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Let Food Be Thy Medicine!

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Plant-based Nutraceuticals Plant-based Nutraceuticals

The evolution of plant-based nutraceuticals.

The panel:

Annie Eng, CEO, HP Ingredients, Bradenton, FL, https://hpingredients.com

Greg Cumberford, Vice President, Science and Regulatory, Nature’s Crops International, Kensington, PE, Canada, https://naturescrops.com

Julia Diaz, Head of Marketing, Pharmactive, Madrid, Spain, https://usa.pharmactive.eu

Kim Edwards, Global Product Manager, Kemin Human Nutrition and Health, Des Moines, IA www.kemin.com

Steve Fink, Vice President of Marketing, PLT Health Solutions, Morristown, NJ, www.plthealth.com

Dan Lifton, President, Maypro Ventures, Purchase, NY, www.maypro.com

Shaheen Majeed, President Worldwide, Sabinsa, East Windsor, NJ, https://sabinsa.com

Rick Ray, Director of Food Technology, Axiom Foods, Marina del Rey, CA, http://axiomfoods.com

James Roza, Chief Scientific Officer, Layn Natural Ingredients, Newport Beach, CA, https://layncorp.com

Dr. Janice Rueda, Vice President, Nutrition Science Business Development, ADM, Chicago, IL, www.adm.com

Bryan See, Business Development Manager, ExcelVite, Perak, Malaysia, www.excelvite.com

Guy Woodman, General Manager, Euromed USA, Aptos, CA, http://euromedusa.com

Ancient healing traditions, from places as varied as Greece and India, made little distinction between food and medicine. In modern times, we saw early examples as simple as ginger ale for an upset stomach or, today, products featuring probiotics abound.

While the term “nutraceutical” was coined by Dr. Stephen DeFelice in 1989, it is clear that all nutrients and compounds naturally found in foods have effects.

And a recent report finds that about half of consumers actively seek out foods and beverages that naturally contain good-for-you ingredients, with many of them seeking high-protein or low-carb options, such as paleo or keto.

Interest in plant-based proteins has been expanding—such as that for soy, lentils, hemp, chickpeas, quinoa and mycoprotein-derived meat substitutes.

In fact, according to Dina Fernandez, global director, protein sources, ADM (Illinois), “65 percent of global consumers say they are eating more plant-based foods and beverages.”

The pandemic has, it is said, caused greater consumer interest in functional products that support immunity, positive mood and more.

Our panel of experts sheds light on the evolution of plant-based nutraceuticals.

NIE: How would you differentiate “nutraceuticals” from just “ingredients”?

Eng: “Nutraceutical” is not just another ingredient. It is a naturally derived food supplement that has curative properties, more like a natural alternative to a pharmaceutical drug, one that may help prevent disease or have other beneficial effects on human health. In addition, one also expects to see a standardized extract instead of a crude powder.

And more importantly, nutraceutical ingredients are typically verified and backed by science and research, taking an approach closer to pharmaceuticals.

On the other hand, ingredients also include required additives and processing aids, such as binders, fillers and other materials that have no health benefits but are required to ensure that the delivery form is intact.

Ray: Nutraceuticals refers to specific ingredients that have medicinal properties and confer positive health effects. Nutraceuticals are typically clinically shown to help prevent or treat diseases. Not all ingredients do this.

Plant proteins are not actually nutraceuticals. Just like you wouldn’t consider a piece of chicken a nutraceutical. Plant proteins are just an alternate source of protein. Plant protein helps other products become functional foods, like adding protein to OJ, ice cream, cookies, chips and other snacks.

Lifton: A nutraceutical is defined as a substance that is “a food or part of a food and provides medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease.” Ingredients can be active or inactive, naturally occurring or added.

Despite this definition of “nutraceutical,” however, only structure-function claims are allowed for any dietary supplement ingredients or finished products.

NIE: Does a food or beverage product become “functional” when it has an ingredient added to it that targets a structure or function of the body, or something else?

Eng: Yes. “Functional” is more than a marketing term, and it does have meaning. When a clinically researched ingredient is added to a food or beverage that targets specific health conditions or bodily functions, it becomes a functional food or beverage.

However, there are many products in the market that do not have the correct required dosage as outlined in the clinicals and should not be considered a functional food or beverage. These products may not have health benefits, as the manufacturer only sprinkled a little in for marketing purposes.

