What began in 1925 as a company successfully turning out lanolin products, UK-based Croda has become a world leader in the production of the essential lipids, omega-3s and omega-6s. The transformation of the company into a health-and-nutrition success story began in 1986, with the creation of Lorenzo's oil, a nutritional product used to help treat the condition ALD (adrenoleukodystrophy). ALD is a disorder that attacks the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells.
Lorenzo Odones' parents searched unsuccessfully for a treatment for ALD until they found a British chemist who took on the challenge of distilling a proper formula that could normalize the accumulation of very-long-chain fatty acids in the brain that cause the disorder. Croda's labs were shown in the popular 1992 film about the discovery of the oil, and the company still provides one of the oil's components today.
"The development of Lorenzo's oil enabled Croda to develop expertise in fatty acids used to enhance the nutritional status of the human body," says Paul Kollesoff, Croda's marketing manager. "In 1996, Croda focused upon the manufacture of essential fatty acids through the creation of a state-of-the-art facility at Leek, Staffordshire. [In the UK] we drove the growth in the omega-3s market for a number of years, and in 2004 we doubled the production capacity. Last year, we achieved UK MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority), GMP certification for the manufacture of omega-3 and -6 lipids, and we're the first to have the ability to manufacture a range of these to be used as APIs [active pharmaceutical ingredients]. These are marketed under the OmeRxTM brand."
With the rapidly rising awareness of the benefits of omega-3s and -6s, Croda is in a strong position to serve emerging markets, Kollesoff says. "The consumer group from ages 18-50 will be the area in which the market will continue to grow, and products that target their health concerns will be the winners. This group is looking for nutritional treatments that will address its specific health concerns, which include stress, tiredness and other mood-related disorders. There is much research out there, for instance, that shows EPA can have positive effects on the nutritional status of the mind," he says.
"Heart health and inflammatory conditions will continue to be the mainstay of the omega-3s industry," he says. "This all began, of course, with the Greenland Inuits, who ate a lot of seal blubber rich in EPA, DPA and DHA. The third fatty acid, DPA, is generally not present in marine oils, and this is why Incromega Trio was born. I see this developing as the optimum nutritional treatment for cardiovascular inflammatory conditions.
"In the cardiovascular market, Croda has also led the way in terms of clinical research.?In one novel trial, we have been able to develop a nutritional solution that is clinically proven to reduce blood triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, whilst reducing the potential of myocardial infarction by up to 43 per cent."
Kollesoff also sees the emerging beauty-from-within market as a natural for Croda's expertise. "The use of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids will be integral to this.?EPA and GLA are proven to have benefits in this field when taken orally. GLA concentrates enhance skin moisture and elasticity, reducing the visible signs of ageing. EPA, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, also has a number of skin benefits, and may help to reduce the inflammation associated with a number of dermatological skin conditions."
More recently, Croda has developed the PureMax brand (www.puremax.info) with a number of global companies choosing to display the PureMax logo on pack to enhance their brand. One such company is Biocare, whose product, Holfords essential omegas, utilizes Croda's PureMax process in its creation. "Consumers are becoming more aware of the need for quality in the fish-oil products, and this extends from sustainable sourcing to extraction processes that leave them low in contaminants," Kollesoff says. "PureMax also ensures that every finished batch of product is fully tested before release. This provides the ultimate confidence for our customers and consumers alike. We do not operate master-batch or skip-lot testing. Therefore, nothing slips through the net."
One other current push for Croda is developing the vegetarian omega-3s market. The company is expecting to receive novel food status this month for its Incromega V3. Derived from Echium plantagineum, Incromega V3 contains stearidonic acid, which is more effectively metabolised to EPA than ALA in humans, and has its own potent anti-inflammatory effects. Kollesoff says the stearidonic acid (C18:4 n-3) contained within Incromega V3 converts to EPA at 35-40 per cent, rather than at the
Kollesoff estimates the current omega-3 ingredient market to be $650-$750 million, reaching the $1 billion mark by 2011. Croda appears well situated to tap that lode for years to come.