Natto Pharma, set up around six months ago with funding from private equity investors, has a Europe-wide distribution agreement with Japanese oilseed processor J-Oil Mills for its vitamin K2, derived from natto byproducts.
However although the fermented soyfood natto is available in Europe, vitamin K2 is not on the positive list for ingredients in the European food supplements directive, due to be implemented in August this year.
"We started to compile a dossier a year ago and have also initiated two clinical studies at the University of Oslo to provide data on safety and efficacy," said Stein Westbye, one of the founders of Natto Pharma, and formerly at CLA and natto marketing firm Natural.
"We believe in a strong future for K2. It has a much higher bioactivity than K1 and also has an impact on cardiovascular disease that is not seen with the other form," he told NutraIngredients.com.
Epidemiological studies have shown a correlation between high natto consumption and a lower incidence of osteoporosis. One European study also showed that a combination of vitamins K and D, along with calcium, could have a significant effect on improving bone strength.
However the firm said that it needs further safety documentation from Europe to support a dossier for inclusion under the food supplements directive.
If it achieves entry to the market, the product could have strong potential in targeting prevention of two of the biggest healthcare problems facing Europe.
"In Japan they eat a lot of natto so they get K2 from their diet. But we have a lack of K2 intake," said Westbye.
He added that osteoporosis is also a bigger problem for western countries.
The global market for vitamin K2 is currently worth a few hundred kilos - some supplied to the US - but entry to Europe could significantly boost the market.
In the UK, foods to benefit bone health are expected to be worth £86.4 million in 2007 according to Datamonitor, while heart health products will be worth £145.1 million.