While predominant in the dietary supplement space, botanicals are no stranger to food and beverage applications, and according to botanical suppliers at June’s Institute of Food Technologists’ (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo, alternatives to traditional dietary supplement forms are growing in popularity. Ready-to-drink beverages, for example, can offer convenience to consumers both as on-the-go, easy-to-consume products and as a way to get important nutrients and other functional benefits.
“Right now, relaxation is a big topic, so a lot of dietary supplement and functional beverage manufacturers are making relaxation products, sleep support [products], [and products] dealing with calming, like anti-stress,” said Russel Zhang, business development manager, Draco Natural Products (San Jose, CA), to Nutritional Outlook at the show. Ingredients supplied by Draco such as albizia julibrissin and reishi mushroom are said to ease restlessness, irritability, and stress, supporting sleep in the process by decreasing cortisol.
Stress management has become synonymous with the term “adaptogen,” which is a class of herbs said to create homeostasis in the body to support the physiological resistance to stressors. One popular adaptogenic herb making its way into a variety of products is ashwagandha, such as the branded Sensoril ingredient from Natreon Inc. (New Brunswick, NJ).
“Consumers are not only looking to improve their intake of things like ashwagandha or adaptogens, which help them cope with stress and sleep, but they’re also looking for ways to take these adaptive benefits in ways that are more fun and aligned with their dietary habits, so that often leads to novel new drinks, like kombucha,” explains Bruce Brown, president of Natreon Inc., to Nutritional Outlook. “We see our amla ingredient Capros emerge in Suja juice for instance, along with a kombucha, so now it’s kombucha with amla to give you that adaptogenic health benefit as well as the digestive health benefits of a kombucha. So you start to see some fun evolution in that type of category.”
There is also traction in the gummy space, combining classic sleep support ingredients like melatonin with ashwagandha, added Brown. For example, Procter and Gamble recently released its Vick’s Zzzquil Pure Zzzs De-stress and Sleep product that combines melatonin with a botanical blend that includes ashwagandha.
A consistent trend with foods and beverages has been sugar reduction and replacement, reflecting the concern about metabolic health in the American population with the prevalence of obesity and diabetes. A recently released ingredient from Natreon, Crominex 3+, targets metabolic health and blood sugar, and has the potential to make its way into functional beverages as a low-dose, water-soluble ingredient.
“What we did was take chromium chloride and we complexed it with two of our other ingredients,” explained Nicole Stirling, business development manager for Natreon. “One of them is amla, which is a super antioxidant, and keeps the chromium in the safe [trivalent] form by preventing it from converting to the toxic [hexavalent] form. Then we complexed it with our shilajit PrimaVie, which is high in fulvic acid, so it’s a biocarrier for the chromium [transporting it to relevant insulin receptor sites].”
So far, Crominex 3+ is only in dietary supplement products, but keep an eye out for it in low-glycemic beverages, providing added support to consumers suffering from metabolic syndrome or diabetes.
Breaking into the CBD Space
A big announcement at IFT 2019 was that Layn USA Inc. (Newport Beach, CA) is entering into the hemp-derived CBD space. The company is well known for its portfolio of alternative sweeteners and botanical extracts, but as a vertically integrated company it is well suited to become a leader in the hemp CBD space, said Elaine Yu, president of Layn.
“How we typically manage [the supply chain] is we start from the seedling. We have an agriculture lab, our agronomist cultivates the seedlings in house and provides those seedlings for farmers to grow because we can control the quality and control the yield, and we have a farming project to control the entire crop management. Then we buy back the biomass to do extraction in house and produce it into a dietary or food ingredient,” explained Yu. “If you look at hemp, it actually fits into our core competency very well starting from seedling, managing agriculture, then extracting to make the finished product.”
Yu also believes that Layn has an advantage coming from the food and dietary supplement side of the business, understanding regulation better in these areas than some firms trying to break into these areas having only expertise in hemp and CBD. In terms of Layn’s progress, Yu informs Nutritional Outlook that the firm has contracted with two American growers who have been cultivating hemp since the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, and Layn is also developing a program for tissue culture management to breed hemp varieties that best fit the climate of the growing region and that are a rich source of cannabinoids such as CBD. Layn is also investing $60 million in a U.S. extraction facility capable of processing a minimum of 5,000 tons of hemp biomass into full-spectrum oil, as well as distillate.
Is Layn concerned about any regulatory uncertainty or challenges surrounding CBD? Not really. “I think the challenge right now is that the resources are limited for FDA. FDA should be open to companies like ours investing more on the safety data review because FDA doesn’t have a route to get those products approved as a nutraceutical through an NDI or as a food ingredient through GRAS,” said Yu. “And remember, stevia, prior to 2008, was banned but through GRAS petitions, through safety data establishment, it was approved eventually, so why not open the same route to have companies invest and overall provide more data for FDA to review?”