The company, which has been producing a stabilised, concentrated allicin extract for four years, is already the number one garlic supplement brand in Norway and Denmark. But in more competitive markets like the US and UK, it is hoping to leverage its science to market the proprietary ingredient for its strong anti-microbial activity, a term that includes anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal action.
Garlic has a long history of medicinal use around the world for a wide variety of conditions, leading to its reputation as a 'cure-all'. Recently, science has begun to confirm some of its long-standing medicinal uses, with some studies showing it can lower blood cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.
But like all plants, garlic varies greatly from crop to crop in its make-up and the amount of active allicin in regular garlic supplements varies greatly, with much destroyed through the distillation process or by stomach acid and heat.
The Allimax concentrated allicin powder, Allisure, offers the same amount of allicin as 40 whole garlic bulbs. "A regular garlic pill has a minute amount of allicin compared to one of our pills," explained James Walton, president of the company's US division Allimax U.S. Nutraceuticals."Nobody can consume this amount."
The ingredient is also significantly more expensive at $750 per kg, compared to around $2 per kg of regular garlic extract. This makes new research showing the anti-bacterial and anti-viral actions of the product key to marketing it in a separate category from the regular garlic supplements.
Garlic supplements are worth more than $100 million in the US and are also one of the biggest sellers in the UK market. But there is some evidence that they are losing share to more 'condition-specific' supplements, said Walton.
"Garlic supplements are like vitamin C, you take them everyday. They retail from $5 upwards whereas our product costs $25.99. We don't want to be in the garlic aisle and are trying to invent a new category called anti-microbials," he explained.
Norman Bennett, managing director of Allimax, noted that the company was the first to demonstrate allicin's action against colds and flu. In a placebo-controlled trial on 144 volunteers those taking the garlic extract were nearly three times less likely to experience colds.
"There is no other study showing this effect apart from ours," he told us.
The ingredient has also been shown to fight hayfever symptoms. But of all the recent trials, the one generating most media coverage has been that reported at the end of last year, which found that the product not only killed established varieties of the hospital superbug MRSA (Methacillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), but also destroys the new generation of 'super-superbugs' that have evolved resistance to antibiotics widely considered to be the last line of defence against MRSA.
The trial continues to generate enquiries and orders, Bennett told NutraIngredients.com.
"We are now selling MRSA care packages containing the capsules, cream and a spray," he said.
The UK firm continues to focus on clinical trials, including a new trial in a British hospital, with the aim of eventually competing with antibiotics companies. Meanwhile its US division is seeking to carve out a stronger position in the nutraceuticals market.
It has just done a deal with US functional drinks company V-Net Beverage, which will launch a beverage containing the Allisure ingredient in the fourth quarter. It is thought to be the first time a garlic extract has been added to a functional food and could trigger a range of new products in the US and Europe.
It is also working on new prototype products including an 'Allichew' and an effervescent tablet to expand its sales globally.
"We want our product positioned against oil of oregano, which is very strong in the US for this application [anti-microbial action]," he added. There is little other competition in this category from a natural supplement, especially in Europe.
Sales growth of 30 per cent annually to now is likely to grow further based on the MRSA trial, noted Walton, which demonstrated the anti-bacterial strength of the ingredient, and reinforces the product's 'anti-microbial' action.
"We are trying to bring this research to people's attention. With more studies, we will one day be able to call it an anti-microbial on the package," he added.