“When we talk about different demographics and groups, it’s important that we have research demonstrating that the product works in these populations,” Dr Don Cox, Sr. VP of R&D and business development for Kerry’s branded beta-glucan ingredient Wellmune, told NutraIngredients-USA at the SupplySide West 2017 show in Las Vegas.
The Irish company acquired Wellmune during a shopping spree near the end of 2015, and since then has added to the body of scientific literature backing the ingredient’s immune support benefits. (In other news, Kerry Group just acquired major probiotic player Ganeden).
For example, one clinical study found that children ages 12 to 48 months old who had experienced at least two episodes of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) had less infectious episodes during the study after Wellmune supplementation compared to a placebo group.
A more recent study, published in Nutrition, found that daily Wellmune supplementation in participants aged between 50 and 79 was also linked to less days of URTI symptoms compared to a placebo group.
Clinical trials and market research
With a wide set of age groups covered in its body of research, Wellmune is in the position for incorporation in finished products targeted for different age groups.
“Immune health is good for everyone obviously, but there are four key groups we focus on,” said Molly Fitzgerald, marketing communications director for Wellmune. “These are children and families, people with lifestyle stress, older adults for healthy aging, and athletes or weekend warriors.”
It's then a matter of using market research to see what delivery format is preferred by an age group.
Wellmune has been incorporated into gummies, capsules, yogurts, and bars. “It’s a stable ingredient, so the normal processing used in the food and beverage industries won’t hamper the activity of Wellmune,” Dr Cox said.
Rise of functional foods and beverages
Analytical methods approved by USP’s food chemicals codex are used to make sure that Wellmune is still present after formulation, especially in the increasingly popular functional food format.
“What you’re seeing is that Millennials are pushing for ‘from food for food’ natural formats,” said Orlaigh Matthews, strategic marketing manager for nutritional beverage at Kerry.
“We’re seeing increased demand for gummies or functional foods, and areas such as nutritional beverages are growing hugely as well—it’s going to be a key focus in the nutritional area.”