New Hope Network is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Articles from 2004 In June

Elemental E

Elemental E
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant for the body. Jump in and test your vitamin “EQ” with this short quiz.

By Vonalda Utterback, CN
Photo: Jeff Padrick

1. Nuts are the best food source of vitamin E.

2. It’s easy to obtain therapeutic amounts of vitamin E from food alone.

3. Among other health benefits, mounting evidence indicates that vitamin E protects against heart disease.

4. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that exists in eight different forms.

1. False. It’s true that nuts (especially almonds), along with sunflower seeds, whole grains, vegetable oils, egg yolks, and leafy green vegetables, all contain vitamin E. However, wheat germ oil takes the prize with the most concentrated amount, at 26.2 IU (international units) per tablespoon, followed by almonds at 7.5 IU.

2. False. Although the recommended dietary allowances for vitamin E range from 22 to 28 IU, human studies showing the benefits of vitamin E are all based on supplementation (often 100 to 800 IU per day). It would be hard to get the high levels of vitamin E used in research studies from food alone.

3. True. Two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that men and women who supplemented with at least 100 IU of vitamin E per day for at least two years had a 37 percent to 41 percent drop in heart-disease risk. The Cambridge Heart Antioxidant Study (CHAOS), in which people took 400 to 800 IU of vitamin E per day, reported an impressive 77 percent drop in nonfatal heart attacks.

4. True. Each form of vitamin E has its own biological activity. However, alpha-tocopherol is the form most widely used in supplements. It is considered a powerful antioxidant that protects the body against the damaging effects of free radicals. However, some experts now believe that gamma-tocopherol may be more active than alpha-tocopherol in certain parts of the body, such as the brain.

—Vonalda Utterback, CN

Delicious Living

July 1, 2004

Battle of the omega-3s: marine vs veggie sources

The health-promoting properties of omega-3 fatty acids are now widely documented. However, issues remain regarding the source, types, safety and adequate intakes. Ernesto Hernandez, PhD, explains

Omega-3 fatty acids are generally derived from either nonmarine sources (vegetable oils) or marine sources.1 Fatty acids from marine oils include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), primarily obtained from cold-water fish. Recently, menhaden oil and omega-3 oils from micro algae have been granted GRAS status by the US government. The nonmarine sources of omega-3s are generally in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and can be obtained from flaxseed, walnut and other oilseeds such as soybean or canola.

An alternative source of omega-3 currently approved for infant formula and used also as a nutritional supplement is DHA from the micro algae Crypthecodinium cohnii. This algae is grown in fermenters under controlled conditions, and the oil is reported to be free of contaminants. After fermentation, the fermented mass is dried and the oil extracted.

Another alternative for omega-3 fatty acids is stearidonic acid (SDA, 18:4w3). This is an 18-carbon omega-3 oil with four double bonds. It has the advantage that it does not have to compete for a desaturase enzymatic step with the omega-6 pathway. This fatty acid is found in hemp seed and blackcurrant seed oil.

In addition to these marine- and terrestrial-derived omega-3 sources, many new sources of n-3 oils are in development. At the American Oil Chemists? Society annual meeting in Cincinnati in May, Monsanto presented some interesting work on SDA from GMO soybeans, while Japanese researchers presented good work on supplement blends and structured phospholipids. The future of this category looks to remain both buoyant and a source of innovation for some time to come.

Safety issues
Besides the type and source of omega-3 fatty acids, lately there have been concerns over the risks of consuming fish-origin versus plant-origin PUFAs. Some types of fish contain high levels of mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins and other environmental contaminants. Some species of fish may contain significant levels of methylmercury, considered one of the more dangerous food contaminants today. In general, older, larger predatory fish and marine mammals, such as swordfish and seals, tend to contain the highest levels of these contaminants.2 PCBs and methylmercury are believed to have long half-lives in the body and can accumulate in people who consume contaminated fish on a frequent basis. In the case of PCBs, it is recommended that consumers reduce their exposure to these contaminants by removing the fat from the fish before cooking them; however, methylmercury represents a more serious problem because it is distributed throughout skin, muscle and organs of the fish.

The Food and Drug Administration regulates the safety of all commercial fish, including ocean-caught, farm-raised and imported fish. One example is the recommendation for pregnant women and nursing mothers to limit their consumption of sport-caught fish to one 6oz meal per week. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that young children consume less than 2oz of sport-caught fish per week.3

Omega-3 fatty acids of plant origin are considered safer from the point of view of contaminants. However, oils like flaxseed in high doses (>30g/day) have been reported to cause loose stools or diarrhoea. Allergic anaphylactic reactions have been reported with flaxseed and flaxseed oil ingestion. Also, serious complications can occur if omega-3s are taken with anticoagulant medications or antihypertensive agents.2

Adequate intakes
The National Academies released in 2002 the Dietary Reference Intakes Report for Energy and Macronutrients that included adequate intakes for linoleic acid (LA) and ALA. Adequate intake is defined as nutrient intake estimates observed in a healthy individual where sufficient scientific data is not available to suggest a recommended daily allowance.