Consumers understand that a functional food or beverage is known to provide a targeted action or support. However, most consumers do not know whether a product has enough of the functional ingredients in order to provide the health benefits they’re seeking.

Lifton: It’s generally understood that a product becomes “functional” when an ingredient is added to a product to target—enhance or beneficially modulate—a specific health marker or function.

Ray: A food or beverage becomes “functional” when it has an ingredient added that helps the consumer meet daily nutrient requirements. Enriched or fortified foods are examples of functional foods, such as pasta with added plant protein.

Diaz: The way I see it, a food becomes functional when it can provide added health value, as well as taste and culinary value.

We produce aged black garlic extract named ABG10+ for functional food applications. This extract is obtained from fresh garlic (Allium sativum L.) that has been aged. This process creates a deep black soft, jelly with a sweet syrupy flavor that is enjoyed as a culinary delicacy.

However, this process also alters the physiochemical properties of garlic, resulting in a unique composition of S-allyl cysteine (SAC) and other polyphenols, yielding potent antioxidant and cardioprotective properties, as demonstrated in an animal study we conducted. Further clinical inquiry into its heart support activity is in the works.

Cumberford: I would posit that a food or beverage becomes “functional,” not because something is added to it, but because nutritional science (including nutrigenomics) has discovered, demonstrated and validated key aspects of its composition or metabolites in the body that consistently promote desired wellness benefits which, if that food or beverage is not consumed, would not occur to the desired and measured degree.

NIE: The late Dr. Jim Duke educated us on why our bodies get along so well with plants that we co-evolved with over millions of years and why compounds recognized as foreign, such as GMOs (genetically modified organisms), may pose threats or, at a minimum, may cause us to mobilize allergic or immune responses. Where do plant-based nutraceuticals fit in?

Ray: “Food is medicine” and nutraceuticals show us that our bodies can be protected from, and combat, disease with the help of beneficial plant-based foods.

Cumberford: Indeed, we are immensely grateful for Dr. Duke’s voracious and encyclopedic contributions to our understanding of the biological activity of plant-based compounds.

Yet a plant’s phytochemical composition alone (indeed a miraculous biospheric outcome of co-evolution in its own right) does not, however, make it a “nutraceutical.” People’s cultivation and processing, traditional uses and modern scientific assessment and evaluation of a plant are also required.

A “plant-based nutraceutical” only arises once humans organize efforts to somehow process or extract aspects of a plant’s phytochemistry into a defined, repeatable and stable profile of desired constituents intended to promote specific human wellness benefits.

Thankfully most cultures’ wellness traditions include robust phyto-medicinaries that came from millennia of careful cultivation, preparation and therapeutic usage long before the concept of a more technically specified “nutraceutical” arose.

Roza: We know that plants are complex organisms much like the human body. They possess many systems to promote growth, sustain life and maintain health. Resveratrol, a phytoalexin found in the skin of grapes, blueberries and in Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspitaum), is a protective compound the plant produces in response to stress, injury and attack by pathogens. This polyphenol has been shown in human studies to benefit the human body in a similar fashion by helping to protect it against damage that may occur from oxidation, environmental pollutants and poor nutrition. Studies have shown that resveratrol supports healthy glucose levels, nerve cells, and a healthy immune response.

Lifton: Dr. Duke taught us about the wisdom and healing powers of nature, especially those of botanicals. Once a cottage industry with a niche consumer base, organics, USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture)-organic and non-GMO ingredients are no longer window-dressing but, in fact, reflect many of the core values held by consumers and called for by the market today. We at Maypro are proud to offer a strong portfolio of organic ingredients for inclusion in dietary supplements, food-and-beverage and other applications.

Diaz: The growing global community of health conscious consumers are fully aware of the negative effects of GMOs. Likewise customers will seek botanical brands they can trust. This means they must be unadulterated. The good news is that most herbal products are not exposed to GMO contamination. All of our botanical portfolio ingredients are Non-GMO Project verified and undergo vigorous quality controls to ensure their purity and quality and give our customers that piece of mind.

Majeed: Plants and humans have co-evolved and humans have learned over the millennia which plants we could consume and which we should not. Initially, plants were probably mainly consumed to assuage hunger, but people gradually came to understand which plants also had medicinal effects. Our ancestors were very much aware of the pharmacological benefits of plants long before researchers studied them.

