Suppliers ready their ingredients for functional food and drinks: Natural Products Expo West report


Ingredient suppliers from all reaches of the health and wellness industry are validating their ingredients for food and drink delivery systems.

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By now, everyone’s heard the term pill fatigue. While gummies and pills remain popular supplement delivery forms, marketers predict that more consumers will also demand functional foods and beverages moving forward. Many ingredient suppliers in the health and wellness industry are already rising to the challenge of ensuring their ingredients can go beyond tablets and capsules and survive demanding food and beverage manufacturing processes which often involve high heat, high pressure, and additional challenges. At March’s Natural Products Expo West trade show in Anaheim, CA, we spoke to two companies who discussed their ingredients’ transition to the food world.

EpiCor Postbiotic

The ingredient EpiCor, a postbiotic comprising whole-food fermentate from yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), has long been an established branded ingredient in the immune-health supplements market. The ingredient, which is backed by more than a dozen published studies, is now touting its compatibility with foods and beverages. As a postbiotic, EpiCor can withstand processing conditions that other types of ‘biotics, like some live probiotic bacteria, can’t.

“EpiCor will always have a strong foothold in supplements. It’s been where we’ve spent a lot of time and energy, focusing specifically on the dietary supplement category,” said Jenna Nelson, channel lead, EpiCor Postbiotic, a Cargill brand, at Expo West.

Now, however, the company is promoting EpiCor's benefits for health and beverages. “Based on the makeup of EpiCor and the fact that it provides health benefits but is also inanimate, it allows formulation flexibility into foods and beverages that a lot of other 'biotics—and by that, I mean most probiotics—can’t withstand, such as high heat and acidity,” Nelson said.

In short, she said, the company is now stressing that one of EpiCor’s “major selling points” is that it’s inanimate. “So you can put it into all these foods and beverages and still have it maintain its efficacious dose. We’ve done a lot of prototype work over the past 12 months in everything from a cookie to a smoothie to a chocolate, even hard candies. So we’ve developed a lot of prototypes that we’re then showcasing to potential customers as far as how they can bring EpiCor to market.”

The ingredient is also making inroads in the pet nutrition space. The company’s EpiCor Pets line is clinically studied in dogs and cats, offering benefits to animals including digestive and immune health, skin and coat health, and allergy relief.

UC-II Collagen

Over in the collagen market, representatives from Lonza Capsules & Health Ingredients (Greenwood, SC) discussed how the company has begun testing its flagship UC-II undenatured type II collagen ingredient in food and drinks.

“We tested UC-II in food and beverage applications beyond supplements, and it seems that it’s very stable in those prototypes that we tested,” said Elnaz Azari, PhD research and innovation project leader, Lonza Capsules & Health Ingredients, at Expo West. Those prototypes ranged from nutrition bars and pet foods, which undergo extrusion; dairy products, which undergo ultra-high-temperature processing; and carbonated and non-carbonated beverages—far beyond the gummies and pills that most companies had previously been formulating EpiCor into.

“In different degrees, we tested, and it retained its structure, stability, and the amount of undenatured type collagen," Azari said. Lonza also used a proprietary version of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to confirm how much native type II collagen survived in the final products. (UC-II is also unique in that it’s effective at a very small, 40-mg dose.)

“This is something very interesting and new for the UC-II ingredient that expands our market beyond supplements,” Azari concluded.

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