Greg Cumberford, Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at Nature’s Crops International spoke to NutraIngredients-USA about the evolving situation regarding the herbal movement. Cumberford said the picture of what this will be like in the post-pandemic world is becoming a little clearer.
There has been a lot of thought on the part of thought leaders that things in the economy, and in society in general, should not necessarily simply revert to the pre-pandemic status quo. Some have seen this Income inequality had increased in the United StatesTo a level that the era of the robber barons of the late 19th century had never seen. And environmentalists have noted that the United States is now re-affiliated with international organizations Real action to combat climate change may now be on the agenda. In both cases, activists have tried to view the pandemic as a turning point at which a significant reversal of political directions could quickly be possible.
Favorable trends converge
Does part of this mentality also filter through to the sphere of nutrition?
“One aspect of this is that for consumers there is this convergence of interests in sustainability, traceability and plant-based nutrition. You see it all come together, ”said Cumberford.
This kind of convergence could give a significant boost to brands that are ready to take advantage. And he believes his company, which markets a plant-based omega-3 alternative, is one such company.
“It is a natural, plant-based, highly traceable source of omega-3s. The production is classified as sustainable and regenerative, ”said Cumberford.
Nature’s Crops International calls the product Ahiflower. The raw material comes from a proprietary variety of the maize gromwell plant (Buglossoides arvensis), which was widely viewed as a weed.
However, the seeds of the plant provide an oil that is naturally rich in steriodonic acid (SDA). SDA is an intermediate step in the conversion of ALA, the omega-3 often found in vegetable sources, into EPA and DHA, the bioactive omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish, krill and algae oils. According to Cumberford, Ahiflower has the highest SDA content of any known plant, masking EPA and DHA levels hundreds of times higher than the ALA found in flaxseed oil and other plant sources.
Cumberford said that despite the plant’s more than 20 years development and history of its nutritional benefits, it is still difficult for consumers to communicate the “better conversion ratio with SDA”. While the company says the claims have plenty of studies to support them, it may sound like an overly subtle distinction to consumers that doesn’t mean much to their overall health.
Therefore, in recent years the company has talked more about the ingredient as a valuable “multi-omega” source and provided a blend of omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. In addition, Cumberford found that the source of omega-6 found in the plant is GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), which increases both the anti-inflammatory and health benefits of the immune system.
Multiple product launches
However it is communicated, Cumberford said the ingredient appears to be finding a place with consumers. More than 100 brands now use Ahiflower either as a standalone product or as an ingredient in a multi-ingredient formula. Most of these uses are still in the supplement space, he said, including one focused on cognitive health..
Cumberford said the new market forces could also help improve the company’s other specialty seed oil offerings and product categories. These are Abyssinian seed oil (Crambe abyssinica) and Meadowfoam seed oil (Limanthes alba). The two oils have partnered with Ahiflower to mark the company’s sodium lipid platform as a personal care product maker.
According to Cumberford, Purina recently announced the launch of an Ahiflower oil product for the horse market.
Cost and Delivery Considerations
According to Cumberford, Ahiflower is currently competitively priced with the fish oil-based omega-3 products he calls “premium”. These would be supplements that advertise high levels of EPA and DHA per capsule.
One problem with the product is the supply of raw materials. The agronomic knowledge required for successful and consistent cultivation of the crop was developed in the UK, with the germplasm originating from the steppes of Central Asia. Cumberford said Nature’s Crops, which operates in North Carolina and Price Edward Island as well as the UK, would look to expand its acreage first, ultimately with greater economies of scale. But in the future the crop could be grown in many places, he said.
“You can grow it basically anywhere that winter wheat will grow,” said Cumberford.