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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
Immune-health suppliers are focusing on ensuring their ingredients work in as many different product formats as possible.
The market for natural immune-health products is strong and growing. For instance, according to market researcher Kline’s July report on the natural OTC market, “the natural cough/cold/immunity market, the largest category, accounting for approximately 40% of the total natural OTC market, is…growing at high single digits.”
“Consumers are using these products both for prevention and immune-boosting properties as well as to help aid healing when they are sick,” said Laura Mahecha, healthcare industry manager, Kline Market Research, in a press release. “The message of strengthening the body’s natural defenses against upper respiratory issues such as cold, cough, and allergies that have been widely advertised by brands such as Emergen-C, Zarbee’s Naturals, and Zicam resonates with consumers.”
According to suppliers Nutritional Outlook interviewed at SupplySide West, their focus is now on ensuring their immune-health ingredients work in as many different product formats as possible. Because, said Sandrine Cuisenier, marketing manager for Lesaffre Human Care (Marcq-en-Baroeul, France), “People are more and more interested not in having capsules, but in having something else.”
Functional foods and beverages are obviously a growing area, and probiotic firms in particular have made great inroads here. Probiotics supplier Ganeden Biotech (Cleveland) has been the trailblazer in this endeavor. Its flagship ingredient, Ganeden BC30 (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086), is an ultra-stable, spore-forming strain that can withstand harsh processing conditions for foods, beverages, and more, and it can survive the digestion process. Through the years, manufacturers have used Ganeden BC30 in everything from energy drinks and waters to granola, nut butter, and ice cream. Most recently, Nutritional Outlook covered the company’s newest expansion in the works: avocado smoothie bowls topped with 1 billion CFU of Ganeden BC30.
During SupplySide West, numerous other immune-health ingredient suppliers highlighted their efforts to get into more foods and beverages, alongside expanded presence in other more traditional dietary supplement applications like capsules, tablets, and gummies.
Lesaffre Human Care unveiled its new, proprietary LifeinU (Bacillus subtilis CU1) ingredient, a spore-forming probiotic strain that survives both passage through the digestive tract as well as harsh manufacturing processes. Recently, the company announced the results of a clinical study in healthy seniors showing that LifeinU supplementation increased levels of the antibody âsecretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) in both the intestine and the saliva by 87% and 45%, respectively. The four-month study was conducted in seniors because these subjects tend to have especially low levels of immunoglobulins, and thus supplementing them with LifeinU would demonstrate greatest effects. But Cuisenier emphasized that “the product is not necessarily just for elderly people. It can be used for children, for everyone who needs to boost their immunity.”
LifeinU can be used in a variety of delivery vehicles, as confirmed by numerous stability tests. “What is more remarkable for this ingredient is its stability. Because this product is very stable…you can cook it, boil it, and compress it,” she said. In addition to tablets and capsules, she said, “you can also use it in hot beverages, chocolate, bars, and so on, and the efficacy of the product will remain the same.” She noted that currently “the market for probiotics is mainly dietary supplements,” but that functional-food applications “are increasingly important,” especially in the U.S. and in Asia.
Cuisenier also pointed out that just because a probiotic strain is spore-forming, it doesn’t automatically guarantee its stability. “Even with two similar strains, for instance, two producers may have [probiotics with] different stabilities,” she said. “It will depend on the know-how of the company” producing the strain.
Kerry Group (Tralee, Ireland), which acquired the immune-health branded ingredient Wellmune last year, is also betting on consumer preferences for new immune-health products. Wellmune is a beta-1,3/1,6-glucan derived from the cell wall of a strain of baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).
Donald Cox, PhD, who joined Kerry from Wellmune’s prior owner, Biothera Health, and now serves as Kerry’s R&D director for Wellmune, said that Kerry’s expertise as a food, nutrition, and flavor ingredients supplier will help get Wellmune into more food and beverage products. “Being a part of Kerry, not only do we have Wellmune, but we can put it into, for example, a beverage that tastes really good,” he said.
Jennifer Intagliata, vice president of nutrition for Kerry’s Americas region, said, “The Wellmune line has been a great addition in that now we can have something that is based in science and that has the clinical data behind it, and we can use our application experience across beverages and bars and snacks to really promote a healthier product to the consumer that tastes good.”
