The use of artificial intelligence as a way to process huge and often very complex amounts of data – has gained huge popularity in the nutrition and consumer healthcare industries as companies look to innovate with new products, identify novel bioactives from strange sources, and look to develop more personalised solutions for the consumer.
Now, Nutraveris is taking the lead on using AI for other areas of vast and complex data - regulations and compliance. The French firm recently launched its Nol Compliance ‘tool’ which uses a mixture of AI technology and the company’s in depth online databases to help revolutionise the way product compliance is done.
The AI-based service is aimed at companies looking to launch new products in Europe, and slashes the timescales and human workload, said the CEO.
“Historically any service has required a good deal of human power to check the regulatory state of various aspects of formulations, labelling, and claims - in addition to producing dossiers for market authorisation,” Bourges told us.
Indeed, previous to the launch of the AI system any company working with Nutraveris had to directly send it labels, formulas, technical sheets, clinical trial and stability data so that a team of experts could evaluate it.
"To give you an idea of timing, on just the regulatory part, it is from three to ten hours just to check the components and deliver an analysis,” he said. "Now, companies we work with just enter their formula, the country in which they want to sell in, and the software gives a regulatory analysis within 15 seconds."
AI: Pushing the boundaries
The new technology took the firm more than three years to develop, said Bourges, who added that since its launch a few months ago the AI system has ‘completely changed the way the team works’.
“Most of our time was involved in checking the data, putting it in spreadsheets, making calculations, etc,” he told NutraIngredients. “We feel like 70% of our time was involved in these administrative tasks instead using our expertise.”
"We already had the main database that we sell, which has all the data in it. But to create the algorithms, bring in the AI, and fully test that, it took three years.”
The need to save on man-hours and enable more rapid analysis is not just something felt by Nutraveris, noted Bourges – adding that many companies within the health and supplement s industries have large departments devoted to R&D, regulatory affairs and product marketing, and that all of them want to be more rapid in their work.
“Companies want to launch products much more rapidly,” he added. “For example in the sports nutrition industry many companies have something in the range of 200 to 300 products and are launching maybe 50 products per year.”
“For these companies launching each product in a new country – like from France to Germany - involves extra work.”
The regulatory and compliance specialist noted that even where companies are using internal teams to check labelling and formulations before a launch in a new territory, the time saved by using an AI system could be huge.
Another potential issue that is reduced is that of miscalculations or incorrect evaluations, he commented: “With AI there is no human risk.”
Specific regulations: A new way of working
Using an example of a Spanish company manufacturing sports nutrition products – and looking to export them for sale in other EU countries – the CEO and founder explained a little more about how AI can speed up the process.
"Unfortunately the regulation in the different European Member States is not homogeneous at all,” said Bourges. “It means that a botanical could be allowed in Spain but banned in the UK or Italy, or the dosages allowed could change.”
“So the AI system will tell them directly what they need to change, or remove, and then will also directly generate labelling that is compliant for the new country.”
He noted that in the example of a Spanish company looking to launch into Italy and the UK, generally the first thing a company would do using the system is to double check on its internal market – “so for a Spanish company they would check with Spain to make sure they are actually meeting the regulations in their own country.”
“Then, the only thing they have to do is to change the country and it will check for those places and directly deliver an analysis,” he said.
“Regulations, especially in food supplements, can change so often,” Bourges added. “Every few months there is something new.”
“The good thing with AI is that you just have to press a button and it updates the regulatory analysis - so you can be up-to-date and online with new regulations quickly whenever and wherever needed.”
An AI future?
While Nutraveris is leading the charge of AI in the regulatory and compliance field, its CEO and founder says he realises that the use of such technologies will become more widespread – but that he believes a strong pipeline of updates and new offerings will help the firm.
"Of course, AI is everywhere now, but not so much in our market," Bourges conceded. "Lots of other companies will be thinking about it too."
“We will bring many tools to market,” he said. “The second one will be in September when we add all of the health claims regulation. So the tool will be able to make all of the regulatory compliance and label generation.”
"Right now, it's really for the dietary supplements and natural supplements market," he noted - adding that there are further pipelines of development beyond that, and that new things will be added or bought to market every few months.