Neptune Technologies and Bioressources has entered into a collaborative agreement with the Nestle Research Centre that will pave the way towards Neptune Krill Oil's use in range of functional foods.
The Canadian biotech has supplied Neptune Krill Oil (NKO) - a lipid derived from the planktonic family of crustacean, is rich in omega-3 as well as phospholipids and antioxidants - to the dietary supplement market since 2003.
In 2005 VP R&D and business development Tina Sampalis told NutraIngredients-USA.com that the company was eyeing opportunities in Europe, primarily in the functional foods market.
The agreement with Nestle is regarded as a major step in making this a reality - not least because Nestle is the world's largest food company, and has an expressed focus on expanding in the health and wellness field.
The research began at the start of this month, said Neptune today. The design has been drawn up and primary investigators recruited.
The companies have not disclosed the precise areas of benefit to be explored, beyond saying they will be on "exceptionally prevalent conditions affecting the worldwide adult population".
But Neptune has previously reported positive results for studies looking at its potential in cognitive function, particularly adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The company claims that participants in a pilot study improved their ability to concentrate and their working capacity by an average of 60.2 percent over the course of the trial.
It has also studied its ability to help reduce LDL 'bad' cholesterol.
The procedure for a development and license agreement between Neptune and Nestle upon successful completion of the research is built into the current agreement.
Pending such a deal to help it break into foods with the support of a major multinational, Neptune has developed formats to aid NKO's use in food formulations. For instance, in March it said it had overcome barriers to incorporate NKO in custards, in alliance with Terepia.
Major though the announcement of the Nestle collaboration is, it is not the only prong to Neptune's attack on the functional foods market.
Neptunes VP of business development in functional foods Thierry Houillon said: "In order to further capitalize on the sustainable growth of the functional food market as planned in our business plan, we are already targeting more strategic worldwide partners."
Last month it was revealed that NKO is also to be used in a range of dairy products marketed by Yoplait.
The products will be clinically tested for their effect on chronic health conditions. Yoplait will then launch those products that secure approval in strategically chosen pilot markets to begin with. Neptune will receive an upfront fee for the supply of NKO, as well as milestone payments and distribution royalties to follow.
As for the Nestle Research Centre, research collaborations with ingredients companies and are a key part of its activities, helping it to be at the forefront of latest developments in functional ingredients.
It has a similar research agreement with Australian ingredients firm Phosphagenics to explore the use of Phospha E, an advanced form of vitamin E, in foods aimed at reducing metabolic syndrome.