Cox pointed out that Wellmune will also now be able to take advantage of Kerry’s “broad portfolio of ingredients,” which gives marketers the ability to “layer benefits.” “So not only do we have Wellmune with its immune-health benefit, we have the opportunity to look at a prebiotic fiber, or a protein hydrolysate,” he added. “Working with Wellmune brings the entire capabilities of Kerry to bear, and by that I mean a very significant offering for multiple ingredients to have an enhanced health benefit, rather than just a single ingredient.”
Immune-health innovation is also happening outside of food and beverages. In the dietary supplements space, gummies, lozenges, and chews continue to grow in popularity.
“Gummies are going through a huge renaissance now,” said Simon Seward, commercial director for NutraQ (Oslo, Norway). NutraQ’s immune-health portfolio centers around its Nutramunity beta-1,3/1,6-glucan from baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). In general, he said, “I think what we are seeing is a lot more innovation in terms of product formats.”
In addition to gummies, capsules, and chewables, Nutramunity beta-glucan, also called NBG, can be used in food and beverages. “It’s very robust,” Seward said. “You can bake with it. It has a five-year shelf life, so it’s a very attractive material in terms of its versatility and the ability to work with it.”
NutraQ has built some key focus areas around NBG: nutraceuticals and food and beverage, but also sports nutrition (the company introduced an NBG Sport ingredient at last year’s SupplySide West show) and personal care.
Seward pointed out that not all beta-glucans are equally effective. “One thing that we find in the marketplace is that there are different perceptions of what beta-glucans are,” he said. “People can get quite confused. There is still some confusion between the beta-glucans. There are beta-glucans from oats, from barley, from mushrooms, from algae, and so on, and they all do different things.”
Differences can be vast even between yeast families. Seward stressed that beta-glucans derived from brewer’s yeast perform differently from beta-glucans from baker’s yeast. “You will not get the same performance from the beta-glucans from brewer’s yeast as you would from baker’s yeast,” he said. “Fundamentally, brewer’s yeast is grown anaerobically, so without oxygen, and baker’s yeast is grown with oxygen. Comparatively, the cells from baker’s yeast are fully developed, and what you want to look for is the strength and length of the side branches, the 1,6s. That’s very important, because the structure is key to the function of the beta-glucan when it comes to your immune system. With beta-glucan from baker’s yeast, you have very frequent and very long side branches, and it’s the side branches that do the job that you want in terms of immune-modulating effect.” He said that NutraQ is working on an impending white paper to further explain these differences.
Embria Health Sciences (Ankeny, IA) is also seeing applications expand for its EpiCor yeast fermentate ingredient. The company describes EpiCor as a “whole-food yeast fermentate…made using brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae)” and the “only yeast fermentate made in the world.” The firm emphasizes that EpiCor is more than just a beta-glucan: “Beta-glucans are simple extracts from the cell wall of yeast or grains like oats and cannot be considered a whole food. Because EpiCor is not highly processed or refined, it is a whole-food yeast fermentate containing a complex range of nutrients and metabolites, in which beta-glucan is only one of dozens. It’s the whole, natural composition of EpiCor that makes it so beneficial and unique.”
During SupplySide West, Embria sales and marketing manager, Doug Reyes, said that the first lozenge product featuring EpiCor that debuted this spring “is doing extremely well.” The Viralex Soothe EpiCor lozenge is from New Zealand company Good Health Products. Reyes added that many finished products use the EpiCor brand name. “There aren’t many products that feature the branded ingredient as the main feature of the product. EpiCor is one of them, and perhaps Ester-C is another,” Reyes said. “I think that speaks to the fact that our research applies to a large audience.”
Besides the lozenge, Reyes said, “We’ve seen chewable tablets, stick packs-Now Foods has a stick pack with EpiCor. It can be tableted; it can be put into a gummy; and we’re also in a 1-oz liquid shot. So it’s very formulation friendly.”
With chewables in mind, in September Valensa (Orlando, FL) announced a new chewable tablet for immune health, called Immunum, which the company is targeting to athletes as a pre- or post-workout supplement. The ingredient contains “1,3 beta-glucan from German brewer’s yeast, astaxanthin, New Zealand Manuka honey, and an algae-derived lipopolysaccharide.” According to the firm, the supplement activates both the innate immune system (thanks to the beta-glucan) and adaptive immune system (thanks to the algae-derived lipopolysaccharide, which the firm calls a “natural antigen.”) Valensa says that the chewable format is “convenient for people on-the-go.”
Nutritional Outlook magazine