Adequate intakes have been set for LA as 17g/day and 12g/day for men and women aged 19-50 years, respectively. The adequate intake for ALA is 1.6g/day and 1.1g/day for men and women aged 19 to 70 years, respectively.4

The National Institutes of Health published a report in 1999 from a sponsored international workshop on the essentiality and recommended dietary intakes for n-3 and n-6 fatty acids. This working group proposed adequate intakes of 2-3 per cent of total calories for LA, 1 per cent of total calories for ALA, and 0.3 per cent of total calories for EPA and DHA. The group further recommended intakes of EPA and DHA of 650mg/day and a minimum of 300mg DHA/day during pregnancy and lactation.

Other countries such as Health Canada suggest a minimum of 3 per cent of energy from n-6 fatty acids and 0.5 per cent from n-3 fatty acids or 1 per cent for infants who do not receive a preformed source of EPA and DHA. The United Kingdom recommends intakes of 1 per cent of energy from ALA and 0.5 per cent from EPA and DHA combined.

The World Health Organization has also issued recommendations on the basis of the ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids of 5:1-10:1. Sweden recommends a ratio of 5:1, Canada recommends 4:1-10:1, and more recently Japan recently changed its recommendation from 4:1 to 2:1.

Ernesto Hernandez, PhD, is head of the Fats and Oils Processing Program, Food Protein Research and Development Center, at Texas A&M University System.
Respond: editor@
All correspondence will be forwarded to the author.

Adequate intake (AI) for omega-3 fatty acids

Life Stage






0-6 months





7-12 months





1-3 years





4-8 years years





9-13 years




14-18 years





19 years and older





All ages





All ages




Table 2. Sources of ALAs:

Food and Serving Size



Flaxseed oil, 1tbsp (14g)



Walnuts, 1oz (28g)



Canola oil, 1tbsp (14g)



Soybean oil, 1tbsp (14g)



Table 2. Sources of DHAs and EPAs:

Food and Serving Size



Tuna, 3oz (84g)



Salmon, Atlantic (84g)



Sardines (84g)



Fish oil, menhaden (1g)



Fish oil, salmon (1g)



Comparing conversion efficiencies
Essential fatty acids have three distinct metabolic functions: as an energy source, as structural cell membranes and as precursors of eicosanoids. These essential fatty acids share the same enzymatic reactions involved in their metabolic pathways, thus competing for the same elongases and desaturases enzymes.

Linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) go through a series of metabolic steps such as a series of elongation and desaturation reactions to be converted ? LA to arachidonic acid and ALA to EPA and DHA. This competition of the omega-3 and omega-6 pathways for enzymatic activity is one of the main arguments in favour of direct consumption of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA in marine oils.5

The resulting fatty acids from the omega-3 and omega-6 metabolic pathways play roles in cell membrane function; in the development and functioning of the brain and nervous system; and in the production of eicosanoids such as thromboxanes, leukotrienes and prostaglandins.

The conversion of LA into arachidonic acid is generally very efficient. However, the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is less efficient. It has been reported that in healthy individuals, only 5-10 per cent of ALA is converted to EPA, and 2-5 per cent to DHA. However, in a recent study conducted with women, estimated net fractional conversion of ALA to EPA was 21 per cent and ALA to DHA was 9 per cent.6,7


1. Trautwein EA. N-3 Fatty acids ? physiological and technical aspects for their use in food. Eur J Lipide Sci 2001;103:45-55.
2. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration. Advice for women who are pregnant, or who might become pregnant, and nursing mothers, about avoiding harm to your baby or young child from mercury in fish and shellfish. 2003 Dec 10. Available at
3. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration. Mercury levels in seafood species 2001 May 11.
4. Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein and amino acids. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2002.
5. Simopoulos AP. Essential fatty acids in health and chronic disease. Food Rev Int 1997; 13(4):623-31.
6. Burdge GC, et al. Eicosapentaenoic and docosapentaenoic acids are the principal products of alpha-linolenic acid metabolism in young men. Br J Nutr 2002; 88(4):355-64.
7. Burdge GC, Wootton SA. Conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to eicosapentaenoic, docosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids in young women. Br J Nutr 2002; 88(4):411-20.


NBJ Index Ahead of the Pack in 2004

Select image to enlarge

Analyzing stock market results for the first half of 2004 shows the nutrition industry outperforming all the cross-industry indices. In what turned out to be a flat two quarters on Wall Street (the Dow was down 0.2% and the Nasdaq, S&P and NYSE were each up around 2%), the NBJ Index was up 7%. More importantly the NBJ market-cap weighted index was up 22%. Larger nutrition industry companies pacing the six-month gain were Hansen Natural (up 81% in Q2 and 201% in the first half), Whole Foods Market (up 27% in Q2 and 42% in the first half) and Nutraceutical International (up 93% in the first half). Larger caps NBTY and Wild Oats also posted 9% gains in the first six months of 2004. Larger caps on the negative side were United Natural Foods (down 19% in the first half), Hain Celestial (down 22% in the first half) and 2003 leading gainer Martek (down 14% in the first half).

