of stability and formulation, added Vega. “Stabilizing natural products requires specific expertise, as they tend to be more fragile than their synthetic counterparts. In addition, since functional food and beverage formats are becoming more and more popular as an alternative to tablets and capsules supplements, it’s important to pay attention to interactions with other ingredients. These interactions can have a negative impact on stability and reduce the efficacy of certain ingredients. And since taste is a key issue for these types of applications, formulators have the additional challenge of making sure their blends have the right flavor and organoleptic balance to appeal to consumers. Overcoming these difficulties requires specific expertise in natural ingredients. Because Naturex has a comprehensive portfolio of natural ingredients for both the food and health and wellness industries, we’re able to move easily between these categories to create formulations that are both stable and tasty.”
Meppem added that a common challenge facing many companies selling into the emerging ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) markets is consumer preference of delivery systems such as beverage or liquid product formats. “Many ingredients don’t mix well with water,” Meppem pointed out, adding that Pharmako specializes in providing formulations, which either emulsify in water or disperse in water. “Another challenge is meeting the need to have more responsible or sustainable use of resources,” he said. “By improving bioavailability, and demonstrating this in human pharmacokinetic trials (human blood plasma draw trials), Pharmako Biotechnologies shows that reduced doses of ingredients such as omega-3s, coenzyme-Q10 or curcumin can not only be as efficacious, but may also absorbed faster. There is an additional benefit here as well, by reducing the required dose, consumer compliance is improved, meaning better health outcomes and stronger consumer loyalty.”
Mother Nature is also a force to be reckoned with. Said McCormack, “With respect to natural ingredients, the major challenge can be the variance that occurs in the raw material due to factors that affect growing conditions, such as drought or flooding (or both) or diseases that might affect crops, such as citrus greening. Cost can be a factor, as natural raw materials will, in some instances, be more expensive than their artificial counterparts. Synergy Flavors addresses these issues through implementation of a robust supply chain and QA program to ensure quality and consistency of supply. Our in-depth understanding of our customers brand and their end consumer allows for the development of flavor profile and ingredient deceleration that delivers the desired consumption experience while remaining within the cost parameters and price point of the brand.”
Trends and Technology
The protein market continues to be a strong growth opportunity for the natural products industry. Projections suggest that the worldwide market for sports nutrition is set to grow to $45.27 billion (U.S) increasing massively from the 2016 figure of $28.37 billion (U.S.).
“Enhancement of the palatability of protein is a key trend,” said Friis. “Protein as a standalone ingredient is not known for its great taste and a lot of our customers turn to us to supply proteins that won’t impact negatively on the flavor of their products. Besides their numerous nutrition and health benefits, proteins extracted from milk, such as whey, have a pleasant taste that makes them acceptable to most consumers. In contrast, many plant proteins, face serious taste challenges, which limits their use in food beverage products, or requires the use of masking agents, which can compromise brand’s clean label strategies.”
Throughout Arla Foods Ingredients’ processes, Friis said the company is always mindful of the importance of clean label among businesses and consumers. Clean label has escalated to a new level—before, an ingredient was considered clean label simply if it was derived from a natural source. Now, businesses and consumers have more questions about the integrity of the source, such as—is it wholesome and safe? Take whey protein, which is derived from cow’s milk—while consumers might agree the milk is natural, more are asking: how is this milk produced? How is it processed? Manufacturers need to be able to answer these questions, and they can do this if they source their ingredients from a supplier they can trust. At Arla Foods Ingredients, our whey proteins are derived from milk produced by grass-fed cows using responsible farming standards. Also, we use safe production methods that comply with non-GMO (genetically modified organism) standards and which ensure no traces of heavy metals.
In addition, the development of products designed to support the microbiome is another emerging trend at the moment, Vega said. “Whether it’s gut, mouth or skin health, our microbiome has an immense impact on overall health. Pro- and prebiotics are a great start, but they’re really only the beginning. Many other ingredients can have an impact on bacterial balance. Several of our cranberry ingredients, such as Pacran, as well as Glucevia, a European ash extract, and Aronox, an extract of aronia, have been shown to support the microbiome, and other investigations are currently under way at Naturex to further substantiate the microbiome benefits of our botanical ingredients.”
Suppliers can add “personalization” to the list of top trends, noted Kokkinis. “Many brand customers now want more specialized or customized formulations,” he said. “Pharmako Biotechnologies is not a ‘one size fits all’ supplier. We customize formulations in our laboratory in Sydney which allows us to adjust formulations, depending on the ingredient being delivered, the dosage format, the market regulations in the country the customer is based or exporting to, and any preferences for potential excipients or clean label requirements.”
The concept of food as medicine has also emerged in recent years, according to McCormack. “One element of this trend is the idea of using food and beverage matrices to deliver bioactive ingredients such as pre/probiotics as opposed to traditional forms, such as pills, capsules and tablets. This can require the encapsulation of the active, health-promoting ingredient to achieve its incorporation into the chosen matrix and to maintain its stability over the product’s shelf life. Even instances where the active ingredient has been encapsulated, organoleptic challenges are prevalent among these types of products, and taste and texture challenges need to be overcome in order to ensure that the end consumer will purchase the product repeatedly.”
Vega said Naturex sees the next developments in ingredient technology will be geared toward several key areas: supporting the microbiome through ongoing investigations particularly on cranberry ingredients; addressing digestive health by providing the highest concentrations of ginger available on the market; and expanding the range of ingredients obtained through fermentation. “Ultimine for iron has just been released, but we are planning to expand this range to other important minerals. Healthy-aging is also a key category for Naturex. We currently offer a number of scientifically substantiated ingredients in this category for circulation, memory, and cognitive health and are constantly seeking out new ways to support seniors looking to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.
