The retail value of products containing Pycnogenol, a potent antioxidant from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, is estimated to top $500m, according to bosses at producer Horphag Research.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-USA.com after its bone & joint health virtual event (which featured a presentation on Pycnogenol’s joint health benefits), Horphag chief executive Victor Ferrari said: “We have multiplied the business by six since 2002 and we’re still seeing double-digit growth.”
However, the firm had only scratched the surface when it came to functional food and drink applications for Pycnogenol, which was water-soluble and heat-stable, making it suitable for a wide range of products from pasteurized dairy products to baked goods, he said.
While there were several foods and beverages containing Pycnogenol sold in Asia and other markets, it had not (yet) taken off as a major functional food ingredient in the US although some “major players” were now testing it, said Ferrari.
“There will be new food and beverage launches in the US in the next 12-18 months.”
One area with a lot of potential for food/drink applications was sports nutrition, he added. “Pycnogenol helps to stimulate the release of nitric oxide [which relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow] and we have some new projects in this area. There are also strips available that dissolve on the tongue plus drink powder mixes.”
One plus one makes … three?
There was also a growing opportunity to develop new foods and supplements combining Pycnogenol with other ingredients to target specific health condition categories such as joint health (with glucosamine/chondroitin or collagen hydrolysates), heart health (with CoQ10) or eye health (with lutein or other ingredients), said Ferrari.
“If we have a good sized company in front of us we’ll come up with a tailor-made formula, a full concept, clinical trials on the combined ingredients and patent protection.”
Recent examples of combination products included Mirtogenol – an eye health supplement containing Indena’s Mirtoselect bilberry and Pycnogenol, while Horphag scientific director Frank Schönlau said he was also keen to pursue similar tie-ups in the joint health arena for supplements and foods/beverages.
“Our ultimate goal is to partner with a company interested in creating a synergistic joint health solution leading to an evidence-based product.”
For such applications it “makes sense to use Pycnogenol for its anti-inflammatory properties combined with something that’s going to rebuild cartilage such as glucosamine/chondroitin”, added Ferrari. “There will be more of these kinds of partnerships.”
As for which product areas were the most attractive commercially, it varied by geography, he said. “The Japanese are interested in Pycnogenol for women’s health, skin health, PMS and joint health; in Latin America there’s a lot of interest in beauty-from-within, and in the US there’s more interest in general anti-oxidant claims. The strongest areas going forward are probably cardiovascular health, joint health, cognitive function and then sports nutrition, eye health and skin health.”
Cognitive function, tinnitus
Cognitive function was a key growth opportunity for Pycnogenol, which had been shown to improve working memory in the elderly and improve attention in children with ADHD, he said.
And more clinical trials on the over 65s were to come: “We’re expecting results at the end of next year.”
But other more niche areas of research were also showing commercial potential, he added, with one US customer aiming to launch a product tackling tinnitus containing pycnogenol later this year, following the publication of research showing Pycnogenol may improve blood flow to the inner ear and relieve tinnitus symptoms.
While the US market was not growing as fast as some emerging markets, it was still an attractive place to launch new products, he said. The regulatory environment - at least for structure/function type health claims – was also less restrictive than it was in Europe.
This was a particular issue in joint health, where the bulk of clinical studies had been conducted on subjects experiencing pain, he said. However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) would only consider trials on ‘healthy’ people for claims substantiation purposes.
This was “nonsense” when it came to joint health supplements, which by and large were taken by people with joint pain seeking an alternative to drugs as well as 'healthy' people, he pointed out. However, future studies were planned to test Pycnogenol on subjects that were not ‘diseased’.
What is Pycnogenol?
Pycnogenol - a combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids extracted from the bark of the maritime pine – is included in more than 700 dietary supplements, cosmetic products and functional foods and beverages worldwide.
Made by Horphag Research and distributed in the US by Natural Health Science, it has been the subject of scores of clinical studies suggesting benefits covering everything from cardiovascular, joint, cognitive and eye health to the relief of hay fever, PMS, tinnitus, jet lag, haemorrhoidal pain and menopause symptoms.