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February Industry Highlights — podcast

Audio-February Industry Highlights — podcast

Insights on healthy ageing, sustainability, clinical research and more.

During the shortest month of the year, Vitafoods Insights tackled issues from the need for clinical research on nutraceutical ingredients to opportunities for the broader healthy ageing segment, as well as exploring key issues around sustainability and the value to business. Take a few minutes to catch up on the insights you may have missed that could trigger new thinking in your product ideation and go to market strategy.

Tune in to hear more about:

Featured voices:

  • Jennifer Cooper, Leadpoint Solutions
  • Dr. Francis Palmer, Ponce de Leon Health
  • Prof. Leon Schurgers, Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM), Maastricht University
  • Ombaline de Pemille, Nutrakeo
  • Jen Murphy, PLT Health Solutions
  • Prof Tensie Whelan, NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business
  • Jacqueline Hochreiter, Evergrain
  • Kantha Shelke, Corvus Blue LLC

Hyperlink sources:

Click here to listen to our other Monthly Industry Highlights Series podcast episodes

Vitafoods Insights Podcast

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Podcast Transcript:

Heather 00:03
Welcome to the Vitafoods Insights February Industry highlights. I'm Heather Granato, thanks for joining me. We're showcasing some of the best bits and bobs across Vitafoods Insights and offering a little context on how it might accelebrate your product ideation and go to market strategy. Let's dive right in. This month Vitafoods Insights is focusing attention on the healthy ageing category. The World Health Organisation has estimated by 2050, the share of the world's population aged 60 years and older will nearly double from 12% to 22%. In fact, the number of over 60s will be greater than the under fives posing unique challenges to address healthspan not just lifespan. That said, research by Innova Market Insights suggests consumers aged under 55 generally believe healthy ageing is linked to optimal dietary habits, and that they can take steps to decrease biological age and enhance quality of life. In a new report from Vitafoods Insights authored by AJ Paul, Jennifer Cooper of lead point solutions commented:

Jennifer 01:08
Thinking of ageing as a condition that can be mitigated, treated, and managed opens the door to recognising, ameliorating and preventing specific signs, symptoms and risk factors that can change the trajectory of ageing that has been benignly accepted even forced upon us since the advent of modern medicine.

Heather 01:30
Industry experts interviewed by Ajay called out multiple areas of focus for healthy ageing, including immune health, mental acuity and heart health. In fact, Amanda Mackinnon of Marinova  noted new product development is driven by a holistic approach with benefits to physical and mental health, with an interest in natural compounds that are supported by robust clinical research. Among the ingredients of interest called out in the report are marine ingredients including collagen, key vitamins including C, D, and K2; inflammation modulators such as curcumin, cat’s claw and polyphenols; and probiotics and prebiotics that can positively impact the microbiome. Ultimately, it appears to come down to a holistic approach to healthy ageing that can address biological age and use a range of complementary approaches to address the concerns. In a panel discussion for Vitafoods Insights, Dr. Francis Palmer, Chief Medical Officer with Ponce de Leon Health,  outlined some of the potential paths forward, particularly as it relates to genetic propensities, and how those can be addressed with targeted approaches to address certain health concerns. He noted this could be the low hanging fruit as consumers are certainly interested in being proactive as it relates to healthy ageing. What does this mean commercially? Dr. Palmer's stated:

Dr Palmer 02:51
Holistic approach has been gaining popularity in medicine, for sure, and it's going to go to the supplemental into the cosmeceutical nutraceutical's coming. And why? because people really, in my opinion, need good targeted information. I believe the future very quickly is going to go and the winner will be companies that can provide specialised targeted rational solutions and rational means, show me why it works. and then let me pick it and make it reasonable and easy for me to get used and see the results. Those are winners across the board.

Heather 03:34
Obviously, healthy ageing is a lifelong pursuit where the earlier you start, the greater the potential to positively impact the traditional trajectory of ageing. As February brought us valentine's day filled with hearts and joy, let's take a dive further into that aspect of healthy ageing: heart health. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally, taking nearly 18 million lives each year. More than four out of five CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes, and 1/3 of these deaths occur prematurely and people under 70 years. Lifestyle choices are among the most impactful of risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Whether that's eating more fruits and vegetables, getting regular physical activity or stopping smoking. However, there is also a role for nutritional supplementation in supporting heart health. A systematic review and meta analysis published in advances in nutrition showed supplementation with the amino acid l-arginine could lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in adults, regardless of factors including BMI or baseline blood pressure, and the results were especially positive for women. Another trial focused on the issue of high cholesterol, which is estimated by the World Health Organisation to cause 2.6 million deaths annually. Researchers were intrigued by studies showing bergamot, source from citrus bergamia, may address hypercholesterolemia but why some people don't respond to treatment is unknown; and a double blind placebo controlled trials supported by Indena, patients who had not responded to bergamot alone, were given a combination of bergamot Phytosome and artichoke leaf dry extract. The combination significantly improved cholesterol and fat storage markers, leading them to conclude the synergistic combo could be an option for these patients. Finally, let's look at an ingredient that's been on the heart health radar for years, but may finally be gaining the consensus needed to address rampant deficiency and the health effects it poses: vitamin K2. Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic and Maastricht University teamed up to review the science on K2 and cardiovascular health. The lead author, Professor Leon Schurgers, commented on the importance of addressing K2 deficiency.

