Consumers are increasingly interested in food ingredients that provide additional benefits for health, but faced with a larger array of choices than ever, they are rightly sceptical of ingredients and final products that can’t fully back up the claims they make.
Golan Raz, head of supplements and nutrition for Lycored, teased FoodBev about upcoming research into the roles that carotenoids in tomato extract and polyphenols in rosemary extract have on the human body. Talking from the floor of Vitafoods Europe in Geneva, Raz also says that communicating the benefits of such ingredients to consumers starts from the ground up – it begins with thorough scientific understanding, followed by complete trust and transparency, which then manifests itself in brand communications.
Lycored has invested significant time and resources in recent years to understanding carotenoids and polyphenols, and how they can be utilised.
Can you tell us a little about what you’re working on at the moment?
We at Lycored are very passionate about a few scientific programmes that we have been involved with for a few years, and that requires a lot of consistency because you only know where you want to get but you never know whether you’re going to get there or not. When you do true science, you don’t know if it’s going to work or not. The way we work at Lycored is that everything starts at the ‘discovery phase’, in the laboratory, where we are searching for synergy between different molecules, different ingredients. Why are we searching for synergy? Because the idea is that one plus one will be equal to more than two. So if you take two ingredients that are operating nicely together you get a better effect, and therefore you can use lower dosages to get better results. That’s the concept.
One of our main programmes is the skin health and wellness programme in which we have combined tomato extract with rosemary extract. Tomato extract contains some of the carotenoids that protect the skin, like lycopene, phytoene, phytofluene; and rosemary extract contains a polyphenol, mainly carnosic acid. What we have discovered in the lab is that when you take lycopene, phytoene, phytofluene, carnosic acid, they work really well together and they create a much stronger effect than each and every one separately. That’s the lab. And you never know how it’s going to manifest to the human body.
So we have just concluded a three-year clinical trial that was held here in Europe – in Germany and in Scotland. We are just about to publish the results in the next three months and these are very nice days for Lycored because the clinical scientific programme that we have invested a lot of resources in – personal resources, hours, dollars, euros, a lot of resources that went into this programme – when we open the data, we saw that it worked really well and while it can always work better, we are very satisfied with the results that are going to be published in one of the major scientific outlets in the next two or three months.
We are actually finalising the patents because of this discovery – we have new intellectual property, new patents, that are being registered right now on the composition of the product, and as soon as that phase will be concluded we will advertise the study and we’ll share it with the world.
And how is that understanding going to help your customers to create new products?
First of all there is a lot of knowledge that was created on how these ingredients truly function in the body – so the combination of the pre-clinical, the lab stage, in the success in the human environment, the clinical role. First and foremost, we need to create knowledge, so we better understand the dosages, we better understand the bioavailability, we better understand how long it takes to create the true effect.
Everyone in the industry, in the last two or three years I guess, speaks about trust. The nutraceutical industry and the nutrition industry was considered questionable for many years when it comes to trust, just because of maybe a misunderstanding within our industry and [for] consumers, this industry is a lot about trust nowadays. Trust starts with knowledge. When we truly know how the ingredients function, how long it takes them to function, how well they are becoming available to the human body, how much we need to use, what is the promise you can make but also what is the promise you cannot make – I believe that’s a foundation for trust and this [Lycored’s soon-to-be-published research] is big news for any brand or any manufacturer that wants to develop a skin and beauty ingestible formula.
That’s the first thing that we are gaining from all this: effort, knowledge that can be translated into a trustworthy message. And of course, there is the technical component – or the production side – so we have a much better understanding of stability. We have just concluded three years of [research into] stability in different environments so we understand how sensitive the formula is to pH changes, we understand extreme exposure to heat better, we understand processing better, so we feel that we are in a good place to be able to guide a manufacturer and a brand all the way through the production phases.
Are consumers not naturally sceptical of products that claim to make them more beautiful or healthier?
Actually, in the same way that we are running scientific studies, we are running a different type of scientific studies – and this is consumer engagement studies. We are very passionate to understand the target audience because at the end of the day, we wake up in the morning and we work in order to get a really product. And who is the judge of what’s really a good product if not the consumer? So we invest time in understanding consumers. To answer your question, not just from my own intuition but from good-quality surveys, what we learn [about] the understanding and appreciation among consumers throughout the ages and across genders is that there is a strong correlation between what you eat and the way you look. This understanding is growing all the time. 20 years ago, it would be considered borderline blasphemy to connect diet to beauty; now it’s [a] mainstream message. Personally, I believe that if you speak here now together to if we meet here in a year’s time, there will be a broader understanding and acceptance of the logic that speaks for the connection between diet and the way you look. Please don’t take me wrong: I am not suggesting that diet is everything; I’m suggesting diet is a major piece in the puzzle of your wellbeing. It also translates into the way you look.
Would you say, then, that it’s a matter of communication between brands and consumers to get the message of individual functional ingredients across?
I think that’s a very good point. I think it’s a lot about communication, but it starts with the knowledge and the willingness to be truthful. Once you have the knowledge and you are willing to truly be trustworthy, that’s where it all channels into the way you communicate. It’s all about the acceptance of the consumer to learn is there. Let’s be frank about it: if you want to learn about the relationship between diet and your skin, you will find an endless list of resources, some of them will [cite] the best universities and academic institutions and are not connected to any brand or any company. So the knowledge is there. The rationale is well supported by science. I believe that, to your point, the task that the brands have is to translate these scientific findings into the common language in a way that is digestible, so not just that the product needs to be digestible – the message should be digestible! We can see from our experience as marketeers that the brands that are doing it right are exceeding in sales, as simple as that.
What do you think comes next for Lycored?
Historically we used to say ‘that’s the $1 million dollar question’, but when we speak to our shareholders they say ‘$1 million dollars – that’s it?!’ Humanity has developed its appetite, so let’s call it the $1 billion question to set a nice prosperous goal. I believe that the future for Lycored has two ends: one is a very sustainable, environmentally friendly as well as human-friendly supply chain. We are very passionate about being socially responsible – that’s where it starts. At the end of the day, Lycored is a company that is not synthesising anything – everything comes from the farm. We literally grow the biomass. We have a greater understanding that our ‘north star’ is to be as sustainable and as responsible as possible. So our responsibility towards our customer is to have a flowing, high-quality stream of not just ideas but also products – but also our responsibility towards the planet and towards humanity is to do it in a very greenish way. So that’s one end of Lycored’s future: we invest into recycling, we invest into waste, we invest into new technologies that will affect the environment less and less.
At the same time, we invest a lot into the breeds of the fruits and vegetables that we cultivate, and of course in a non-GMO methodology. We put a lot of investment into growing our crops around the world – so we are currently looking into new areas of growing and cultivating. So that’s the back end, the farming end. On the front end, which is research and all the way to the consumer, we go deeper into the understanding of the process of ageing – but not just ageing as it refers to beauty, but ageing as it refers to how you can age, grow older, and maintain true wellness. So we focus on better understanding of male mechanism versus a better understanding of female mechanism, we are looking at how to optimise the levels of the nutrients that thrives in your bloodstream so you will be able to consume as [little] as possible to get to this point when you are at your best. From there, we go deeper into very advanced scientific programmes that start to look into subcategories of the population, a step closer into personalisation. That’s where we are heading.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019