Although its main use remains in dietary supplements, which make up more than 70 percent of Pycnogenol-containing products, functional foods (including beverages) have carved out a slice that now accounts for around 15 percent. Cosmetics and pharmaceutical uses account for around six per cent each.
COO and executive vice president of Horphag Research Victor Ferrari explained to NutraIngredients.com that the single food category in which his company does the most business is beverages.
Part of the reason is that it is water-soluble and relatively stable. But market trends are also a factor, as companies are looking at single-servings of functional products, in an easy-to-deliver format.
"Everyone is doing towards functionality," said Ferrari. To him, adding functional ingredients "You cannot prepare cheaper marmalade.
"There is a need for value added products, with value added ingredients that complement the original value."
A constant combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids, Pycnogenol is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It also selectively binds collagen and elastin and aids in the production of endothelial nitric oxide, which helps to vasodilate blood vessels.
Some of the most recent areas of benefit studied include hypertension, asthma, chronic venous insufficiency, osteoarthtitis, deep vein thrombosis, diabetes management, diabetic leg ulcers and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Examples of drink products using Pycnogenol include a detox beverage marketed in the UK by retail chemist Boots; in the US a company is presently selling a drink premix, and new drink concepts are under development.
Pycnogenol is also present in some specialized food products in powder form, such as meal replacements for diabetics, and there are some "interesting concepts" under investigation for the dairy market, said Ferrari.
Pycnogenol made its first entry into functional foods in 1998 in Japan, the home of FOSHU foods (foods for specified health uses). In 2003 it achieved GRAS status in the US.
Despite this, Ferrari said he doesn't see the US market as "very innovative in applying proper solutions". Rather, it tends to jump on the latest trendy ingredient, such as aloe and pomegranate in recent times, sometimes without consideration of the level of science to prove its efficacy.
Nonetheless, the in terms of global share, the US is the biggest overall market for Pycnogenol, where it is marketed by Natural Health Science Company. Europe comes in second place, followed by Japan, where it has been used in functional foods since 1998 and where Otsuka recently used it in an energy drink called AminoValio.
The growing markets of China and India are each half the size of Japan.
Horphag entered India last year when it announced deals with SunPharma and Alkem. At the time, it was expecting demand for about 1,000kg in its first year. Although it hasnot quite realised this, Ferrari said it is a big market, and the company is tapping all channels of distribution and communication.
Compared with China, Ferrari said that India is an easier market since it has an organised retail business. China, on the other hand, is fractured and local so there is more of a focus on network and direct sales.
Other Asian markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong are also said to be "very successful". The per kilo price of Pycnogenol tends to remain stable as Horphag has a steady year-round supply of the raw material pine bark from the forests of Les Landes, near Bordeaux in south west France.
The average global price is $3400 per kilo, but this depends on the market since higher distribution costs or the need for language or cultural assistance at a local level may have an impact.
Jess Halliday's visit to the Landes forest and Biolandes facility was funded by Horphag Research.