Prof Schurgers 05:50
There is expanding preclinical and clinical data on vitamin K's cardiovascular benefits, with multiple ongoing clinical trials. To that end, there is a pressing need to organize our understanding of the role of vitamin K in pathophysiology, and efficacy of vitamin K2 intake as it relates to markers and outcomes of cardiovascular health. As we point out, there is an alarmingly high prevalence of vitamin K deficiency and suboptimal recommended intake among the general population in the United States. And yet there is a growing body of evidence that supports the potential role of vitamin K2 in cardiovascular health.

Heather 06:29
The review addresses both the role of Matrix Gla Protein (MGP) in heart health, and the benefits of K2 supplementation. Benefits including improved cardiac function and decelerated arterial stiffness were among those cited, and authors call for establishing an RDI for K2 separate from K1. Get the full story at Let's shift our attention now to the topic of clinical research and how that plays out in the nutraceutical industry. Obviously we're all aware consumers are demanding efficacious supplement and functional food and beverage products and are increasingly asking for the science behind them. Clinical trials on ingredients and formulas are critical to communicate directly and with confidence. In a special Vitafoods Insights digital event, we dove into aspects around clinical trials, including how to choose the right clinical research partner, important considerations when developing protocols, crafting appropriate B2B and B2C messaging, as well as how to ensure you make the most out of your investment. First off what are the essentials for successful innovation? Ombaline de Pemille, head of sustainability, investment and nutra at Nutrakeo, outlined three considerations. One is marketing, where you're looking for unique combinations of ingredients, but certainly one differentiating ingredient. Another is regulation with an ingredient that allows the opportunity to communicate with claims. And finally, it's science, using ingredients at a dose shown efficacious in clinical studies. As she noted, it's important to have a coordinated approach with stakeholders from research, marketing, and legal to think holistically about health benefits throughout the process with a focus on consumer health.

Ombaline 08:15
Clinical evidence could be the link between both and serve both consumers expectation, so efficacy and good brand image and that the link between science and marketing.

Heather 08:27
These insights were taken further with a panel discussion featuring Doctor Andreas Biller, founder of Doctor Biller Biosulting & Pharma; Jen Murphy, director of innovation and clinical development at PLT Health Solutions; and Juan Arias, the founder of ABG Intellectual Property. One key question that comes up regularly is how to realise the ROI of investing in clinical research on nutraceutical compounds. Juan cited a 2021 report from the European Patent Office and European Union IP Office, which found companies that own IP rights have 20% higher revenue per employee than companies that do not have such a portfolio, and for small and medium enterprises, that increases up to 55%. Moreover, firms that have those IP rights pay wages that are 19% higher than those that don’t own them, making it a virtuous circle for companies, employees and industry. This isn’t to say there aren’t challenges to developing effective protocols for studies of nutraceutical ingredients, particularly given the reliance on randomized controlled trials or RCTs as the ‘gold standard’ of research. Andreas called out four points to be taken into account when considering studies of nutritional ingredients. These include the fact that nutritional interventions are often most effective when addressing deficiencies in a population; the challenges posed by the desire for a ‘placebo’ intervention when looking at compounds that are broadly available in the diet; identifying an ‘optimal’ nutrient dose; and delivery formats that support bioavailability. There are additional steps to ensuring optimal return on investment when looking at clinical trials, from partnering with the right academic institution or contract research organization, into appropriate characterization of materials and scoping protocols. However, what does it really take to ensure success when it comes to clinical research? Taking your time. As Jen Murphy said:

Jen 10:27
With large investments like clinical trials, it's important to remember that the only time you have any opportunity to impact the success of your study is before it actually starts. And so it's best to take the time to do your due diligence and ensure that you've explored a wide range of factors and considerations before starting.