Recent Retail Reports
News continues positive for America’s top two natural retailers. Whole Foods Market reported sales for the third quarter ended July 4, 2004 increased 22% to $917 million, driven by 9% weighted average square footage growth and comparable store sales growth of 14%. Net income for the quarter increased 15% to $32.9 million. CEO John Mackey said “Our comparable stores are producing record sales increases of 15.2% year to date, and our new stores continue to open above our expectations producing $595,000 in average weekly sales.” In the third quarter, Whole Foods opened five new stores in Charleston, S.C., White Plains, N.Y., Fort Collins, Colo., Bellevue, Wash. and Glendale, Calif. (a relocation), ending the quarter with 160 stores. Eight new store leases were signed in Redmond, Wash., New York, N.Y., Henderson, Nev., Charlotte, N.C., Cranston, R.I., Woburn, Mass., Manhattan Beach, Calif., and Austin, Texas. For 2004, sales growth is expected “at the high end” of 18% to 22%. For 2005, Whole Foods expects total sales and earnings growth in line with its stated long-term goal of 15% to 20%.

Select image to enlarge

Wild Oats Markets announced net sales in the second quarter of 2004 were $251.7 million, up 3.9%, driven by square footage growth of 9.3%. Comparable store sales were positive 1.5% and were negatively affected by the poststrike promotional activity by major grocery chains in Southern California. “While we are disappointed with our results in the quarter, we believe that the issues affecting our business are short-term. We are confident that the steps we are taking to restructure our operations and to drive growth in our business will produce improved results over time,” said CEO Perry Odak. Wild Oats opened five new stores in the second quarter with locations in Omaha, Neb.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Superior, Colo., a new Henry’s Farmers Market in Mission Viejo, Calif. and the conversion of a Wild Oats store to a Henry’s in Phoenix, Ariz. Wild Oats plans to open up to 20 stores in 2005 and 40 stores in 2006. It is also testing a Wild Oats branded store-within-a-store concept with Stop & Shop, the largest food retailer in the Northeast, and an online retailing test of Wild Oats’ private label products in the Chicago area with Internet grocer Peapod.

Supplement Manufacturers Recovering in 2004
Leiner Health Products Inc. announced its first quarter net sales for fiscal 2005 of $156 million, a 12% increase over $138.9 million in fiscal 2004. All three of Leiner’s principal product categories—store brand vitamins, minerals and supplements; over-the-counter pharmaceuticals; and contract manufacturing services—“ performed well,” and the latter two “experienced solid growth,” said Leiner.

Natrol Inc. reported net sales for the first half of 2004 of $41.1 million, 8.6% more than in 2003, and net income of $1.2 million compared to a loss in 2003. Sales results were attributed to success of the core Natrol brand.

NBTY Inc. announced fiscal third quarter sales increased 30% to $400 million with net income at $26 million. Product lines purchased in the July 2003 Rexall acquisition had sales of $68 million, so subtracting Rexall, sales increased 8%. NBTY stated it “has established a dominant presence in the wholesale nutritional supplement marketplace using consumer sales information from its Vitamin World retail stores and Puritan’s Pride directresponse/ e-commerce operations to provide mass-market customers with timely and vital data to drive their sales.” In product news, NBTY is introducing reformulated, repackaged MET-Rx sports products with improved flavors and re-launched Spider-Man vitamins under the Sundown Kids brand.

Nutraceutical International Corp. reported net sales for fiscal 2004 third quarter were $33.8 million compared to $29.7 million Nine-month net sales were $104.6 million compared to $89.2 million for the same ninemonth period of fiscal 2003. CEO Bill Gay commented, “Sales growth and gross margin improvements reflect positive contributions from the June 2003 acquisitions of Nature’s Life and Arizona Health Foods, as well as contributions from the May 2004 acquisition of Natural Balance. During this quarter, we have seen a softness in sales in certain areas and customers within the Healthy Foods Channel. Additionally, increasing costs associated with shipping, insurance, legal and corporate governance have impacted us.”

Biggest Advances In Period
Select image to enlarge

Perrigo Co. announced fiscal year 2004 sales for the 12 months of $898.2 million, up 8%. Perrigo is the nation’s largest manufacturer of over-the-counter (non-prescription) pharmaceutical and nutritional products sold by supermarket, drug and mass merchandise chains under their own labels, including analgesics, cough and cold remedies, gastrointestinal and feminine hygiene products, and nutritional products, such as vitamins, nutritional supplements and nutritional drinks. CEO David Gibbons said, “The loratadine family of OTC allergy/sinus medications were a key contributor to the overall revenue increase. Growth also resulted from our December 2003 acquisition of Peter Black Pharmaceuticals, a United Kingdom-based nutritional business.”

Network Marketers Ride Curve of Global Growth
Nu Skin Enterprises reported record quarterly revenue of $284.2 million, an 18% increase over the second quarter of 2003. Favorable results were attributed to progress in mainland China, accelerated growth in U.S. business with an ongoing emphasis on distributor and customer retention programs. Nu Skin personal care revenue was $143 million, up 28% primarily due to strong personal care product sales in mainland China. Pharmanex nutrition revenue increased 17% to $136 million, positively impacted by the rollout of the Pharmanex BioPhotonic Scanner.

