Colostrum, the first milk produced after a cow gives birth, has not been widely used in foods and supplements on the European market but interest is growing based on the variety of active nutrients contained in the substance.
These include immune-boosting compounds like immunoglobulins, growth factors and lactoferrins, as well as anti-ageing nutrients such as amino acids, serotonin, endorphine and dopamine. It also contains vitamins and collagen-inducing growth factors, making it suitable for use in cosmetics.
Most of the colostrum being used in foods or supplements comes from New Zealand and is marketed in Asia. Leading New Zealand-based dairy ingredients firm Fonterra reported strong sales of the product in China last year following the SARS outbreak.
But Colostrum Technologies says its production methods have significant advantages over current supplies, making it suitable for the demanding European market.
"Most dairy companies pasteurize the product. We don't apply heat to the product, which has delicate proteins and peptides, but use the same methods as the pharmaceutical industry," Charlotte Adler, company founder, told NutraIngredients.com.
The firm is one of the first to use cold processing in order to guarantee the activity of the colostrum components after production.
Stewart Williams, commercial director at Buckton Scott, added: "Perhaps the most critical thing is the fact that it comes from an organic source, and can be traced back to the individual cow it came from."
This means that there is no risk of antibiotic residues.
The UK supplier, promoting the product at Health Ingredients Europe this month, says it saw interest from a cross-section of companies, including beverage and confectionery makers.
"The product can be fast-tracked as there are none of the regulatory issues we see for other products like botanicals," added Williams.
Colostrum Technologies has been producing the supplement for several years already, with production of around 80 tons last year. It currently markets a patented drink for human consumption, initially sold to athletes to increase performance.
In a double-blind, crossover trial at Frankfurt University, the company gained scientific evidence to support the benefit of colostrum for athletes. After three months, participants taking the supplement had a 50 per cent higher muscle mass gain than the placebo group.
The German firm is currently testing a drinking yoghurt, enriched with inulin, probiotic bacteria and colostrums, on the German market.
The active ingredients can also be isolated - such as the growth factors, used in cosmetic creams on display at HiE - but some may prove cost-prohibitive. The basic product costs between $50-100 per kg.
"It is an exiciting product and offers something a little different. I also believe it is a product where you would feel a difference after using it," noted Williams.