Anything from outside our body is foreign to us; the body’s reaction to it depends on various factors such as molecular weight, route of administration, processing, etc. Since plant metabolites have low molecular weight body immune reaction against them is very low (except in very few cases). Most botanicals are comparably safe molecules. Today, plants are modified in some cases to improve the crop yield such as with GMOs. The safety and toxicity of such plants are questionable which is why many consumers prefer non-GMO ingredients.

NIE: Is paleo or low-carb flattening out, or is this macro trend spiking upwards with no end in sight?

Ray: Based upon our interaction with hundreds of food technologists, a large percentage are asking about vegan certified and sustainable—both of which fit the goal of “do no harm,” plus allergen-friendly ingredients. The focus is not so much specifically on keto and low-carb, but has broadened and become all-encompassing. Plant proteins are becoming increasingly important as they fit all these trends.

Roza: It is projected that the ketogenic and paleo diet markets are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of over 5 percent for the next four years, with North America accounting for most of the growth. While the diet’s popularity continues to persist, eventually it will lose some market share to attrition and other forms of dieting that will capture consumers’ attention. While both have been lauded for transformations experienced by many adherents, many consumers find the diets difficult to maintain long term and there are concerns about its heavy reliance on fat and protein.

Cumberford: While paleo, keto and elimination diets attracted 5 percent of consumers in 2019, according to the Hartman Group report, “Health + Wellness 2019: From Moderation to Mindfulness,” the same study also found that only about 3 percent of these individuals stayed on only one particular diet exclusively. Most people mix and match, taking the approaches that make the most sense for their own lifestyles, goals and preferences. In 2021, consumers will be increasingly interested in customized, tailored and personalized programs.

NIE: Interest in plant-based proteins has been expanding. How is this demand influencing ingredient offerings and formulations?

Roza: Plant proteins have made significant advancements in terms of their functionality and taste over the last decade. Prior to their coming of age, these proteins, although nutritious and beneficial, lacked the curb appeal that consumers want from their food. Oftentimes they were gritty, beany and lacked flavor, texture and mouthfeel to make them popular among consumers.

That’s all beginning to change now that manufacturers are able to use these ingredients to create products that are becoming accepted on a macro level. Impossible burger and Beyond Meat are two excellent examples of what can be done with pea protein and other natural ingredients to attract consumers. Consumers want healthier, more sustainable and more natural ingredients, and we see no sign of this trend slowing.

Ray: There is an expansion of sourcing. New functional plant protein versions are in the pipeline, with a few launching each year. New proteins are both from current plant sources, including rice and pea, but also newer sources from pulse, grains, seeds and berries. As the original, less functional versions of the common plant proteins have become commodities driven by price over quality, new value-added versions, along with new plant sources, are increasingly in demand. Each protein has unique characteristics in taste, texture, amino acid profile and functionality.

The more plant proteins, the more options to create consumer-driven formulations. It’s as if formulators are currently working with a starter box of crayons with limited options, but Axiom Foods’ innovation team is working hard to fill out the super economy-size box.

Fink: The verdict is in on plant-based meats. Consumers want them and retailers want to offer them. Industry demand for ingredient solutions is growing exponentially. At the same time, we’re all trying to create a better “meat replacement” experience.

We want every consumer who tries a plant-based meat product to say “yes” and come back for more. That’s why go-to, comprehensive 2.0 ingredient solutions like Artesa Textured Pulse Protein are needed. Artesa Textured Pulse Protein is based on Nutriati, LLCs near-decade of experience working in the plant-based space, focusing on delivering the best consumer experience: taste, texture, mouthfeel and more. It also responds to other consumer wants, like leaner, cleaner labels.

With Artesa Textured Pulse Protein, plant-based meat producers can create great products without the need for wheat gluten, eggs or methylcellulose common in many formulations today.

Majeed: Previously it was thought that plant proteins could not provide a complete set of amino acids to provide optimal protein nutrition; however recent products have overcome this by combining protein extracts from different plant sources to provide a complete essential amino acid profile.

Along with the formulation with different proteins of different plant sources, genetic engineering has helped to produce plants with optimal essential amino acid content de novo. This has opened up the category to for vegetarians and vegans. Even for nonvegetarians, the cost can be reduced with plant protein products as an alternative to animal derived protein products.

NIE: Consumers demand much better tasting functional beverages, bars and foods today. How has sensory science informed today’s forays into non-traditional or “extreme taste” formulations?

See: A food’s texture, flavor and taste are important measurements for consumers. Today, formulators have more options and plant-derived ingredients to develop a desirable and tasty functional food or beverage.

