Speaking to NutraIngredients ahead of their debut at Probiota, the team behind award-winning Swedish biotech start-up Carbiotix said it hopes the new ways it plans to do business will not only bring about change in the health of consumers who do not get enough fibre – but also will drive change in the whole supplement industry.
“We're doing something new,” said Kristofer Cook CEO of Carbiotix. “Hopefully we can inspire other companies to look at our model and say ‘maybe it’s something we could employ as well.”
“By personalising the soluble fibre we're creating a new nexus when it comes to functional food and the lines of pharmaceutical and food are becoming much more blurred.”
Set up in 2014, Lund-based Carbiotix is a start-up on a mission fill the ‘fibre gap’ in our diets through a personalised subscription service that provides monthly microbiome testing, analysis and a personalised supplement sachet delivered in the post.
While the company started out its life with a focus on the development of a new generation of prebiotics in the form of its own BioAXOS ingredient, it has taken a side-step into the personalised nutrition space recently.
Cook noted that around 80% of adults in the developed only get around half of the soluble fibre they should from diet – resulting in a fibre gap of between three and five grams per day.
Carbiotix CEO Kristofer Cook will take part in the Innovation and Trailblazers sessions at the forthcoming IPA World Congress + Probiota 2018 in Barcelona on February 7-9th.
The session will meet showcase a selection of entrepreneurial start-ups who will present their innovations and mould-breaking approaches to the microbiome, prebiotic and probiotic space.
Our Trailblazers will discuss the consumer trends and technologies they are tapping into and shine a spotlight on some of the opportunities (and pitfalls) that are out there.
“Our long-term ambition, from day one, has always been to get into the consumer side,” said Cook. “To bring to market, a premium prebiotic, or soluble fibre supplement product, and really think about the delivery mechanism - how we can bring this in an innovative way to people.”
As a result, last year Carbiotix shifted its focus from commercialising its own AXOS ingredient to develop a personalised supplement subscription offering.
“Our ambition has always been to develop a product that makes soluble fibre consumption simple, affordable and effective for all consumers. We want to take all the guesswork out of selecting the right fibre, determining how much to take, when to take it, and whether it has any effect on the growth of good bacteria in our gut,” said CTO Dr Peter Falck.
Carbiotix transferred its IP to newly-formed Irish company Pure Fiber Ltd, which is now responsible for bringing AXOS to market. Cook told us that Pure Fiber is still at the beginning of the regulatory process to get approval for the novel soluble fibre ingredient in both Europe and the USA, adding that there are plans to submit a dossier early next year.
“It will take more than two years both in the US and EU before AXOS reaches the market,” he told us. “The reason for this delay is that the company wanted to optimise the process to achieve the lowest possible cost before locking the process and proceeding with the regulatory work. Pure Fiber will thus focus on feed sales through to 2020, when marketing efforts will shift to food and nutraceutical applications.”
With PureFiber now focusing on the development of its new AXOS ingredient, Carbiotix itself has now developed a novel personalised subscription service based on monthly microbiome testing providing a ‘feedback loop’ to modify dosage of soluble fibres that are already on the market.
“If you're getting into personalisation, the starting point has to be the simplest point, and therefore you have to first of all standardise the best material available at market - and then you go from there in terms of increasing complexity,” explained Cook.
“Our model is that we want the simplest product at market, in that we send this directly to the consumer. Directly to their mailbox, because everything we send has been designed to fit in 99% of all mailboxes globally.”
The product is based on a subscription model where users sign up on-line and are sent a gut bacteria sample kit, a personalised soluble fibre supplement and pre-paid return envelopes direct to their mailbox every month.
Users send a gut-bacteria sample every month to Carbiotix where it is analysed and the results are presented on-line in the form of an easy to understand Fiber Loving Bacteria (FLB) index. The results are then used to adjust the dosing of the next supplement delivery and the process repeats itself.
In the longer term the firm aims to supply the personalised service at a price that is on par with a standard supplement, said Cook.
The CEO said Carbiotix will drive price reductions and ‘maintain a competitive advantage’ through its optimisation of the supply chain and further automation of its analytics and packaging processes.
“They will be fundamental for us to get to a price point that will be at par with any standardised product,” he said. “And at the end of the day if you have a product which is customised or personalised for every individual on a monthly basis then a standardised nutraceutical or supplement product seems very antiquated.”
Cook also noted that the complexity of the personalisation is also planned to increase over time – both in terms of the composition of the prebiotic sachet and complimentary products, and also in terms of the analysis systems used.
“We are not bound to any particular fibre and instead focus our efforts on increasing the degree of personalisation at the lowest possible cost,” Cook told NutraIngredients. “We wanted to make sure we selected the best product at market and we would dose that product based upon feedback from the host. In this case, every single month, we get a microbiome sample from the host or the customer and we adapt the dosing based upon that.”
“We are in a position where we can always introduce blends of different products, based on the results."
Cook and Falck said the long term aim for Carbiotix is to add complexity to its personalisation service while simultaneously dropping costs as more people take up the service.
“It's embedded in our business model to bring that price down as we reach certain milestones in terms of numbers of users,” said Cook. “Our mission is within three to five years, to come down to half our introductory price.”
“So we are starting simple but we are batting for increased complexity because we know it is needed - but it is not the right place to start.”
The long term ambition for Carbiotix is a personalised service at a price point of around €20 ($25 USD), said the pair.
“We can achieve that because we come from the raw materials side,” said Cook. “We're a distribution mechanism for the best soluble fibre on the market, that's the innovation, our ability to bring down the price significantly. Our ability to customise the product for every individual, and our ability to follow that up and make sure the dosing is correct and they are on schedule.”
In addition, Carbiotix has long term plans to give a percentage of its profits to the fortification of foods for people who are malnourished.
“This is something that will kick in, obviously when the company has developed a little bit more, that we will allocate a percentage of our profits to fortify foods,” said Cook.
“We think that prebiotics have the opportunity, through fortification, to improve the lives of those who are not in a position to pay. And there are organisations all over the world that could be potential companies that we work with in that respect,” he said.
“That is something we will activate a little bit further down the road,” the CEO confirmed. “It’s something that is embedded in our DNA and will always be in the company DNA – because we recognise the value of the prebiotics we are working with and it needs to go beyond helping people who can afford it. It has to be helping all people.”
The rapidly evolving universe of probiotics, prebiotics and the microbiome will be discussed in-depth at the upcoming IPA World Congress + Probiota 2018 in Barcelona on February 7-9.
From microbiome advances, to start-up game changers, market stats, crucial clinical science and regulatory knowledge, this is a congressional must-have.