Nature’s Sunshine net sales increased 25% to $79.6 million in its second quarter. CEO Douglas Faggioli said, “International sales, and in particular our Synergy division, have been achieving outstanding results. United States sales have continued to lag somewhat, but a new product offering and incentive, Thai-Go with the Nature’s Sunshine Habit-of-Health 90- Day Challenge, are showing some very positive signs.” While U.S. net sales were down to $34.5 million compared with $36.8 million in the same period of the prior year, second quarter performances were particularly strong in the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and Ireland, Canada, Israel, Venezuela and Central America.

USANA announced record results for the second quarter with net sales of $67.2 million, up 43% from the second quarter of 2003. The total number of active associates increased 35% to 104,000 in the second quarter of 2004. Besides domestic growth, USANA reported positive results in Mexico, Japan and Korea.

Adams, Harkness & Hill, Inc
Select image to enlarge

Reliv International Inc. generated $47.4 million in net sales for the first half of 2004, a 30% increase compared to 2003. Net sales in the United States, its largest geographic market, grew 34% in 2Q 2004. Reliv also posted growth in Malaysia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Reliv makes nutritional and fiber supplements, diet management products, functional foods, sports drink mixes and a line of premium skin care products.

Homeopathy Firms to Merge
Global homeopathy leaders Boiron and Dolisos have agreed to merge. The two French companies stated that French homeopathy is “constrained by its regulatory framework” and the companies are merging to provide “adequate resources for research and international development.” France instituted price controls in 1998 and reimbursement rates for homeopathy have lowered from 65% to 35% since then. Homeopathy is prescribed by 25,000 physicians in France today, and a Dolisos-funded survey indicates that 62% of French mothers have used homeopathic medicines in the past 12 months. Merger documents will have to be approved by shareholders of each company as well as a French ministry that oversees antitrust regulations.

Natural and Organic Food Companies Report Record Sales
Hansen Natural Corp. reported record sales for the second quarter as gross sales increased 65% to $58 million and gross sales for the first half of 2004 increased 54% to $96.7 million. The growth is a result of Monster Energy drinks, Lo-Carb Monster Energy drinks, Lost Energy drinks and increased sales of apple juice, diet natural sodas and private label beverages. Increases were partially offset by lower of Hansen’s children’s multivitamin juice drinks, smoothies, Diet Red Energy drinks, teas, lemonades, juice cocktails and soy smoothies.

Spectrum Organic Products Inc. reported a quarterly sales record of $12.8 million, an increase of 13% from 2003. Growth was attributed to “consumer awareness of the importance of healthy oils” and food manufacturers eliminating partially hydrogenated oils (or trans fat) from their products, which drove the Spectrum ‘s ingredient sales. CEO Neil Blomquist said Spectrum has “committed considerable resources in infrastructure, new packaging and brand marketing programs to strengthen Spectrum’s position as the Healthy Fats Company.” Spectrum makes natural and organic culinary oils, vinegar, condiments and butter substitutes under the Spectrum Naturals brand and essential fatty acid nutritional supplements under the Spectrum Essentials brand.

Research puts rhodiola to the stress test

Adaptogens are described as agents that can assist an organism in its physiological adaptation to, and tolerance of, various chronic stressors by increasing the body?s nonspecific resistance and normalising functions. One botanical genus that has been the focus of recent research and commercialization is rhodiola.

The bioactive profile of Rhodiola spp. has centred upon a select duo of marker compounds: salidroside and rosavin. Salidroside is a glucose-linked congener of para-tyrosol, a phenolic constituent. Rosavin is a nonphenolic constituent classified as a phenylpropanoid.

Limiting this review to original clinical research published in the English language, we find the majority of studies being published after 1999. A specific extract of R. rosea, produced by the Swedish Herbal Institute named SHR-5, and marketed as a consumer packaged good with the name Rosenrot, has been the focus of several studies.

In one study, 40 male Indian first-year medical students (at a Russian medical school, 17-19 years of age) took tablets containing either 50mg SHR-5 extract or placebo twice daily for 20 days.1 SHR-5 is standardised to approximately 2.5 per cent salidroside, with rosavin content not being standardised. An exercise capacity test showed no statistically significant difference of SHR-5 over placebo. However, a motor skills test involving a spiraling maze and self-assessed questionnaires of mental fatigue and motivation did show significant improvements relative to the placebo group.

A second study with SHR-5 enrolled 121 Russian military cadets (19-21 years of age) performing night duty and randomised to receive a single dose of two or three capsules containing 185mg SHR-5/capsule, two capsules of a matched placebo or no supplement, at 4 a.m.2 Among the groups receiving SHR-5, their performance in several mental performance tests was superior to that of the placebo (as measured by an ?Anti-Fatigue Index?) with very little difference between the two SHR-5 doses.