Ray: The combination of sensory science and marketing power have tweaked traditional flavors to help associate a healthier food product with an indulgent food, such as “birthday cake” in lieu of “vanilla” or “churro” instead of “cinnamon.” It is pretty cool how flavor companies are getting better at identifying receptor sites so they can develop molecules that target those receptors. They are especially successful in blocking the bitterness taste receptor, which can be common in some plant proteins.

For all the above products, sensory evaluation techniques provide the necessary information on sensory quality of foods prior to the use of the foods in trials and will facilitate the final commercialization of this functional food.

Roza: Today’s formulators and food scientists have benefited greatly from advancements made in food technology, which has brought to market many new ingredients that help to mask the harsh bitter notes and off-putting odors that, at one time, were only tolerated by the staunchest of health enthusiasts. Layn Natural Ingredients, for example, has been at the vanguard of improving and modifying sensory profiles with natural, botanical ingredients since 1995, when it first began innovating and manufacturing stevia and monk fruit sweeteners. Through its leadership role as the world’s largest manufacturer of these natural sweeteners, Layn Natural Ingredients has been able to take the knowledge gained through experience with these sweeteners to develop extended, innovative product offerings across ever-increasing botanicals as part of its Plantae platform that can mask, enhance or modify natural ingredients that were once considered too earthy or green to be accepted by more sophisticated palates.

Fink: PLT has seen a dramatic increase in immune health ingredients in 2020—with companies looking for something different and also wanting to see ingredients with solid scientific support. PROMUNEL Ultra Performance Propolis, manufactured by propolis innovators B Natural, Srl (Corbetta, Italy), PROMUNEL offers a new level of sophistication and efficacy for an ingredient that has been used to support human health for over 5,000 years. PROMUNEL’s advantages over conventional propolis ingredients include quality and consistency of raw materials and B Natural’s unique, patented Multi-Dynamic Extraction (M.E.D.) technology.

A second category we saw dramatic demand increases in 2020 was in the mood/stress category. In 2020, we saw record demand for our Zembrin Sceletium tortuosum ingredient. Zembrin is a patented, standardized and clinically studied extract of Sceletium tortuosum. It’s an innovative, evidence-based ingredient in products that experientially support calmness, enhanced mood and improved cognitive function. Intriguingly, we saw Zembrin become a featured ingredient in formulations and consumer products outside the cognitive support section of the store.

Majeed: Early “health foods” tasted pretty terrible, but over time food engineers have found ways to deliver health benefits and sensory enjoyment. And as consumer preferences have expanded to popularize flavor profiles from different global cultures, the array of tasty, healthy products has grown exponentially, expanding that market.

NIE: What are the biggest ingredient trends you are seeing, and, if applicable, what ingredients have been flying off your inventory “shelves” during these uncertain times?

Ray: All our plant proteins and our nutrient-dense oat and rice alt-dairy ingredients are in high demand. Protein in general is becoming more popular as it has a beneficial role in immunity, beauty, stress/sleep and weight loss (driven by “The COVID-19”) products.

Rueda: Consumers are aware that good nutrition is key in supporting overall well-being, and with the COVID-19 pandemic influencing the way consumers view health, they are currently seeking products that address holistic health. Our research has found that eight in 10 consumers worldwide are concerned about the health implications of COVID-19, and 57 percent are more conscious of immune health. Products and ingredients that target immune support, digestive support, weight management and emotional health are on the rise as consumers aim to combat the effects of the pandemic on both physical and mental wellness. We find consumers linking the gut microbiome to metabolic health, immune function and emotional wellness. We have many solutions that support the microbiome, including our Fibersol line of prebiotic dietary fiber ingredients and our award-winning BPL1 probiotic, which has recently been introduced in a heat-treated format – HT-BPL1 postbiotic. HT-BPL1 targets metabolic health through reduction in waist circumference and reduction tendency in visceral fat. Our probiotic offerings are also expanding, along with our broader health and wellness pantry, to help meet consumers needs for overall well-being.

We also see functional ingredients, such as elderberry and turmeric, growing in popularity as they are desired by consumers for both their natural coloring and perceived wellness benefits. Rich elderberry can be used for shades of reds and purples and contains antioxidants. Turmeric, a bold yellow spice, is traditionally used to impart color and flavor to food and is portrayed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, our research finds over 50 percent of global consumers claim they are currently suffering from moderate, high or extreme levels of stress. Throughout the pandemic, consumers have sought out products that promote emotional wellness, including natural flavors and colors that boost mood and promote calm, relaxation and happiness. Comforting and familiar flavors like vanilla, coffee, caramel and nutmeg, along with flavors that signal a health halo, such as citrus and mint, are trending with consumers.

