Polyphenol research began in earnest in the early 1990s when the industry used the so-called “French paradox” as the marketing tool and primarily focused its attention on grape seed and skin extracts or red wine powder.
Since the height of its popularity in the early 2000s, sales of grape seed ingredients for the most part have slid. According to data from Nutrition Business Journal, sales in 2011 hovered around $25 million, down nearly 50% from 2000. The research surrounding grape seed extract is wide and varied with results offering promise in support of oral health, blood pressure, cancer and more. Grape seed extract industry pioneer Polyphenolics’ MegaNatural BP ingredient was used in clinical trials conducted at UC-Davis in 2006, which found that grape seed extract may be effective against high blood pressure and may help ward off the onset of Alzheimer's disease. But its counterparts, resveratrol and pterostilbene, are likely stealing all of the glory.
Since then, polyphenol science and marketing innovation has contributed to a widening market segment now dominated by serious contenders for market share such as DSM, Chr.Hansen and Seppic, with a host of smaller newcomers also vying for a piece of the market. Today the media has picked up on the research efforts, including a report by TV news program “60 Minutes” and most recently a two-part special by “America’s Doctor,” Dr. Oz.
Mergers and acquisitions in this market have mostly centered around distribution and marketing agreements among small players. One exception was the biggest deal to date: In 2008 pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline purchased start-up Sirtris, a Cambridge, MA resveratrol research company, for almost three quarters of a billion dollars. In March 2013, however, GSK announced that it was shutting the doors on its $720 million investment in Sirtris – the company headed by Harvard researcher David Sinclair, who brought resveratrol to the mainstream with lab studies on astonishing life-extending properties. GSK thought it could make drugs that act on sirtuins, a class of proteins that scientists believe play a role in aging, apoptosis (programmed cell death), and other key cell processes that seemed to add up to resveratrol being heralded as a fountain of youth ingredient.
Other notable deals have helped shape the business end of the polyphenols business in recent years.
A. Holliday(Toronto, ON, Canada), a tea and coffee company, in 2009 agreed to exclusive distribution rights outside of North America for their Teawell 95 (95% concentration of epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG) with Tate & Lyle.
ReserveAge Organics, makers of CocoaWell products, in 2011 entered into a sustainable business agreement with the indigenous Kuna of Panama, in part, to source fair trade cocoa from the region. In 2012 Gainesville, FL-based ReserveAge reported sales of $69 million for the year ending December 2012. This represents an increase of 263% over 2011, when the company’s sales were $19 million.
Chromadex(California) made headlines in July 2012 by announcing a distribution agreement for its patented pTeroPure pterostilbene (a stilbenoid found in blueberries and grapes) with Glanbia Nutritionals, a global ingredient and micronutrient premix company, whereby Glanbia will serve as the exclusive distributor of pTeroPure in North America to the food, beverage and dietary supplement industries.
Early in 2013, Chromadex signed a letter of intent to sell its BluScience supplement line to NeutriSci International. Under the terms of the $6 million deal, ChromaDex will retain part ownership and will continue to generate revenue through a royalty on future net sales of BluScience products. There is also a supply agreement with NeutriSci for its pTeroPure pterostilbene, which will continue to be the key active ingredient in the BluScience product line. ChromaDex will retain all rights and ownership to its pTeroPure pterostilbene. For the third quarter ending September 2012, ChromaDex reported record revenue of $3.6 million, an increase of 99% as compared to $1.8 million for the same period in 2011. The revenue increase is largely due to an increase in sales of the company’s BluScience line of dietary supplements.
DSM, suppliers of the resVida brand of a highly purified form of synthetic resveratrol, in 2012 reported a 14% drop in profits (EBITDA) from $1.7 million in 2011 to $1.4 million. However, the company’s $3.1 billion investments in its human nutrition business via company acquisitions in 2011 improved category profits by 6% in fourth quarter from $250 million in 2011 to $266 million last year. Nutrition increased full year results by 8%.
Chr. Hansen, based in Denmark, reported 2011/2012 earnings (EBITDA) of $242 million, up 16% compared to $203 million in 2010/11. Its fourth quarter 2011/2012 profits improved to $170 million, compared to $156 million in 2010/11, representing an $16 million increase. Chr. Hansen’s NutriPhy range, launched in 2007, includes polyphenols such as grapes and curcumin.
Sabinsa, based in New Jersey and India, reported overall curcumin growth year-over-year for the last two years has been nearly 300%.
Longevenix Partners, a privately held company in Las Vegas, saw product sales climb by over $1 million in the second half of 2012.
Ever-expanding research has led to new discoveries of polyphenol-rich ingredients. FutureCeuticals this year launched Fenolorganic polyphenol fiber sourced from grains rich in natural fiber polyphenols. Fiber polyphenols are plant flavonoids naturally bound to dietary fiber, a complex rich in antioxidant activity. The protective matrix of dietary fiber allows fiber polyphenols to survive digestion and carry through to the colon intact. Fenol boasts 2% polyphenols and 30% dietary fiber to meet consumer demand for improved fiber levels in functional foods, RTMs, and RTD applications.
Sidebar: Olives -- not the oil, but the juice
We caught up with Roberto Crea, PhD, CEO and founder of CreAgri, Inc., supplier of Hidrox – a branded olive juice polyphenol ingredient with lots of upside.
FI: Hydroxytyrosol is the waste-stream byproduct of olive oil production. What will it take to make olive oil the byproduct of hydroxytyrosol sourcing?
RC: CreAgri was the first company in the world to recognize the value of the "juice" of olives with vast implications not only in health and wellness but with incredible potential for the food industry. It took many years of research to convince the market that olive juice, very rich in polyphenols, may be the secret of the Mediterranean diet as it provides a wealth of the same polyphenols that you find in the olive oil only in scarce amounts.
We pioneered this concept, developed and brought to market olive polyphenols, especially hydroxytrosol (Hidrox), for industrial applications. Today, thanks to Creagri, a fraction of the olive fruit, which before was considered a nuisance, has a market relevance that competes with that of olive oil. In fact its market value is higher at parity of weight even than that of extra-virgin olive oil.
FI: How do you primarily market the ingredient?
RC: Although the European EFSA has recognized the value of hydroxytyrosl as important in preventing LDL oxidation, we believe that it exerts beneficial health effects that far surpass the cardiovascular protection or antioxidant action. It has shown a unique ability to modulate chronic inflammation, the basis some of today's most deadly disease — including neurodegeneration, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
FI: Will polyphenols ever become a household word?
RC: Olive polyphenols are a unique class of bioactive nutrients with a wider beneficial action than simple antioxidants that will be more and more appreciated for its broad range of health benefits.
FI: What’s the most intriguing finished product that contains Hidrox?
RC: The cardiovascular and chronic benefits, although exciting, are just the tip of the iceberg. Right now we are working with our clients and partners to develop formulations from orally effective dietary supplements to skincare formulations, beverages, functional foods and other products that may finally replace synthetic antioxidant and anti-microbial products. The future will hold plenty of pleasant surprises.