A third study enrolled male and female Armenian physicians (24-35 years of age) on night duty and randomly assigned them to receive a placebo or 170mg SHR-5 once daily for two weeks in random order, followed by a two-week washout, and then two weeks of the opposite agent.3 Again, a battery of mental performance tests were administered with some evidence of ?anti-fatigue? effects.

More recently, the effects of a R. rosea extract-containing dietary supplement (Optygen) were evaluated among 17 elite amateur competitive cyclists.4 The cyclists were randomly assigned to ingest six capsules/day for four days and then three capsules/day for an additional 11 days. The Optygen was claimed to provide 100mg R. rosea extract/capsule, standardised to a minimum 2.5 per cent salidroside and 3 per cent rosavins. Also included was 333mg Cordyceps sinensis mycelia biomass with a claimed minimum 7.5 per cent cordycepic acid. All cyclists performed a graded exercise test on a computer-interfaced bicycle ergometer until exhaustion/low pedal rpm. The group receiving the R. rosea-containing extract performed no better than placebo in all measures of performance.

An additional study employing simulated high altitude (reduced oxygen; conditions mimicking elevation at 4,600m) found seven days of ingesting a R. rosea extract without effect on oxygenation but with a possible mitigating role in hypoxia-induced oxidative stress.5

More rigorous clinical investigations, assessing the comparative biological effects of various species of rhodiola are warranted, as no evidence to date points to the superiority of one species over another.6 Additionally, differences in the chemoprofiles of rhodiola species from different regions and new production methods that are sustainable or enhance yield merit keen focus.7,8,9

Anthony Almada, MSc, is president and chief scientific officer of IMAGINutrition Inc.
All correspondence will be forwarded to the author.

1. Spasov AA, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen. Phytomedicine 2000; 7:85-9.
2. Shevtsov VA. A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work. Phytomedicine 2000; 7:95-105.
3. Darbinyan V, et al. Rhodiola rosea in stress-induced fatigue ? a double-blind crossover study of a standardized extract SHR-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty. Phytomedicine 2000; 7:365-71.
4. Earnest CP, et al. Effects of a commercial herbal-based formula on exercise performance in cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2004; 36:504-9.
5. Wing SL, et al. Lack of effect of rhodiola or oxygenated water supplementation on hypoxemia and oxidative stress. Wilderness Environ Med 2003; 14:9-16.
6. Abidov M, et al. Effect of extracts from Rhodiola rosea and Rhodiola crenulata (Crassulaceae) roots on ATP content in mitochondria of skeletal muscles. Bull Exp Med Biol 2003; 136:585-7.
7. Lei Y, et al. Interpopulation variability of rhizome essential oils in Rhodiola crenulata from Tibet and Yunnan, China. Biochem Syst Ecol 2004; 32:611-4.
8. Yan X, et al. Soil nutrient factors related to salidroside production of Rhodiola sachalinensis distributed in Chang Bai Mountain. Environ Exp Bot 2004 (in press) DOI:10.1016/j.envexpbot.2004.02.005.
9. Tolonen et al. LC/MS/MS identification of glycosides produced by biotransformation of cinnamyl alcohol in Rhodiola rosea compact callus aggregates. Biomed Chromatogr 2004 (in press) DOI: 10.1002/bmc.355.

In Brief

Tomato-free tomatoes debut
Nomato, the world?s first tomato-free range of traditional products, has been launched in the UK by the co-founder of Green & Black?s chocolate, Craig Sams.

The range comprising organic ketchup, pasta sauce, baked beans, soup and vegetarian chilli has been formulated for people with arthritis, psoriasis or cystitis who need to avoid nightshade plants.

?We expect this to be a niche range targeted at customers of natural food stores and allergy-free mail-order customers,? said Sams.

Irish boost FF industry
The Irish government has announced an initiative to help small- and medium-sized functional foods producers compete internationally. The programme aims to help firms without the staff or budget to promote their products.

?Scientific knowledge of ingredient functionality and food structure is critical,? said Margaret O?Connor, functional foods adviser at Enterprise Ireland. ?Through this initiative, Enterprise Ireland will help fill communications and knowledge gaps identified by our clients.?

Fortification down under
A delegation of Australian, New Zealander and surrounding territories?ministers has agreed that vitamins and minerals may be added to food where there is demonstrated evidence of a potential health benefit. Ministers also agreed with the food regulatory body, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, that mandatory fortification of food with iodine and folate should be a priority.?Work on drawing up a standard will commence in the next two months.

Pet foods get functional
Pet foods marketers miffed at stagnant revenues amidst a growing pet population are turning toward value-added nutraceuticals. From glucosamine and chondroitin combinations to added fish oils, pet food packs many of the same popular nutrients consumed by pet owners. The overall pet foods market recorded sales of $13.1 billion in 2003, a 3 per cent increase over 2002, according to a Packaged Facts report, ?The U.S. Pet Food Market.? Despite the flat market as a whole, pet foods packaged as ?natural? nearly doubled from 2002 to 2003, with more than 350 new products hitting the market, and the number of new pet foods promoting ?high vitamin? content grew by 94 per cent in 2003.