Cumberford: In our area of omega nutrition, we see clear evidence that consumers are increasing their intake of plant-based omegas to help their bodies achieve a more pro-resolving status.

Ahiflower oil, for its part, is the richest combined dietary source of omega-3 SDA (stearidonic acid) and omega-6 GLA (gamma linolenic acid), both of which have strong scientific evidence of supporting a healthy inflammatory response in various organ systems and in terms of cell signaling pathways.

Therefore, it is not too surprising that ahiflower oil sales have more than doubled in 2020. Along with traditional botanical ingredients associated with a healthy immune response—echinacea, elderberry, propolis and goldenseal—that have seen massively higher demand, ahiflower oil is becoming part of many households’ go-to preventive wellness kit.

Edwards: One trend we have seen during these uncertain times is our algae-based immune ingredient, BetaVia “fly off our inventory shelves.” In national and global surveys, consumers have consistently ranked immune health among the top reasons for purchasing functional foods, beverages and supplements. They recognize the importance of a strong immune system to overall health and wellness, as well as to maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle. Based on the global customer interest in BetaVia, now more than ever, we believe consumers of all ages are seeking safe, effective immune system support through natural, science-based functional ingredients.

Roza: There is an increase in interest for ingredients that are anti-inflammatory due to the respiratory issues associated with COVID. Inflammation is a normal part of the immune response but when it gets out of control it can lead to dire conditions that have long term health consequences or in extreme cases even death.

Sea buckthorn, for example, is an excellent source of palmitoleic acid (omega-7) which has been studied extensively for its anti-inflammatory properties. Other ingredients, such as quercetin, cannabidiol, andrographis and olive leaf, are also receiving more recognition due to their ability to inhibit enzymes and proteins that lead to inflammation.

Additionally, there is also greater interest in products that support or bolster the immune system. Broccoli seed extract is one such ingredient. It is a natural source of glucoraphanin, a compound that’s converted to sulforaphane, which is a powerful antioxidant that has been studied for its antiviral, detoxification and anti-inflammatory activity. Another is rhodiola, a plant that is also known as arctic root, which grows in dry, cold arctic climates. As an adaptogen, it makes you less vulnerable to physical and emotional stress—two avenues that can lead to a depressed immune system.

Woodman: Euromed’s immune system enhancing botanical extracts have been very popular during the pandemic. Our Echinacea purpurea herb is cultivated in Germany and Echinacea angustifolia root is wildcrafted from the U.S. U.S. companies are seeking extracts tested by the most accurate and reproducible lab methods, such as UPLC and HPLC, and those verified not to be adulterated with other echinacea species. Consumers are coping with business lockdown in various U.S. cities and stress relieving extracts like lemon balm, passionflower, magnolia bark and kava are very popular. Chronic stress can lead to insomnia and valerian root and hops flower extracts used for sleep enhancement have been in high demand this year.

Lifton: We’ve seen elevated demand for proprietary branded ingredients (PBIs) that target immunity (for example, MicroActive Astaxanthin), joint health and mobility (for example, 12-hour sustained release MicroActive Curcumin), weight loss (for example, Sirtmax from black turmeric), and mood support (for example, Venetron).

Majeed: We have an exclusive class of bioactive ingredients to support immunity and even enhance mood, both of which are highly desirable today. Sabinsa’s Curcumin C3 Complex is an example, with a multitude of health benefits including improving immunity and the feeling of well-being. Tinofolin, Shagandha, BioPerine, ForsLean and Nigellin are other Sabinsa products for which we’re experiencing increased demand in the current pandemic environment.

NIE: Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Conversely, we might say that most health begins in the gut, too. With the microbiome revolution now in full swing, what ingredients and trends are the most interesting in this area, and why?

Rueda: As consumers become increasingly aware of the gut microbiome and its potential impact on health, they are seeking out functional ingredients to help support different areas of holistic wellness. Our research finds that 59 percent of U.S. consumers are using functional foods, 51 percent are using functional beverages and 57 percent use supplements.

