Natraceutical to continue US polyphenol sales, despite Mars dispute

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Antioxidant, Polyphenol antioxidant

Natraceutical Group said it has been notified that food giant Mars
has withdrawn its request for a preliminary injunction filed
against the Spanish ingredient maker over the US sale of its
CocaonOX products.

In April, Mars filed a lawsuit against Natraceutical for infringing its patents on polyphenol enriched cocoa extracts, which are commercialized under the Cocoapro trademark. Mars has developed ways to measure and characterize polyphenol content in foods, as well as post-harvesting and processing technologies to help maximize the antioxidants available in a variety of formats. Natraceutical is proclaiming the move as its first victory in the legal proceedings. The removal of a preliminary injunction means the group can continue unrestricted marketing of CocaoOX products in the US. One third of Natraceutical's entire ingredients sales are to the US, CEO Jose Vicente Pons Andreu told NutraIngredients.com. However, Mars could lose significantly as well if its patents are in fact infringed upon. The company has invested heavily in the health benefits of polyphenols and claims to have researched the antioxidants for over 15 years, with more than 100 peer-reviewed research publications involving Mars scientists and their university partners. The firm has taken its research mainstream with functional chocolate brands including Dove and CocoaVia. At the same time, Nutraceutical has developed the healthy cocoa derivatives line, CocoanOX. Mars alleged this has infringed on US patents 6,790,966 ("Cocoa extracts containing solvent-derived cocoa polyphenols from defatted cocoa beans")​ and 6,312,753 ("Cocoa components, edible products having enriched polyphenol content, methods of making same and medical uses"​). Natraceuticals maintains this is not the case, but says the details of this will be brought to light in the legal proceedings. "There are a lot of technical issues that should be discussed during the process,"​ said Pons Andreu. He said the technologies are different and that the only thing the products have in common is that are derived from cocoa. For Mars, the issue represents a matter of preserving its role in the polyphenol research arena. This was underscored in the company's April legal filing: "Much of the excitement and energy in this field stems from the findings of Mars' scientists and their university partners that certain cocoa polyphenol-rich preparations have the potential to prevent and/or treat health conditions that are leading causes of death and disability around much of the world,…" ​ Natraceutical has itself solicited patents in some markets based on its processes and ingredients - such as cocao-derived CCX-70 ingredient which was introduced to the industry in November 2005 and is said to have a total antioxidant content of 70 per cent with as much as 50 per cent of its procyanidins (a kind of flavonoid) being epicatchins. In keeping with Mars' wishes, Natraceutical did not present its CocaonOX line at the recent IFT Expo in Chicago. "Natraceutical Group will continue to work on the defense of its interests and products and demonstrate that the company's activities strictly comply with the law,"​ said Pons Andreu.

Related topics: Suppliers, Antioxidants/carotenoids

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