"We first focused on supplements in the US, but now think there is a bigger opportunity in food and beverage," Toyo Bio-Pharma vice president and chief marketing officer Mario Kahn told NutraIngredients-USA. Toyo Bio-Pharma is the US arm of Japanese supplier Toyo Shinyaku, which says it is the market leader in its home country for sales of pine bark polyphenols. The firm claims that its water-extracted ingredient contains more than twice the amount of active compound oligomeric proanthocyanidin (OPC) than other pine bark products on the market. A pioneer in the category has been Pycnogenol, made exclusively by Horphag Research in France. The product is extracted from the bark of the Maritime pine that grows on the southern coast of France, and is currently used in more than 400 dietary supplements, multi-vitamins and health products. The major markets for Pycnogenol are the US and Japan. Move to foods But Toyo says there is still room in the US functional foods and beverages market for Toyo-FVG and is showcasing it at IFT for a variety of uses, with green tea-based healthy beverages a first port of call. According to Kahn, beverages are a good vehicle for launching an ingredient because they deliver a higher level of brand recognition than other products. The market for functional beverages has grown by about 30 percent over the past five years, according to Mintel, with the US market reaching $9.8bn in 2007 - up 14 percent from 2002. "The biggest visability would be in beverages, but then we could move on to other products like confectionary - bars and jellies," he said. Toyo-FVG is used in foods, beverages, and dietary supplements in Japan. "But we get a lot of recognition from our food and beverage products which are widely distributed and then consumers recognize the supplement brands," said Kahn. While Toyo plans to use foods and beverages to springboard the ingredient into the supplements market as it did in Japan, it is conscious the US market is governed by different regulations and its consumers have different preferences. "…in the US it is more important that it tastes good, where in Japan they are less concerned with taste and more with benefits." Toyo is in talks with a "major food conglomerate" for use of Toyo-FVG in the US market, but would not disclose further information on the potential deal. While Toyo has clinical research behind its patented ingredient, the food manufacturer in question will have to do research of its own, said Kahn, and therefore bringing any new products to market could take up to two years.