Heather 10:48
Ultimately taking the time to discuss the different aspects of the trial and what the business is looking to achieve is critical to realizing benefits to the company … and delivering efficacious products to consumers. Next, we turn to a topic that is a priority for all of us in the natural products community: sustainability. In a recent report authored by Karen Raterman, she cited data from Innova Market Insights that named ‘Shared Planet’ as its top trend for 2022. The firm called out a significant shift among global consumers, who now express more concern for the health of the planet than for their own personal health, and say they want to play a role in shaping a more sustainable and prosperous future. For brands, this means stepping up their sustainability efforts to address an increasingly educated and interconnected consumer base. What can be challenging to many brands, however much they believe in the mission, is to make the argument to the corporate office. Ultimately, what is the ROI around sustainability? In a Vitafoods Insights webinar, Professor Tensie Whelan, director of the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, shared the work her team has done to monetize the business case around investing in sustainability. She set the stage with data from Boston Consulting Group which found CPG companies that focused action around minimizing the impact of products and packaging realized a 12.4 percent average margin premium compared to other players; socially responsible sourcing netted a 4.8 percent margin premium, while promoting employee safety bumped the margin 3.3 percent. She then turned to the unique framework developed by her team.

Prof Whelan 12:28
We've developed a methodology called Rosie return on sustainability investment that has identified nine mediating factors that drive better financial performance when a company embed sustainability and its strategy. In practice, this doesn't have to be supply chains. But that's what I'm going to focus on today, though we've done work across other areas as well. These nine mediating factors include things like more innovation, better operational efficiency, improved risk management, improved supplier relations, customer loyalty, all of these things can be driven by any kind of good management. But what we're seeing is that sustainability is that next wave of good management that when you put in place, you can drive a lot of these benefits, which then in turn, drive better financial performance, as well as improved societal impact.

Heather 13:18
This framework allows companies to proceed with the multistep ROSI process. This begins with identifying material sustainability challenges and how the business is addressing the risks and opportunities; proceeds through assessing practices and defining and quantifying the benefits that could be expected via change; and ultimately translating the benefits into economic value. Businesses have myriad ways to address sustainability in the supply chain, sometimes by changing processes, and sometimes by looking at the opportunities afforded by what was considered waste. This concept of ‘upcycling’ is gaining  traction across the industry. From the development of an extract of the fruit surrounding the coffee bean to extraction of lycopene from what would otherwise be leftover pomace from tomato processing, upcycling demands ingenuity, resources and thinking differently. In a recent Vitafoods Insights Sustainability Series podcast, Jacqueline Hochreiter, global director of strategy and sustainability for Evergrain, shared how and why AB InBev invested in developing plant-based ingredients from barley. It’s been a five-year journey to develop the research and technical know-how, understand the consumer desire for plant-based nutrition, and to start partnering in the market.

Jacqueline 14:34
There are other upcycled ingredients that do trade at a premium, but because of our scale, we're actually able to compete with other conventional grown plant proteins. And that helps us to actually find a way into the market in a meaningful way for us to actually sustain the business and make this not niche. So upcycled is certainly something that we really want to share. We really want to be ensuring that people understand both the technical side as is interesting to them. Obviously, as well as the fact that they shouldn't have to think about it, your taste should be great, function should be awesome, price should be competitive. And that's when you start to see companies picking this up. So we've got two large consumer goods, food companies, food manufacturers that have recently reached out to us to be involved in an innovation pipeline project, whereby the goal to be involved is you got to be an upcycled ingredient. And when consumer goods companies stopped picking that up, that's when you see the whole food system moving forward.

Heather 15:30
We’re continuing to explore different aspects of sustainability through our monthly podcast series, with more to come focused on the ‘planet’ pillar during Vitafoods Europe in Geneva this May. Finally, did you know that February 11 was International Day of Women and Girls in Science? The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2013 noting that full and equal access to and participation in science, technology and innovation for women and girls of all ages is imperative for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, as well as furthering the UN Sustainable Development Goals. While the nutraceutical industry is dedicated to improving health and wellness around the globe, it still struggles with representation of women in science—from those publishing and leading research, to those serving on the board and in the C-suite, representing opportunity for the greater industry. Natasha Dhayagude, founder of Chinova Bioworks, authored a piece for Vitafoods Insights on the challenges she encountered, as well as the opportunities for companies to make significant change. One suggestion: ensure young women see role models of other successful women in leadership and seek out ways to foster a culture that values inclusion and diversity. Similar thoughts were shared by Kantha Shelke, PhD, a certified food scientist, in an article focusing on International Day of Women and Girls in Science: 

Kantha 16:57
The biggest obstacles facing women in science are the sense of belonging and feeling valued. Regardless of the field, arena (industrial or academia), the region (developed or developing nations), or career stage (as newcomer or seasoned professional), the systemic lack of respect, authority, and opportunities for women makes it harder for them to succeed.

Heather 17:24
We’ll be exploring further the opportunities and business advantages to a more diverse workforce, with a focus on women in leadership and financing for women-led companies, during Vitafoods Europe in May. Head over to to learn more about this year’s hybrid event, set for early May online and in-person in Geneva Switzerland.  Thanks again for joining me, and don’t forget to check the show notes that will allow you to link to the information discussed in today’s podcast. The Vitafoods Insights Industry Highlights podcast happens monthly, so be sure to stay tuned, subscribe and even suggest to a friend. And if you’ve got news to share, hit me up at [email protected].