Industry lobbies Washington
In a time of increased regulatory action, the US dietary supplements industry is banding together in new ways to increase advocacy in Washington, DC. The Coalition to Preserve DSHEA was formed on May 6 to work for favourable public policies. The coalition is being supported by more than a dozen industry groups, including FFN?s parent company, New Hope Natural Media. Also in May, the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance raised $50,000 to fund new DSEA projects, including a monthly education effort targeting members of Congress. In a related action, Citizens for Health teamed with NOW Foods Inc to organise Herbal Alternatives, an issue briefing for members of Congress.

Niche foods sell well if price is right

Condition-specific foods are likely to remain niche products for some time, but the performance of Coca-Cola?s new Minute Maid Premium Heart Wise Orange Juice will be key to future success, according to some industry experts.

Colleen Zammer, principal of food and beverage technology at Massachusetts-based consultancy Tiax, said: ?We have seen little to no activity from our clients in developing condition-specific food and beverages. Instead we are seeing more products focused on wellness in general, or weight management.?

According to industry analyst and editor of New Nutrition Business Julian Mellentin, the only way these products could become mass-market is for prices to fall—and consumers? knowledge to improve.

?Specific foods could do well as niche products targeted at people with diagnosed conditions or at high risk of medical conditions. But it can be tricky when people don?t know whether they have a problem or not.?

He cited a study on cholesterol carried out by Pfizer that found most people don?t know what their cholesterol level is.

Lowering cholesterol is a benefit that appeals to large numbers of people and Coca-Cola has been able to capitalise on this with its Premium Heart Wise orange juice, according to John Roddey, director of innovation for juices, teas and emerging brands business units at Coca-Cola North America.

?We did a lot of research before launching the product, and we know that over 105 million people have high or borderline high cholesterol—that?s basically one adult in every US household. It was a mainstream opportunity we were able to capitalise on.?

The product has only been marketed since the beginning of the year, but already its sales have ?exceeded our expectations and targets in terms of market share,? Roddey said. ?Even after only five months of marketing, it is one of our top-selling SKUs. It is well on its way to being one of the more successful product launches we?ve had in years.?

But he acknowledged that not every functional benefit can be translated into a mass-marketed product. ?That?s especially true for orange juice—which is premium real estate in the chilled section. The functional benefit has to be broad enough to appeal to large numbers of people.? The key to Premium Heart Wise?s success may be the fact it sells without a premium—unlike most other condition-specific foods. ?Minute Maid is eating some ingredient costs and their sterol supplier, Cargill, has also dropped their price—both probably in the hope of getting volume,? Mellentin speculated. ?This is an experiment to try and propel sterol-based foods into the mass market.?

Zammer is optimistic about the future of condition-specific products. ?There have been some enquiries for clinically backed ingredients that companies can license and leverage for the right benefit,? she said. ?I have seen this more since Danone launched their yoghurt drink in the US, DanActive, which makes an immunity claim on the package.?

Lynea Schultz-Ela of A Natural Resource, a Colorado-based consultancy firm, agreed. ?As the baby boomers age, the conditions they are seeking relief from are very specific to ageing—just as one example, the stabilisation of blood insulin levels,? she said. ?Inflammation, prostate, menopause, sexual dysfunction and weight management are all popular in the supplements sector. If you also look at the growth trends in ingredients sales for foods, that also indicates condition-specific formulas are lucrative.?

Indigestion and allergies worse for low-carb dieters, study finds

Whether because of diet or pre-existing conditions, Americans following a low-carb regimen are more likely to suffer from gastro-intestinal distress, allergies, anxiety and depression than the general population, according to research by the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI).

These dieters also report higher rates of hypoglycaemia, fibromyalgia, headaches and asthma, according to the recently released survey. These health issues are creating a window of opportunity for food formulators and supplements manufacturers that can develop products to address possible consequences of low-carb dieting, the NMI concluded.

?Twenty four per cent of Americans can be classified as what we call low-carb weight managers (LCWMs),? said Steve French, managing partner at NMI.

?We know that this group is already predisposed to the usage of functional foods and beverages. They are 8 per cent more likely to buy functional foods and 10 per cent more likely to buy fortified foods and take a daily vitamin supplement.

?What this means is you have a very nice group of consumers with health issues predisposed to speciality foods and supplements.?

According to the randomised survey of 2,000 households, 27 per cent of LCWMs suffer from indigestion, versus 19 per cent of the general population (GP)—an 8 percentage point difference. They are 3.1 per cent more likely to be lactose intolerant and 2.9 per cent more likely to have gastritis problems.

For non-GI conditions, LCWMs also suffer at higher rates than their GP counterparts.

LCWMs suffer from seasonal allergies at a 9.1 per cent higher rate than the GP and are 5 per cent more likely to suffer from food allergies. They are 3.4 per cent more likely to report anxiety, 2.5 per cent more likely to have hypoglycaemia, 2 per cent more likely to report fibromyalgia and 1.5 per cent more likely to suffer from depression.

