Reporting its 2013 second quarter results, the company filed impairment charges of €8m related to its two latest probiotic-related clinical trials investigating their potential gastrointestinal benefits.
“Despite indications of positive results the studies’ primary end points were not met and consequently the data is assessed to be insufficient for approval of an EU health claim,” Chr. Hansen said in a statement.
The company’s chief financial officer (CFO) Klaus Pedersen said in an interview: “No doubt we had hoped for a positive outcome…But you could say we had a little warning in the autumn,” he said, referring to similarly disappointing results from a trial investigating probiotics’ role in immunity, which also led the company to write off €4m last year.
“We do see positive effects from taking probiotics,” Pedersen said. “But we need to adjust these to what we need to provide to get an EFSA approval.”
He said that it would take a few more months to dig into the results from these latest trials, for which preliminary analysis was carried out in March. So far, no probiotic ingredients from any company have been successful in attaining a health claim under the EU’s nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR).
The company said that probiotic sales in South America and APMEA (Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa) had more than compensated for declining probiotic sales in Europe and North America.
“One thing is obviously the regulatory regime, which is different from region to region but there is an understanding of probiotics [globally],” Pedersen said.
As a whole, he added that the company did not see Europe as a declining market, despite declining probiotic sales and overall slow growth. The region still accounts for by far the largest proportion of Chr. Hansen’s sales.
“We will have a strong focus on cultures, including probiotics, in Europe,” Pedersen said.
He added that there is major global interest in natural colours, apart from carmine.
The company reported profit of €20.7m during the quarter, down 33% compared to the prior year period, mainly due to the impairment charges related to its clinical trials. Revenue was up 5.8% compared to Q2 last year, to €174.4m.