Ramping up for a functional future

Frutarom, founded in the Israeli desert in the 1930s by Dutch industrialists as a citrus-flavours producer, has been quite busy recently acquiring companies that mirror or expand on its more recent vision of providing healthy and natural ingredients to an increasingly interested world.

It recently acquired the British natural-flavours house, Belmay, and in 2005 the Swiss firm Flachsmann, a producer of high-quality herbal extracts such as green mat? and olive-leaf extract. And last year it acquired Acatris, a 38-person company that had been part of the 100+-year-old Dutch Royal Schouten Group.

With the integration of new companies, it has considerable acumen in the area of natural and functional products

An important characteristic of these acquisitions, and consequently a stronger thrust for Frutarom, is its emphasis on research. "Our strength," says former Acatris president Laurent Leduc, who now holds the title of vice president of marketing and development for Frutarom, "is bringing new, innovative ingredients into the marketplace that are supported by good science." For instance, Flachsmann was the first botanicals company to publish scientific data showing that an olive-leaf extract could lower blood pressure.

Leduc says Acatris carried out more than 15 studies on SoyLife (soy-germ isoflavones) alone, including a $4.5 million US study with 400 women, through the auspices of the University of Davis in California, to evaluate safety, bone health and menopause. By teaming with universities and seeking grant money, the company was able to carry out prehuman and human trials, and produce good information on the benefits of its products. Now with the integration of Acatris, Flachsmann and Frutarom's Fine Ingredients division, the company has considerable acumen in the area of natural and functional products. Leduc says Frutarom has completed some 30 studies on five ingredients, including LinumLife, FenuLife, pumpkin, green tea and echinacea.

"We look at folklore data on things that have been used for a long time for various purposes," Leduc says, "and determine scientifically what nutrients in the plant are responsible for the results. More often this is a group of nutrients, and we figure out how to concentrate those nutrients into a supplemental form. Also, we find the best variety of plant from which to obtain that extract. Neuravena (a wild green-oat extract for brain health) is a good example. Over the years oat has been selected more for the grain and amount of carbohydrates it provided. But older varieties have a different phytonutrient content, so we had to go back to the wild type, and then contract with farmers to grow it. Then we extract with a patented process."

Other products include olive-leaf extract. Olive leaves have been used in traditional medicine for a range of different remedies, including hypertension and atherosclerosis. The product has already been tested in trials in Germany. The company is also likely to test it in Korea, with the aim of getting it added to the KFDA's list of approved functional foods.

Acatris, in particular, brought to Frutarom its knowledge and experience of branding and creating what Leduc calls creating a 'pool effect' in the marketplace. That is, "by promoting the ingredient at the consumer level, you create demand. Then they begin to look for your ingredient in the products they buy. We help them locate the products that have incorporated ours," he says. "For example, we promoted our LinumLife (concentrated lignan extract from flax) a lot, and created a website to teach people about the product, and a separate site (www.flaxlignaninfobureau.com) to educate them about lignans in general."

The same emphasis is brought to other Frutarom products such as pink rock rose, which is an immune-system booster, and can also be used to help alleviate heartburn, spasms and diarrhoea, as well as for acne and neurodermititis in either oral or topical products.

"We now have 1,000 people working to bring these tasty, natural-health ingredients to market. We can go to companies such as Kellogg's or Coke and offer them goods and services to meet the rising demand of this expanding market," Leduc says.

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