The technology was introduced to the market at the recent SupplySide West trade show in Las Vegas by its developer, the Belgian company Eleonor.
The technique may be new to the botanical ingredient supply chain, but it’s not new in itself, said one of the company’s employees, industry veteran Benoit Turpin. Turpin has a long history in food ingredient development and sales, including a stint at US firm Milk Specialties Global. His role at Eleonor is to expand the company’s offerings to the US food and beverage markets.
“this is a technique that has been used in pharmaceuticals for decades,”Turpin said. In the pharmaceutical space, many active pharmaceutical ingredients are small molecules, some with problematic formulation properties. Various approaches have been developed to make these APIs viable in terms of formulation, manufacturing costs, and shelf life.
In the case of Eleonor, the technology carries a number of patents registered in Belgium that have been extended to the US market. The first patents for the technology are from 2018.
“It’s not an encapsulation approach and it’s not about microparticles either,” Turpin said.
Patents cover a wide range of possible approaches as they apply to the functional enhancement of natural ingredients. The patents speak of “natural or synthetic” versions of proteins, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides that are “thermoformed” to the final state with the relevant bioactives.
“We use food carriers to work with one or more actives and make those actives much more dispersible and soluble,”Turpin said.
A long list of finished prototypes
A common question with these approaches when shown at trade shows is, these prototypes are all well and good, but will they work with the ingredients I’m interested in? The food and beverage development highway is littered with the wreckage of promising projects that failed to reach the finish line despite months or years of effort and expense.
Turpin said one of the reasons the company’s technology made such a splash in Las Vegas is that the Eleonor team went to extra lengths to demonstrate the technology with a significant number of ingredients, proving its broad applicability.
The company now has 15 plug and play ingredients ready for ready-to-use formulations. These range from botanical ingredients that are usually available as powder or liquid extracts such as Andrographis, Boswellia and Zeaxanthin to organic acids and even mastics. The technology has also been demonstrated with CBD.
In any case, the Eleonor technology will significantly improve the solubility of these ingredients, most of which have been difficult or impossible to use in beverages and/or foods due to formulation issues. In most cases, these ingredients are limited to capsule or softgel delivery as dietary supplements.
Cashing in on the ‘food as medicine’ trend.
Turpin said this will open doors for formula makers looking to tap into the food-as-medicine movement. According to IRI data, 9 out of 10 US consumers practice some form of self-care and no longer look to a single brand or product to solve their needs. A recent report pointed to “holistic health” as one of the key emerging trends.
Turpin said wellness shots are among the early low-hanging fruit for the technology.
“Many of the ingredients we were working with were not available for photography or other RTD applications,”he said. “We see active nutrition and sports nutrition as the first biggest markets.”
Turpin said this would allow formulators to tap into significant research support when formulating claims.
“We take well-researched ingredients and just make them better,”he said.
In addition to formulation advantages, Turpin said the approach can also offer sustainability advantages, as less of what may in some cases be rare bioactives can be used to achieve functionality goals .
“You hear about sustainability left and right. You have a technique here that is timely. Imagine when that could mean using up some scary natural resources.”he said.