Frutarom acquired Fenulife brand as part of its €10.5m acquisition of Acatris Health in October 2006. The fenugreek extract, which contains a minimum of 85 per cent galactomannan fibres, has previously been researched for its positive effect on blood sugar levels.
Marketing manager Liesbeth Neven told NutraIngredients.com that investigations into the heartburn benefits began with anecdotal reports. The company then conducted a literature search. Amongst the studies investigating the effect of fenugreek seeds on gastrointestinal health was one published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, which found them to possess an antiulcer effect in rats. (Journal of Ethnopharmacology 81 (2002) 393 - 397)
"We found something so unique that we patented it as a fast, effective soluble fibre that works in the stomach," said Neven.
Heartburn, also know as acid reflux, is relatively common problem that occurs when acid is released from the stomach and seeps back into the oesophagus, causing a burning feeling. More than 50 per cent of cases are reported to be in men and women in the 45 to 64 age bracket.
Frutarom is planning to conduct more research to confirm the hypothesis. A human study is expected to get underway in the US in the next six months, with results by the end of the year.
One of the key aspects of the use, which will also help with marketing, is that the consumer would swallow a capsule before eating and notice the effects in a short space of time.
"That in itself is something new and innovative. It gives people the possibility to immediately judge if it helps," said Neven. By contrast, many supplements must be taken over a longer period for the benefits to be realised.
Existing approaches to heartburn management include H2 blockers, proton pump inhibitors, and antacids, which are reported to be associated with side effects like dizziness, headache s and diarrhoea. There are no known contraindications of FenuLife, nor interactions with medications.
Diabetes and blood sugar control is harder platform on which to market an ingredient than heartburn for regulatory reasons - although Neven said the company regards the new EU heath claims legislation as good, since there is a need to protect the consumer from confusion with pharmaceutical and medical products.
Nonetheless Frutarom is by no means abandoning this use of FenuLife. In step with its research-based approach, is continuing to support studies on blood sugar and diabetes, in particular with large population groups.
"The fact is that it is now appealing to whole new target group," said Neven.
The acquisition by Frutarom, a company with a turnover of €350m, is expected to yield more opportunities for the former Acatris Health ingredients portfolio. Besides FenuLife, this includes SoyLife soy germ isoflavones, LinumLife flaxseed lignans, Ribose for energy and recovery, and Selenomethione for immune support.
Acatris Health has been incorporated into Frutarom's fine ingredients division.