The company started as an acacia gum trader back in 1895, and today it claims to hold a 40% share of the market.
While that remains important, in recent years the Rouen-headquartered company has also set its sights on the nutrition market not least with the acquisition of fellow French firm Tournay Biotechnologies in 2012.
The company’s director of business development Mathieu Dondain told us within the next five years the global business should be split 50/50 between its food and health divisions, with a target to exceed total sales of €150m in this time and further possible acquisitions on the cards.
It also aimed to launch two new products a year.
So far launches include citrus extract Serenzo for stress and mood management, olive extract Oli-Ola for cardiovascular health and apple and grape extract ViNitrox for sports performance.
The latest launch is Cognivia, a combination of Spanish sage essential oil (Salvia lavandulifolia) and garden sage leaf (Salvia officinalis), which director of innovation Damien Guillmet told us “combined two profiles of efficacy” for memory.
So, with this flurry of NPD, how does the company go about selecting the botanicals it invests in?
Guillmet said it was about working backwards from what extracts were already approved on the EU and US market.
Screening EU innovation
Next came an assessment of what scientific literature was already saying about the extracts and market research of what was already available on shelves.
Guillmet said tough regulation meant they were “forced to screen” in this way.
“It’s a little bit frustrating because you can’t go to India and find a source and say: ‘Wow, that’s really promising.’”
He gave the example of the African spice sumac (Rhus coriaria), which is a traditional food ingredient tipped also for its antioxidant properties but not permitted as an ingredient in food supplements in the EU.
Sage however can be used and this fact along with two on-hold botanical claims has spurred Nexira’s investment in the Cognivia product it spent two years developing.
The on-hold botanical claim for “optimal mental well-being, e g, maintaining concentration, attention and memory” and maintenance of “memory with age decline and to preserve cognitive function” can be used in the EU unless formally rejected by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and providing the claim and ingredient is in line with national member state laws.
According to Euromonitor International, food supplements positioned for memory health brought in sales of $240m (€214.85m) in western Europe in 2015, making it the ninth most significant positioning for the category behind the likes of digestive and immune health.
Globally the memory category accounted for $1.45bn (€1.29bn) in retail sales.
Guillmet said unlike other cognitive health products on the market, Nexira would be focusing on the impact of long-term memory for all ages, which he said had more of an impact on day-to-day life.
He said often competitors focused on memory decline in the elderly, but this neglected a growing number of younger people who were interested in supplements for cognitive health to help with exam revision and everyday life.
“Our approach is more about improving normal [memory] performance,” he said.
After promising results of a study in mice, the company was now considering further research in humans.
“It’s the beginning of the story,” he said, noting a timeline for this research had not yet been decided.