CLA supplier Cognis told FoodManufacture.co.uk that customers from UK and Ireland were already experimenting with its Tonalin-branded CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) in anticipation of final regulatory clearance from the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, which is expected shortly.
Market launches would follow shortly afterwards, predicted Arne Ptock, global product line manager for Tonalin.
Both Cognis and rival CLA-supplier Lipid Nutrition are also hoping there will be news this September about which (if any) health claims will be permitted about CLA in the EU when EFSA publishes its third batch of ‘article 13.1’ opinions.
One of the better-researched weight management ingredients, CLA is claimed to influence enzymes involved in fat metabolism and activate receptors associated with fat storage in the body.
This is claimed to help prevent new fat from being stored and accelerates the breakdown of fat already in the body.
The result is an overall reduction in fat mass and an increase in lean muscle mass.
Health claims and CLA
Some food manufacturers have proved reluctant to invest heavily in new functional ingredients until they are sure that they will be able to make health claims about them.
However, smaller companies tended to be "more open to launching products directly after Novel Food approval, instead of waiting for health claims approval”, claimed Ptock at Cognis.
Given that uncertainty over claims and the economic downturn had also dented new product development activity in recent months, many big food manufacturers were also "under pressure to bring out something new and innovative to market", added Lipid Nutrition's regulatory director Jaap Kluifhooft.
“The evidence supporting CLA is so strong that I am very confident that we will get a positive opinion from EFSA in September.”
If this doesn’t happen, Lipid Nutrition would consider resubmitting under article 13.5 of the Regulation, he added.
Tonalin and Clarinol (Lipid Nutrition's brand for CLA) are available in oil and water-dispersible powder forms, enabling them to be used in a wide variety of applications from milk drinks, fruit juices, soy drinks, meal replacement beverages, yogurts and yogurt drinks to baked goods, salad dressings and breakfast cereals.
"Leading multinational and regional companies see great market potential in CLA and want to profit from the use of Tonalin in food in general, for example in dairy products, where Cognis already has market success," added Ptock at Cognis.
How to market CLA in foods and drinks
As ‘conjugated linoleic acid’ did not sound very consumer-friendly, homing in on the fact that it was derived from safflowers would be key to promotional strategies, said Lipid Nutrition marketing boss John Kurstjens.
“Consumer research suggests that phrases such as ‘body-shaping’ and ‘reduces body fat and increases lean muscle mass’ are also highly appealing.”
Given that CLA is a naturally-occurring fatty acid found in beef and dairy fats, which have been consumed for thousands of years in Europe, Lipid Nutrition and Cognis had argued that their CLA, which is derived from safflowers, should not be subject to the Novel Food Regulation.
But the European Commission disagreed and both companies were forced to lodge applications in 2007 in a bid to extend CLA’s application beyond supplements into foods and drinks.
A positive opinion from EFSA was finally issued last month about both Tonalin and Clarinol.