Our premier HT-BPL1 postbiotic targets metabolic health through reduction in waist circumference and reduction tendency in visceral fat. HT-BPL1 remains stable during harsh processing conditions because it does not contain living organisms, making it possible to incorporate into a wide variety of food and beverage applications that may be otherwise unsuitable for probiotic inclusion. Additionally, our Fibersol is a prebiotic fiber that can promote the growth of beneficial microbes and support a healthy digestive tract.

We anticipate ingredients like prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics to remain an area of interest for consumers seeking dietary solutions that support health and wellness, starting in the gut.

Lifton: Probiotics that are backed by science, and which work, are the name of the game. That’s why Maypro offers a range of probiotics, including L-92 patented sterilized lactic acid bacteria, Morinaga B-3 (Bifidobacterium breve), Morinaga BB536 (Bifidobacterium longum), Morinaga M-63, Morinaga M-16V and ProDURA Bacillus coagulans.

Ray: Fiber, because the gut bacteria feeds on the fiber; the more you can feed them the happier they are.

Proteins naturally rich in fiber include Incatein Sacha Inchi and Cannatein Hemp Proteins. Nutrient-dense Avenolait Oat Dairy Alternative still contains all the soluble and insoluble fibers.

Nutrient-dense, all-in-one ingredients provide a cleaner label because they already contain the fiber, protein, sugars and healthy fat—in lieu of four ingredients on the label.

Majeed: The oldest health care systems in the world, such as ayurveda, placed much emphasis on gut health, and modern research confirms that they were right. Ingredients which can improve the quality and quantity of bacterial strains support the gut microbiome and gut health. This product category includes probiotics, prebiotics and post biotics. Probiotics are the specific strains of microorganisms that provide health benefits through secretary bioactives and by supporting other helpful gut microbiota. Prebiotics are the nutrient components that nourish the bacteria in the gut microbiome. The post-biotics are the secreted and isolated components of probiotics cultured in-vitro.

NIE: In an age when technologies such as 3D-printing advanced fermentation processing are now a thing, what specific technology in nutraceuticals and functional foods is the most interesting right now?

Cumberford: In our realm of nutraceuticals—plant-based omegas—the most interesting and truly fascinating technological development of the past few years is the use of specialized carbon isotope ratio (CSIR) mass spectroscopy to measure dietary supplemental vs. latent omega-3 fatty acid levels directly in brain and other tissues.

Roza: The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in scientific research and clinical studies which involves deep learning. It provides us with the ability to see the forest as well as the trees. For example, AI can be used to search databases to identify molecules that are likely to bind with specific receptors in the body. This information could then be used to show proof of concept through pre-clinical and clinical trials.

See: The nutraceuticals and functional foods are now trending toward personalization, where companies provide specialized consultations to individuals in order to understand better about their health status and predisposition. And then put together a formula to address those conditions to help the individual in gaining their optimum wellness or strengthened immune functions.

Regardless of emerging trends, consumers’ desire for “natural” ingredients/products remains unchanged, and this continues to pose opportunities to companies that manufacture natural immune health products, or “traditional” immune ingredients such as probiotics, echinacea, vitamins A, C, D, E, zinc and etc.

NIE: Consumers today want to know where ingredients (and products made from them) come from, whether this means country-of-origin labelling or knowing that products are made by a family business with values or a story that align with theirs. Do you see this reflected in what manufacturers are asking for?

Fink: One huge trend we are seeing in the natural products ingredient space is a desire—not just for country of origin information—but for a cohesive, comprehensive “origin story” about our ingredients. This story starts with the why, what and how of an ingredient but also covers issues like sustainability, ingredient identity, traceability and the social impacts of raw material growing and harvesting.

Ray: Yes, country of origin is important to manufacturers but when there are few alternatives, the industry is often forced to accept Chinese-based processes (even if the plants are not sourced from China).

This will change as U.S.-based manufacturing is developed, but it takes time and new markets for the byproducts. There is a reason why rice and pea proteins have initially been processed in China. While the U.S. is the primary customer for the plant proteins, the most common byproducts of rice syrup and pea starch are in extreme demand throughout Asia.

Until the U.S. can accept rice syrup as a substitute for corn syrup and pea starch as a base for noodles and more, U.S.-based manufacturing cannot be profitable.

