In the business of lutein? Scientists would say you've got it made, because humans don't synthesize the eye-health ingredient, but instead depend on dietary sources or supplements. For Mumbai-based OmniActive Health Technologies, lutein is a mainstay, and last year the company achieved self-affirmed GRAS status for the LuteMax line to spur growth into functional foods. But this innovative company is more than meets the eye.
OmniActive found its start in Kancor Nutraceuticals – the first company in India, and the world, to do extractions of curcumin, gingerol and piperene from spices. Kancor recognized an opportunity for nutritional applications, so it divested its nutraceutical division into an independent company. Since 2005, the ingredients supplier and research and development company has grown to 150 people and a product line that includes the following branded ingredients:
- Lutemax Free Lutein
- Lutemax Lutein Esters
- Lutemax 2020
- Capsimax Capsicum Extract
- OmniCurcumax Curcumin Extract
"Luckily, we continue to be in a category where each of the ingredients we make and sell continue to grow at a fast pace," said Hiren Doshi, vice president. By "make," Doshi means more than just the manufacturing of the supplement. OmniActive, which has a presence in Asia, Europe and America, is big on raw material vertical integration. "Our intention is to go as deep into the supply chain as we can," he said.
For example, the company formed a co-op with farmers of marigolds (the lutein source) to ensure consistent farming practices – from supplying the seeds to setting farming protocols. The benefit is ingredient traceability and a consistent supply.
But luck is only a small portion of the company's success. "Innovation is the single most important objective and agenda in our company," Doshi said. The company pumps a large amount of money into R&D, resulting in technologies such as the OmniBead vegetarian beadlet technology – a method of encapsulation that ensures unstable compounds, such as lutein, retain their efficacy throughout shelf life.
Beadlet technology was also used when the company partnered with GNC to develop a safe delivery method for capsicum extract. GNC was interested in capsicum's thermogenic and sports nutrition/weight management properties, but the extract is pungent and volatile. "It just starts flying in the air, so it's extremely difficult to manufacture," said Doshi, "and if you have it in a capsule, it releases heat very rapidly in the stomach so it causes irritation." The answer was a capsicum beadlet, which releases the spicy ingredient into the small intestine, rather than the stomach, so the consumer doesn't feel any irritation.
Capsicum is one of the most cutting-edge diet ingredients today, said Doshi, and is backed by research undertaken at the University of Memphis by Bloomer et. al. published in Lipids in Health and Disease (2010, 9:72) and a study conducted at the University of Oklahoma using GNC dietary supplements containing Capsimax. Both were randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover studies that showed promise for lipolysis, or the fat-breakdown properties of Capsimax. "Our goal is to do at least one study a year, and support all customers who are interested in doing their own studies as well," he said.
OmniActive uses several technologies to stabilize extracts and place them in their finished ingredient forms.
OmniBead vegetarian beadlet technology – allows for site-specific and time-controlled releases; masks odor in fish oils; and stabilizes carotenoids and ubiquinol.
UltraSol Nutrient system – makes ingredients more compatible for use in food and beverages and enhances their bioavailability.
Supercritical extraction – uses carbon dioxide. This method, also called supercritical fluid extraction, uses CO2 in a fluid state at high pressure to extract ingredients from feedstocks to yield a purer, solvent-free product. It’s a superior method, but it’s expensive to do and hasn’t taken off much, said Doshi. However the company offers it and is ready when the demand comes.