Spotting the trends: Nexira explores natural ingredients with sought-after health benefits

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16 Oct 2017 --- FODMAP friendly, vegan and flexitarian are no longer small niche markets; they are significant trends and their “claims” are being required more and more by end consumers in the US, the EU and the rest of the world. This is according to Julie Imperato, Nexira’s Marketing Manager.

“To reinforce our positioning on natural ingredients dedicated to health & nutrition, we plan to diversify our range with new products launches during the next four years,” Imperato says. “Our tagline, ‘Innovation inspired by nature,’ is really in our DNA.”

With its two divisions – Food and Health – Nexira offers global expertise from raw material sourcing and proprietary processing technologies to formulation support. NutritionInsight spoke to Imperato about the company’s plans for new ingredients and its existing ones.

New functional ingredients and markets
Nexira has two divisions: the food division and the health division. “So far, for food products, we’ve launched two new functional ingredients,” says Imperato. “They are manufactured in France in our own plant, and these two ingredients are used for organic flavor and for the beverage market.”

These ingredients are Instantgum Organic and Damar-EZ Organic. The Instantgum is an all-natural refined acacia gum selected for its emulsifying and stabilizing properties, while Damar-EZ Organic is a unique flavor stabilizer.

Both products are plant-based and easy to use in flavor formulation, meeting the market requirements for natural solutions and fitting current consumer demands, notes Imperato.

“Consumers are looking for products that offer more: They are looking for ones that provide health benefits,” says Imperato. “This is why our Fibregum is interesting: it has digestive benefits, and we also got FODMAP friendly certification recently,” Imperato adds. 

She asserts that consumers are looking for allergen-free and gluten-free products, but also FODMAP friendly ones. Companies and consumers are increasingly becoming interested in these types of products, according to Innova Market Insights statistics. The global penetration rate of gluten-free product claims has gone up by 7 percent in the past five years, from 6.5 percent in 2012 to 13.5 percent in the first half of 2017.

Speaking about the FODMAP friendly market, Imperato notes, “It is still a niche market, but it’s increasing in the US and in Europe.” Although FODMAP friendly products are generally targeted at people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Imperato says they are also suitable for people with more general discomfort during digestion.

Health areas of growing importance
Nexira sees a lot of growth in joint health, and more generally in healthy aging. This year it launched a joint health product called FlexiGO, which is based on a Harpagophytum extract, during Vitafoods Europe.

Click to EnlargeDuring SupplySide West, the company also launched a new ingredient – magnolia extract. Magnolia officinalis, commonly called Hou Po Magnolia, has been used for hundreds of years in Asian traditional medicine for its stress management properties. Pre-clinical studies provide extensive evidence supporting joint health (by maintaining normal cartilage and bone tissues and by improving joint comfort) and digestive health (by modulating the digestive transit).

Manufactured in France, Nexira says its magnolia is water-extracted and standardized at 3 percent magnolol and honokiol. Soluble, with a light spicy odor and a brown color, the company adds that it is also easy to use in supplement applications like a capsule, tablet or stick.

The magnolia extract comes from the small part of the bark peeled off the tree after the chips have been obtained, according to Imperato. “It’s a new use for magnolia because magnolia is usually used for stress management, and our scientific department found that magnolia is also very interesting for joint health and digestive health,” she says.

R&D and innovation starts with existing ingredients
From next year it will be really important for Nexira’s products to have a scientific background. “We will begin with acacia gum, and we already have a lot of studies on this ingredient,” asserts Imperato.

“We are still investing in acacia gum and in Fibregum,” Imperato says of the company’s commitment to its existing ingredients. “New studies are going on, and it’s a real flagship ingredient, so we want to keep on investing and to enrich our scientific knowledge on acacia gum and Fibregum.”

At SupplySide West the company also revealed all the new results for its Enostim natural male enhancer. “We are also running new scientific research on Cognivia, which is a natural ingredient for memory enhancement made with sage extract,” Imperato adds.

Nexira’s emphasis on its history with acacia gum, sourced in Africa in the gum belt, is still strong. “We have been working with this ingredient for more than 120 years, so we have had the time to build strong partnerships with the local farmers, local growers and companies in Africa,” Imperato says.

Acacia gum is really interesting because the tree is naturally present in Africa, and it contributes to preserving the environment, according to Imperato. “It also brings revenue to the local population, and it’s naturally organic,” Imperato adds. “They’re all organic – they’re not all certified organic, but no pesticides are used to grow this tree, so this is an appealing ingredient for consumers.”

Consumers up their demands
Consumers are looking more and more for natural ingredients and natural products, and Nexira’s feeling is that natural is now in the mainstream. “Consumers are looking for more – they want natural products, but they also want to have a real benefit from these natural products,” Imperato notes. “They want to feel a physiological benefit, to feel better, and this is where we have an advantage because we offer natural products which also offer health benefits.”

“This is the new step, we think, for natural products – we’ve already got the organic, the natural, the transparency, the sustainability, but now you have to [also] bring proven health benefits.”

For many years, Nexira focused on acacia gum before the company moved on to health with its two new plants based in France, Imperato notes. Looking to the future, “the next expansion is still on the health market, but it’s more about new product development and new scientific studies,” she concludes.

By Lucy Gunn and Paul Creasy

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