A cursory review of published research shows some other possible consequences of low-carb dieting, which functional foods and supplements makers could address, French said. Among them: kidney strain, high cholesterol, mineral deficiencies, bad breath, osteoporosis and muscle spasms.

Currently, there are few products on the market that are addressing specific health needs of low-carb dieters, said Laurie Kuntz, CEO of the LowCarbiz industry newsletter.

?We are not seeing low-carb products with other functional benefits at this point,? she said. ?But you will be seeing it happen among smaller manufacturers in the future; they have the ability to start reaching into these niche markets because they don?t have huge overhead.?

Among the first niche products will be low-carb foods that are also gluten-free or reduced-fat, she predicted, as well as more meat-free products.

Major low-carb food manufacturers such as Atkins and Keto Foods do offer specially tailored supplements for low-carb dieters, and Bayer HealthCare recently launched One-A-Day Carbsmart multivitamin, containing added nutrients for reduced-carb diets.

Natural vitamin E heading for ‘crisis’ due to GM law

Europe?s new GM labelling laws are threatening the natural source vitamin E market, according to suppliers, manufacturers and retailers.

Natural source vitamin E is almost exclusively sourced from genetically modified soy but was not required to be labelled GM in the past because processing removed GM content from final products. But under the new law, products must be labelled GM if they are derived from a GM source.

Major suppliers like ADM and Cognis have already noted a fall in demand for their natural source vitamin E ingredients, and they are expecting a further drop.

While the legislation won?t have an impact until current stocks are sold and new products reach the market, its effects are expected to be severe, including many product withdrawals.

?With such strong anti-GM feeling among European consumers, we are very concerned about this legislation,? said an ADM spokesperson. ?There is so little natural source vitamin E that can be classified as GM-free, and synthetic vitamin E is not really an option for human consumption because of its reduced bioavailability. The situation is heading for a crisis.?

?We haven?t decided whether we will label our products as being GM in the future,? said Janet Jenkins, principal regulatory officer at Solgar UK.

?There are various options such as removing vitamin E from formulations, but it?s too early to say what we are going to do. Up until recently it was impossible to get any non-GM vitamin E; a large supplier has said there might be a small amount available, but we don?t know what kind of vitamin E it is.? Using synthetic vitamin E was not an option, she said.

A spokesperson for NBTY-owned UK retail chain Holland and Barrett, which also has a range of own-label supplements, said the company is actively trying to source non-GM vitamin E from all parts of the world. Labelling products as GM would almost certainly alienate some consumers, she said. Another UK-based supplier, Viridian, has indicated it will cease trade in vitamin E rather than include GM products in its range.

David Adams, director of the UK Heath Food Manufacturers? Association, said some of its members had managed to source some non-GM vitamin E, but acknowledged it was an extremely scarce commodity. ?There are a lot of people making some fairly catastrophic predictions about vitamin E, but I think it is too early to tell,? he observed.

Cognis said it has produced a very small quantity of non-GM natural vitamin E, which has been designated for a few customers from whom Cognis has long-term vitamin E commitments. The material pricing has been set at a significant premium over GM vitamin E due to increased production costs. The company said it hopes to produce more non-GM vitamin E in the future, but it emphasised that quantities would be limited and premiums would remain.

Market analyst Euromonitor put the European vitamin E market at about $155 million in 1993.

New Zealand’s treasure islands

New Zealand?s North and South islands are a treasure trove of unique natural resources. So it?s no surprise that the country has a budding functional foods and nutraceuticals industry, says Joanne Lyall

New Zealand is a country of genetic and geological diversity that has developed its own rich mix of plants, animals and micro-organisms over thousands of years. This slow and natural evolution has enabled scientists to build up information on genetics and natural compounds that provides a fertile resource for research.

It?s not surprising then that a range of internationally renowned institutions, together with various companies, are undertaking research into the functionality of foods and their uses to prevent and treat disease. A good example of this is Massey University?s Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health, which has embarked on a wide range of research projects into nutrigenomics and functional foods.

But developing functional foods and nutraceuticals is not just a priority focus for the food industry and research institutions. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, a government-run trade and economic development agency, is also keen to promote the sector. Food and beverage accounts for approximately 50 per cent of New Zealand?s total merchandise exports and around 5 per cent of the national gross domestic product. Indeed, its percentage of world trade in food is not far behind that of its much bigger neighbour, Australia.

The New Zealand functional foods and nutraceuticals market is characterised by geographical clusters of expertise and innovation. For example, two South Island regions, Canterbury and Nelson, have formed a nutraceuticals cluster with more than 100 member businesses offering products and services, including raw materials, extraction services and branded dietary supplements from the botanical, marine, bee and other animal sectors.

Joining forces
Natural Products New Zealand is an umbrella group formed in 2003 to ensure the industry works together to grow exports and raise the global profile of the country as a source of quality natural products. New Zealand?s natural products sector is characterised by hundreds of small companies that must join forces to develop export markets and appropriate product volumes. Chairman Ron Geiger says a key issue for the group is ensuring companies can provide scientific evidence to support claims about their products and navigate increasingly rigorous regulations governing trade in natural products and ingredients.

