They were on-hand at Vitafoods to discuss the results and to tell people a little more about the study and their products including gummies and powders.
Dr Sara de Pelsmaeker spoke to us how lockdown worked for them, patents, and what the future holds.
How did the pandemic affect your day to day work?
During the pandemic we worked very hard, it's not always easy to work from home and not being able to do clinical trials.
Obviously, we had some trials running but they were stopped due to lockdown because people couldn't go to the clinics to do the tasks so we were searching for a solution.
Also, we are always trying to investigate what the most innovative angle is and that carried on through lockdown and continues today.
I think it's important because the food industry is not always known to be very innovative, but we always strive to be.
What did you come up with?
We were brainstorming, and one of our partners suggested creating an app for a study that would let people take the supplements at home with a placebo group involved too.
We were able to motivate them daily, just by sending a small reminder not to forget their capsule each day and then ask them questions during the week.
Every week, they had the same questionnaire which seemed to work as they were at home anyway.
What was different about your study?
We had time to talk to a lot of healthcare professionals including doctors, physiotherapists, dieticians who all had the same comment on clinical studies – they can tailor in such a way to get the best possible results.
Clinical studies are always targeting a specific group and experimenters can set it up in such a way they tend to have a positive result and prove what you want to prove.
If we come up with a clinical study that is always critiqued by the medical world, they will say “okay, you've proven it for this type of person, but what about all the rest”, and you cannot just extrapolate that.
We decided to take the route of the consumer study to enrol as many healthy people as possible with some joint pain – everyday people – and we sent them the app, the supplements and it worked very well.
What sort of people took part?
We were able to collect data from over 200 people of all genders, all ages, all different types of activity and that was important for us. We always asked for three types of activity during the week and that meant three times of going for a walk in the park, biking or high-intensity and everything in between.
What we saw with the data was that people were taking the supplements, they were already having an effect, they were having the same feelings, effects and pain scores.
After three weeks, there was already a significant difference.
What about the other group?
We didn't see any significant effects with the placebo group who were taking maltodextrin as a placebo, and there was no effect whatsoever. Then I thought it would be prudent to look at sub-groups because for certain ages, certain genders there might be differences to see.
We recruited people through their gym subscriptions so these were people that are already doing some activity so we knew they would keep up during lockdown – they couldn’t go to the gym but were likely to still be doing exercise and were already motivated which was important for us – so we could reveal the true impact of our product.
What was the main take away from your study?
Everyone who has applied joint pain can benefit from the supplement. What's very interesting is that after three weeks, it was already working. Today with our food supplements most of the dosages you buy are a one-month supply, or maybe a three-month supply and if you don't have any effects after one month, it's very unlikely that people will give it a further month to see if something happens.
It costs quite a lot of money, especially in these trying times with energy prices rising, food prices going up, it is good for prospective customers to know there has been improvements within three weeks.
What other factors were interesting?
The other encouraging factor from our study is that we only had a 3% dropout rate for the real supplement but 19% with the placebo and while that is not super, it is still a lot better than what you normally see, which is normally 25-40%. I think that is down to the app and being able to send out reminders.
That was really the eye opener because that means that people are noticing a difference and that's why we also were able to file a patent. We now have a process that is completely validated and unique.
What makes you stand out?
Our focus is a bit different because we're looking to everybody, not just specific people with existing joint diseases.
When we launched in 2018, for the first time, it was more aimed towards pharma companies. Today we are really focusing on food supplements, companies, start-ups and functional foods.
What I've seen over the five years that I've worked here is that people who are using collagen, five to 10 gm, have difficulty putting it into products for daily dosages.
It's easy I take my powder in my coffee in the morning - it's easy to come up with 10 gm in sachets those are the ones that go into bakery products, or sweets or chocolates or sometimes even drinks and now we are dealing with 1 gm.
We have our 1gm gummies which are easy to incorporate into the daily diet.
In addition, to functional ingredients, we want to bring innovation from maybe the outskirts of our company right to the core and we’ve already scheduled what we're going to do next year at Vitafoods.
I think that's the key for us to be the leading company, the experts in collagen, and to bring something new to the markets every year. And I think that we succeeded in that as well.