Weight management is a key area of interest for food companies at the present time, as they seek convenient, good-tasting ways to help consumers tackle issues of overweight and obesity.
Berkem has been selling its coffee bean-derived ingredient to the dietary supplements market since 2002, but commercial manager Benoit Lemaire told NutraIngredients.com that compilation of toxicological and clinical data is spurring interest from developers of functional food products.
At the HIE exhibition in Frankfurt last month, Berkem's main mission was to communicate the results of clinical trials conducted to date to potential food customers. It walked away with not only the bronze HIE award, but also with 500 new contacts, 90 per cent of whom were from the food industry.
Like the health benefits conferred on the Japanese by green tea, and the 'French paradox' concerning alcohol, Western populations already have a fond relationship with coffee.
"We know about the diabetes risk reduction - there have been eight epidemiological studies published in this area since 2002," said Lemaire.
The evidence suggests that drinking in excess of five cups a day over a five to ten year period seems to reduce diabetes risk.
The more epidemiological studies that link coffee with health benefits, Lemaire said, the greater the chance that "coffee could be the next health drink".
However in order to be taken seriously in the food arena, an ingredient needs to have a solid store of science behind it.
The first toxicology data on Svetol was obtained in 2002, and this year a study was published in the French publication Phytotherapie on its ability to induce weight loss.
Svetol is sourced solely from Robusta beans. Because of their bitter taste, Robusta usually comes second place to smoother-tasting Arabica beans when it comes to coffee beverages. But the bitterness is down to chlorogenic acid - the same element that is thought to be the main element responsible for coffee's blood glucose regulation and weight loss effects.
For chlorgenic acid, two 200mg doses of Svetol per day (available in taste-free and coffee favoured varieties) are said to be equivalent to three to five cups of coffee.
Lemaire explained that Svetol has two uses: to regulate of blood glucose levels; and to spur weight loss.
In the first instance, it is taken before a meal. In the second, it is taken afterwards to encourage energy to be drawn from fat deposits rather than from stores in the liver, thereby encouraging weight loss.
The proposed mechanism of action is that it inhibits the activity of glucose-6-phosphatase, which is responsible for the release of glucose stored in the liver into general circulation. This means that glucose is instead drawn from deposits in adipose tissue, stimulating weight loss.
Under normal circumstances it take 15 to 20 minutes of exercise before the energy in adipose tissue is tapped.
"Svetol only saves 20 minutes, but that is enough to have an action on fat," said Lemaire.
Since Svetol has a different mechanism of action to other weight loss ingredients on the market, he said that it can be used in synergy with the likes of green tea and hoodia.
While some food and beverage products use caffeine to stimulate the metabolism, Svetol is decaffeinated. According to Berkem there is evidence that caffeine has some side effects, including disturbing lipid metabolism, which can blunt weight loss.
Svetol is standardised to 45 per cent chlorogenic acid. Although this already differentiates it from the bulk of coffee extracts on the market, chlorogenic acid is actually a family of more than 20 different compounds. And when the elements of the other 55 per cent - comprised of polyphenols, polysaccharides and some lipids - there are more than 150 different compounds at play.
The clinical studies conduced to date have used the entire extract, so the results are applicable to the entire package of compounds in Svetol.
But Berkem is keen to know more about the exact composition, with the aim of eventually offering an even greater degree of standardisation.
"We are going forward to check compound by compound," said Lemaire. "That is the future."Lemaire said that the secret of Svetol does not lie in the extraction process, which is actually very simple. Rather, it is all about the source.
"There are 80 different varieties of Robusta," he said. "We know exactly which one is best."
The first true functional food product using Svetol have yet to come to market, but there are some product available that are "boarderline dietary supplement," Lemaire said - like instant coffees and instant tea.