From the Editor's Desk

A.I. and its promise for ingredient innovation

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / chombosan
© Getty Images / chombosan
Talk with product formulators and one of the big frustrations is that there are not many novel ingredients coming onto the market. Could AI crack open this bottle neck?

The dietary supplements category has its share of fad ingredients or formulations, and for years the industry was able to maintain high levels of new product launches thanks to a steady flow of new ingredients coming onto the market.

But increased media and consumer scrutiny and the long shadow of the NDI process does seem to have had a chilling effect on the introduction of new ingredients launches over the past decade.

Back in November 2015, Colin Watts, then-CEO of The Vitamin Shoppe, said: “I think the issue that we are facing this year is […] the rate of new ingredients, new products, new forms that are coming into the market are less than we've seen in the past.

“And so when there isn't a lot of new in this category in particular, especially the retailer ends up taking a little bit earlier of a hit in that front, because the customer just doesn't have a reason to come in and see something new that's going on”

Innovation is still occurring, of course: You can point to innovation in delivery formats, in the supply chain and around the science, but one of greatest benefits to the industry has come from technology. The Internet was barely a thing when the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act (DSHEA) was signed into law in 1994, and now every single brand has an online presence. Technology advances driving the rise of personalization have also been significant.


But it is the rise of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) in recent years that could create opportunities in the ingredient and formulation space.

We’ve already seen the introduction of the first ingredient reportedly developed by A.I. in BASF’s PeptAIde​, bioactive peptides identified from brown rice positioned for sports nutrition. The ingredient can reportedly affect cytokine release and may help modify the immune system, which may support physiological benefits post-exercise.

BASF developed the ingredient in collaboration with Ireland’s Nuritas. The Irish firm is also working on other bioactive peptides with other supplement players like Pharmavite​. Nuritas, which was founded in 2014, has reportedly developed technology that allows it to identify peptides ten times faster and 500 times more accurately that traditional discovery methods. Nuritas is also collaborating with Nestlé​.

And Nuritas is not alone. Other AI companies are playing in the supplement sector, with Life Extension partnering with Baltimore-based Insilico Medicine to become the first supplement brand to launch​ (as far as we are aware) a product developed using artificial intelligence technology.

At the IPA World Congress + Probiota Americas​ in Vancouver this summer we also heard from Dr Anton Fliri of SystaMedic about how AI can be applied to probiotics research, and how AI may help inform when and when not to perform clinical trials for specific strains based on predictions of how the human body will respond.

But it’s not just on the bioactive ingredient side of things; flavors are also attracting attention from A.I. companies. For example, Analytical Flavor Systems has developed a machine learning and artificial intelligence platform called Gastrograph AI​ for modeling human sensory perception and predicting consumer preference of food and beverage products.

Such technology may be of significant interest to the emerging functional beverage category or for sports nutrition product formulators.

The sports nutrition category is something we focus on a lot at NutraIngredients-USA, and our second annual Sports Nutrition Summit in San Diego, February 3-5, 2020​, will feature an expert panel on the topic of A.I. We’ve confirmed both Neil Foster, Head of Strategic Partnerships for Nuritas, and Jason Cohen, Founder and CEO of Analytical Flavor Systems (Gastrograph AI) for the discussion. That is sure to be one of the many highlights of that must-attend event.

We look forward to helping to connect the different players in this space as they help elucidate some of the products of the future.

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