Innovators target cosmeceuticals niche

The natural personal-care products market is seeing some interesting innovation. In August, BASF announced that it had partnered with German biotech firm OrganoBalance to launch probiotic ingredients for dental health. The company expects to generate sales to manufacturers of therapeutic chewing gums as well as mouthwash and toothpaste. "Negotiations are currently in progress with various manufacturers," said BASF project leader Dr Andreas Reindl in a news release that predicted products would be on US retail shelves in 2007.

The dental benefits of the proprietary strain of probiotic bacteria are said to come from its ability to bind with cavity-causing bacteria, preventing them from adhering to teeth. Research on prototype chewing gums shows that the probiotic ingredient can cut decay-causing bacteria by 50 times, BASF said.

BASF also reported that it is investigating applications for deodorant products, face and body creams, and medicinal ointments. "Just like the gut, the surface of the skin is host to a delicate balance of good and bad bacteria," stated the company's news release. "If this balance is disrupted, it can affect the appearance and health of the skin."

Studying traditional use
Growth in core natural brands and new interest in natural formulas from mass-market manufacturers and retailers is driving a wave of research on botanical ingredients, according to Marian Griffeths, president of contract manufacturer Prima Fleur.

"People have used them for hundreds of years and known that they work, but they haven't known how they worked," Griffeths said. "A lot of the supplier companies are investing in doing tests and evaluations to find out how and why they work. ... A lot of them are European companies; the French in particular are way ahead."

This trend is a boon to natural personal-care marketers, she said. "It develops a story behind botanical ingredients that's important in the marketing," especially when traditional uses of botanicals are validated and expanded with modern research.

Suppliers are developing natural emulsifiers from mango and coca
Suppliers are also developing more versions of natural emulsifiers from mango, babasu, coca and other plants. Emulsifiers are necessary for many personal-care products that contain water and oils, and these offerings are expanding options for manufacturers. "Wheat is another one used as a natural emulsifying wax," Griffeths said, although these ingredients come at a premium.

Griffeths said that botanicals with newly validated benefits for skin health are also expanding the menu of ingredients that can be used in sunscreens, one of the fastest-growing categories in mass and natural personal care. She said researchers are testing botanicals such as pomegranate, strawberry and wasabi root to validate their efficacy as free radical scavengers when used topically.

Botanic oil innovations
While large European suppliers tune up their natural personal-care ingredients business, the supply side is also drawing in many new domestic start-ups eager to provide botanicals and other ingredients.

One such start-up is Wisconsin-based Botanic Oil Innovations. The six-year-old outfit touts its proprietary NatureFRESH-Cold Press manufacturing technology, saying the high-friction, room-temperature process yields novelty oils with superior antioxidant and phytonutrient content.

"Natural cosmetics have been an important part of our business for novel fruit seed oils," said Mark J Mueller, the company's president. "We were among the early ones to produce oils from raspberry, cranberry and other fruit seeds." He said the company's carrot-seed oil is unique for being cold pressed. "It offers good UVB protection, and I have people putting it into soaps and other personal-care products."

His company is in the initial stages of organic certification, he said. "We do have access to some organic materials now [including pumpkin seeds, flax and cumin], but some of the materials we work with are simply not available organically, like raspberry seeds. It's virtually impossible to get a good quantity that is certified organic. Those that are grown organic go into the fresh market right away."

Paraben concerns open niche
Bio-Botanica differentiates its botanical extracts and other ingredients with a trademarked BioChelated cold-extraction process.

"It enables us to bring custom and unique products to the market, free of harsh chemicals, toxic solvents and excessive heat, yielding a truly bio-available botanical extract ideal for many applications," said Mark C Sysler, vice president of sales. "We have seen a large increase in the use and demand for botanical extracts in personal-care and cosmetic products. This includes a greater use of fruit and vegetable extracts as well."

While much of Bio-Botanica's product development work focuses on nutritional ingredients, the company has been pro-active in responding to skin-care manufacturers' need for preservatives to replace the once-ubiquitous parabens.

"We have developed a series of all-natural preservative systems that can be used in a wide range of topical and personal-care products," Sysler said. "They're called Biopein, Neopein and Suprapein."

This article is excerpted from the August 2006 edition of Nutrition Business Journal.

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