Roza: Most definitely. Although there is more regulatory oversight of the nutraceutical industry and the bar for manufacturers is continually being raised through cGMPS (current good manufacturing practices) and other accreditations; rouge suppliers still exist whose economic gain is driven by substitution, adulteration and falsification. Consequently, manufacturers need to be vigilant to ensure they don’t get hoodwinked. This is reflected in the level of documentation, test analyses, samples and onsite audits that are now standard procedure. Layn natural ingredients, for example, is a vertically integrated grower, manufacturer, processor and distributor who has full custody of its ingredients from seed to scale that is validated through multiple accreditations and audits that are conducted regularly by both regulators and manufacturers alike.

Edwards: In an effort to help build trust with our customers and with consumers, we voluntarily invest in certifications including Non-GMO Project Verified, SCS Certified Sustainably Grown among others. We also use sustainable practices wherever and whenever possible. For example, our cognitive performance ingredient, Neumentix is the first Sustainably Grown patented spearmint, certified by SCS Global Services.

Woodman: Euromed developed Earth Harmony Organic Extracts as a natural extension of our corporate commitment against global warming and support of long-term botanical sustainability. Our production facilities in Spain have been organic certified for many years, but consumer demand has motivated us to produce organic versions of our most popular standardized extracts. Organic certified extracts provide the highest level of traceability documentation required by firms needing this level of product custody verification.

Cumberford: Natures Crops’ vertically-integrated “soil to oil” system of regeneratively-grown, fully traceable, scalable and identity-verified specialty oil production was established long before today’s consumers started raising concerns about provenance and traceability. It’s just the way we work, fully de-risking the supply chain for our branded customers while rooting our efforts in long-term partnerships with our growers.

Majeed: Consumers look for the products which they can trust for efficacy, and quality. Brand trust plays a crucial role in new product acceptance. Some consumers care about the country of origin, and that seems to vary according to regions across the globe.

For example, consumers may have different responses to products from China or the USA depending upon where they are. Other consumers are more concerned if a brand maintains ethical standards or can produce research supporting health claims.

For Sabinsa, we are driven by dedication to science, as well as ethical standards. We tell our story, such as our fair-trade relationships with the farmers that grow our raw materials, to our customers to pass along to consumers.

NIE: For ingredient manufacturers, briefly what nutraceutical or functional ingredient of yours are you most excited about, and why?

See: I am excited about our ingredients – EVTene, which is a natural mixed-carotene complex comprising alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and a small amount of gamma-carotene and lycopene. Interestingly, the oil palm is the richest natural plant source of beta-carotene and alpha-carotene.

This plant-derived beta-carotene is an excellent alternative for synthetic or non-plant beta-carotene. EVTene is extracted from non-GMO, sustainable Malaysian palm oil and its mixed-carotene composition is similar to that of carrots.

Ray: It’s simple. Avenolait oat dairy alternative. While formulators have been working with stripped down versions of oat milk and adding back in everything that was stripped out as separate ingredients, Axiom’s oat milk is nutrient-dense and certified whole grain. It has the same health benefits of whole oats while retaining the fiber, protein and natural sugar, resulting in better claims, lower COGs and a cleaner label.

Rueda: Our HT-BPL1 postbiotic is one exciting development across the food and beverage space due to its versatility. Manufacturers may now offer the benefits of postbiotics without concern for stability and functionality after processing. Additionally, ADM’s growing portfolio of botanical extracts is just one of many new offerings that we are excited about. Botanical extracts can signal wellness benefits and have a closer-to-nature product halo. At certain concentrations, they might also impart functional benefits, such as support for immune function or digestion. The role of botanical extracts and plant bioactives in supporting or enhancing healthy microbiome function is an exciting area of research because of the potential to combine these ingredients with probiotics and postbiotics and deliver additional wellness benefits.

Edwards: Algae-enriched foods, beverages and supplements are one of the fastest growing product categories among consumers. This is an exciting time for Kemin Human Nutrition and Health and its immune platform, BetaVia. BetaVia Complete is an algae-based immune strengthening ingredient composed of a unique blend of nutrients and bioactive components, making it unlike any other. More than half of BetaVia Complete is composed of beta 1,3 glucan (>50 percent), as well as protein, vitamins, minerals, carotenoids and fatty acids.

Fink: In 2020, PLT launched three different game-changing ingredients in the sports nutrition category. While the category was slowed in the early part of the year by the pandemic, we see this category picking up steam and think it will be very strong in 2021.

Probably the most interesting of these three new ingredients is RipFACTOR Muscle Accelerator, which was the recipient of a 2020 NIE Award as the best ingredient in the Sports Nutrition Category. NIE

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