?More stringent controls on dietary supplements and natural products are making it difficult for small companies to maintain their current business model,? he says. ?It?s extremely expensive to establish a manufacturing operation that meets good manufacturing practice standards, and New Zealand exporters also face higher costs because of their distance from major markets.?

The drive to ensure New Zealand products meet tougher global standards took a major step forward at the end of 2003 when the New Zealand and Australian governments signed an agreement to establish a joint regulatory scheme for therapeutic products.

Legislation is being developed in both countries to set up a single agency to regulate prescription medicines, medical devices, and over-the-counter and complementary medicines, from July 2005.

The legislation is consistent with an agreement between Australia and New Zealand to remove regulatory and trade barriers and integrate the two economies under the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement. It also provides a much-needed solution to concerns about New Zealand?s existing law covering therapeutic products, which is seen as outdated, unsustainable and unable to adequately manage the public health risks associated with the use of medical devices and complementary medicines.

Geiger says there is acceptance of the scheme in principle, although a number of issues, such as potentially high administrative costs and the need to ensure the scheme does not limit innovation, need to be worked through. Consultation is continuing.

As well as representing the industry on issues like the joint regulatory scheme, Natural Products New Zealand holds a Natural Products Summit in February each year in Nelson and coordinates attendance at natural products trade shows around the world. The different functional foods and nutraceuticals from New Zealand on show at these trade exhibitions tend to fall into several key categories.

Dairy-based products
New Zealand?s dairy industry has a history of innovation. Leading examples are Fonterra?s Fernleaf Defense, a milk powder to boost the immune system in children, and the A2 Corporation?s genetic variety of cow?s milk, called A2, which it claims may reduce type 1 diabetes and heart disease. BioActive Technologies has pioneered the production of products based on colostrum from calving cows, which are used by athletes to enhance performance.

The Tatua Dairy Co-operative makes spray-dried milk proteins and protein hydrolysates and freeze-dried biologically active proteins.

Marine products
With pollution-free and nutrient-rich coastal waters, New Zealand specialises in marine products. They include: shark liver oil, which is rich in squalene and alkyglycerols; omega-3 fatty acids; vitamins A, D and E; omega-3 fish oil; abalone; Pacific oyster powder; and shark cartilage. Seatone, a mussel extract from green-lipped mussels, contains a blend of natural proteins, minerals, mucopolysaccharides, glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids.

Botanical extracts
New Zealand exports a range of botanical extracts including the native herb horopito, Pseudowintera colorata, traditionally used by Maoris to treat fungal skin diseases, venereal disease, stomach pain and diarrhoea. Today, companies such as Forest Herbs with its Kolorex range produce cream for fungal skin infections, and capsules and tea to maintain balanced intestinal flora.

Red clover is grown widely in New Zealand, producing extracts that are particularly high in antioxidant isoflavones. For example, NZ Vitalife produces an organic red clover extract that can be taken undiluted or mixed with milk or fruit juice. Red clover is a renowned blood purifier and cleanser and may also have the potential to inhibit cancer growth.

Skincare products
A number of companies have established strong export markets for skincare products using manuka and kanuka oil, which have long been valued by Maoris for their healing properties. Both oils are extracted from native trees of New Zealand and are commonly referred to as New Zealand ?tea tree? plant species. Tairawhiti Pharmaceuticals has been supplying manuka and kanuka oil to Europe for nearly 10 years.

Bee products
New Zealand?s competitive advantage with bee products lies with the unique manuka honey gathered from the wild-growing native manuka. As well as containing antibiotic hydrogen peroxide, scientific discoveries now show that some varieties of manuka honey contain an additional antibacterial compound. This is particularly effective in the treatment of ulcers, wounds, burns and skin disorders. Sold as an antibacterial agent, New Zealand Active Manuka Honey has a ?unique manuka factor? number denoting the potency level of the antibacterial compound in each product. These products are now exported by Healtheries of NZ, Honey New Zealand and Comvita.

More besides
Many other novel finished products and ingredients are being produced in New Zealand. NektaLite, for example, is a base ingredient using kiwifruit that is suitable for adding to foods such as frozen desserts and sauces. Epop is an energy lollipop boosted with guarana, taurine, caffeine and seven B vitamins, while BLIS Technologies specialises in products with antibacterial peptides or proteins that are able to kill or control the growth of other closely related bacteria. Fortified beverages from New Zealand include energy drinks such as ?V? from Frucor, fruit smoothies fortified with echinacea and bee pollen from Juice Express, and aloe vera and spirulina drinks from Lifestream International.

As these product examples demonstrate, New Zealand presents opportunities for manufacturers, retailers and importers alike, whether they are looking for novel ingredients and products, partnerships, or distribution rights.

There is also good potential for product development houses to base R&D projects in New Zealand where costs are low compared to similar facilities in other parts of the world.

Joanne Lyall is trade commissioner for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, London.
All correspondence will be forwarded to the author.