The two companies are just starting to promote the zinc-carnosine ingredient, manufactured by Japanese firm Hamari Chemical. Until recently, the ingredient was supplied by Lonza. However, since October 2007, distribution was taken over by Xsto, which is in a partnership with B&D. The firm's VP of business development Dan Murray told NutraIngredients-USA.com that over the past few months the two companies have been conducting "soft-sales" of the ingredient, but are only just starting to give it a big promotional push. Zinc-carnosine in the US Hamari Chemical's zinc-carnosine is a crystalline amino-mineral complex of L-carnosine and zinc, marketed for stomach health. According to the companies, zinc-carnosine has been used in Japan since 1994 for stomach disorders such heartburn, indigestion, stomach irritation and ulcers, and has "a strong track record of safety, efficacy and scientific merit." Dan Murray had taken on US distribution of the ingredient in 2002 when he was with Lonza. When he moved to Xsto, the ingredient went with him. He said Hamari will be using the same brand name for the ingredient as that used by Lonza - PepZin GI - although the chemical name zinc-carnosine is also starting to gain awareness in the industry. The ingredient combines L-carnosine - a naturally occurring dipeptide found in muscle and brain tissue - with elemental zinc for a powerful antioxidant, tissue-healing and mucosal-supportive complex. Murray said it was 'allowed for use' by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002, when the new dietary supplement ingredient process had been completed. Benefits According to Murray, the ingredient helps maintain the protective mucosal lining in the stomach and intestines- the natural barrier of our GI track, which protects the stomach and gut from harmful bacteria and acid exposure. Xsto and B&D claim that animal studies have shown that this chelated molecule has biological activity that surpasses that of the individual ingredients or a simple mixture of the ingredients. Human trials of zinc-carnosine demonstrate "remarkable improvements" in objective outcomes as well as subjective symptoms such as heartburn, nausea, vomiting, belching and bloating, said the firms. "As an ingredient for supplementation, it ushers in a new era of evidence-based dietary supplements and natural support for digestive issues," said B&D in a statement. Distribution Xsto and B&D will be taking a slightly different approach to distribution than that taken by Lonza. "When we launched with Lonza we did exclusive channel distributions - that was a decent strategy, but it led to less people being aware of the product. This time we're not doing channel exclusivity - it's essentially wide open, available to all marketers and finished product manufacturers," Murray told NutraIngredients-USA.com. Digestive health market Digestive health is slowly gathering speed in the US market, but it still lags behind other health concerns, such as heart health, immune health or weight management. To date, the largest segment of the digestive health market - particularly within the functional food category - is taken up by products made with 'friendly bacteria', or probiotics. "Digestive health is a growing area that people are just now starting to recognize with probiotics. Until now it has been super-dominated with over the counter drugs. But there has been double-digit growth over the past few years for natural products for digestive health," said Murray. Data from Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD) also reveals that the digestive health segment is picking up. According to the group's tracking on new products last year, there were 103 new items that claimed some benefit for digestive health. This is equivalent to an increase of 134 percent from the previous year, when 44 new products were launched. Perhaps most notable though, is the fact that in 2003 Mintel recorded no products launched in this segment. However, as awareness started to pick up, foods and drinks aimed at maintaining digestive health started to trickle onto the market: four new products were introduced in 2004, and 19 in 2005. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, there are 95m people in the US that suffer from digestive problems. Some 60m are thought to suffer from heartburn, and 50m from irritable bowel syndrome. In addition, it is estimated that around 20m people suffer from stomach ulcers. Murray said that although the companies are currently only targeting the dietary supplement market, they could consider applying for GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status in the future - "but we'd have to have a market ready for us".