“As with all of our developments,” Vega continued, “responsible sourcing and full traceability remain key pillars of our process. Our sustainable Pathfinder program continues to play an important role in our business. We strive to provide customers and consumers the reassurance they deserve when it comes to their health and wellness products by offering them the full story behind each ingredient, including sourcing processing, and a large battery of tests that guarantee the raw material ID of each of our ingredients.”
Meppem cited the move to more natural formulations and cleaner labeling. “Pharmako already has several customers who have requested cleaner labeling. As we customize formulations for clients, we have been able to achieve their desired outcomes. Our naturally solubilized oils use natural, vegetable derived solubilizers, preservatives and antioxidants while our mass-market range opts for high-performance yet cost-effective formulations.”
Looking forward, Synergy Flavors’ innovation platforms are focused on fundamental research examining flavor-ingredient interactions across ready-to-mix (RTM) powdered beverages, ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages and ready-to-eat (RTE) bars and snacks, McCormack said. “Our aim is to continuously improve our understanding of ingredient/flavor interactions with a view to improving the absorption and subsequent efficacy of the ingredient or bioactive while maintaining the quality of the eating/drinking experience throughout the shelf-life of our customers’ products. For example, much of the technology that we’ve developed in recent years to improve the organoleptic properties of dairy proteins, such as whey, is transferrable to the non-dairy/plant-based protein space. This has been a significant advantage to Synergy Flavors in recent years, given the explosion in the plant-based movement. NIE
Researching Probiotics at DuPont
Wesley Morovic, scientist—genomics & microbiome, with DuPont Nutrition & Health In Madison, WI, discussed the technology and researching of “next generation” probiotics.
NIE: What are the new technology processes at DuPont for nutraceuticals used in supplements, foods and beverages?
Morovic: DuPont Nutrition & Health has been utilizing new DNA sequencing platforms and strategies to better research probiotic strains and their effects on the human microbiome. For instance, we use PacBio and Nanopore technologies, in addition to highly accurate Illumina sequencing, to generate high-quality genomes for commercial probiotic strains. The genomes are used to confirm safety by screening known bacterial safety elements.1 We also develop strain-specific assays to be used with digital PCR as described in Hansen et al. 2018.2 Assays can be used to enumerate strains in commercial products, or to track them throughout clinical trials. Furthermore, we routinely use 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing in the Qiime pipeline to assess microbiome trends with probiotic and prebiotic intervention,3 and more recently shotgun sequencing to look at gene population dynamics. We combine these metagenomic approaches with other technologies, such as transcriptomics and metabolomics, to correlate specific genes to metabolites and functions.
NIE: How do these processes advance the way probiotics are used?
Morovic: Historically, probiotic supplements have been poorly regulated, and many products do not contain what is on the label.4 Using genome sequences to develop strain-specific assays and assess safety provides consumer confidence that the product they want is indeed what they are purchasing. We can also use genome sequencing throughout the industrial fermentation process to ensure genetic stability. Since even a single nucleotide of DNA could have a phenotypic change, this is especially important for confirming strains with associated clinical studies. Additionally, clinical studies typically show an effect, but the mode-of-action is rarely established. Combining sequencing technologies with clinical results reveals deeper understanding in how microbes contribute to and affect the human microbiome, and what other organisms in the microbiome provide health benefits.
NIE: What technical challenges does the industry face in product development and how does DuPont address them?
Morovic: In any company, there must be a pipeline of new products, and it is an interesting challenge to develop new probiotics. On one hand, we want a strain with the best probiotic activity, which often includes adhesion to cells, lactic acid production, or utilization of certain sugars. However, any candidates must eventually be scaled up for large-scale fermentation, which often calls for the highest yield of overall biomass. Additionally, a major challenge in the probiotic industry is long-term survival of the finished products. Since probiotics are defined as “live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit,5” it is essential to deliver at least the same dose of the genetically identical organisms in associated clinical trials to guarantee the same health benefit. Measuring viability of cells in complex products throughout the shelf life is a challenge that has not yet been met, but we are researching molecular methods such as digital PCR and flow cytometry, along with traditional microbiological methods, to find the best tool.
NIE: What other trends are you seeing in the area of ingredient technology?
Morovic: The most common probiotics on the market are lactic acid bacteria, many of which were isolated from food. Because of their long history of use, most of these species are generally recognized as safe by regulatory bodies. However, there is an immense diversity of species within the human microbiome that offer unlocked potential as supplements. Characterizing these organisms using sequencing technologies identifies candidates, but they must also be industrially fermented and stable enough to be commercially viable. DuPont Nutrition & Health has partnered with experts to discover, isolate, and scale-up these “next generation” probiotics for future applications.
NIE: Other comments?
Morovic: New realms of human-microbe interaction that contribute to health are constantly being discovered, such microbes that utilize human breast milk, affect mental status, or even have an impact on cancer. It truly is an exciting time to take part in the science of the human microbiome and develop products that directly help our customers.
1 Morovic et al., 2017, doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2017.10.037.
2 Hansen et al. 2018, doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2018.00704.
3 Hibberd et al., 2017, dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjgast-2017-000145.
4 Morovic et al., 2016, doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2016.01747.
5 Hill et al., 2014, doi: 10.1038/nrgastro.2014.66.
For More Information:
Arla Foods Ingredients, www.arlafoodsingredients.com
Kyowa Hakko Bio, https://kyowa-usa.com
Synergy Flavors, www.snyergytaste.com