The new company, based in Wayland, Mich. was founded by Bob Serulla, an entrepreneur in the natural products space who had a small chain of health food stores. With the help of a Chinese partner that supplies a key ingredient, Sulla and chief science officer Don VerHulst, MD revamped a former blood sugar management product line to create InBalance.
The InBalance line includes supplements, but the driver of the new company is the line of InBalance bars that the company is sampling at its booth in Baltimore, where the company is making contacts for distribution in the natural channel. The response has been heartening, Lowell Johnson, CFO and COO for InBalance Health told NutraIngredients-USA.
Taste wins customers over
“We are at Expo East to get into the naturals. We’ve already talked to some major players. One flat out said, ‘We want the bar (in our stores),’ ” he said.
“We are pretty confident this thing is going to go. And really it’s based on them coming to the booth and tasting the bar. That’s been one of the major factors. They are expecting a bar that tastes like cardboard and it is far from that,” he said.
"InBalance Health products fill a void in the diabetes' community - a void created by the lack of good-tasting snack foods and effective supplements that help people curb their appetite between meals, and avoid spikes in blood sugar, as well as aiding in glucose-management," Serulla said.
The company seems well placed from a market-size perspective. A study released this week stated that currently, more than 25 million Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes. It goes on to state that if the obesity epidemic continues unchecked, the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, hypertension and arthritis could increase 10 times between 2010 and 2020—and double again by 2030.
Mulberry leaf extract
The bars are built around a suite of natural and organic ingredients and come in four flavors. But the heart of their health message is the ingredient from the Chinese supplier, a branded, patent-pending form of mulberry leaf extract called MoruCel, which the company says helps stabilize post-meal blood sugar levels and limits spikes by inhibiting the absorption of sugars and carbohydrates. Dr. VerHulst said studies have shown mulberry leaf extract to have blood sugar control benefits. These studies were done using less potent varieties of this extract. Studies on the MoruCel ingredient itself are in the planning stages, he said.
Johannsen said the company has plans to distribute the bars beyond the natural channel and is shooting for mass channel distribution in stores like Walgreens and CVS for the first quarter of 2013. The third phase, he said, would be to target smaller players, perhaps even to compete in the sugar-laden universe of convenience stores.
“We’re even looking at trying to get a diabetic-friendly bar into a gas station,” he said.
The bars are formulated to be 100% vegan, and are formulated with organic and nautral ingredients. Some organic choices are cost prohibitive, Dr. VerHulst said, especially if what he termed as a “very clean” natural alternative is available. But the core message he said, is that the bars are formulated to fit into a whole food-type positioning.
“What we are doing is getting people a healthy alternative. It’s real food for real results,” he said.