Biothera has placed Wellmune in a number of products in a wide range of categories. The ingredient’s success is because of two factors, said Richard Mueller, Biothera’s CEO. The company has backed the ingredient with a significant set of studies and the category is waxing in importance.
“The primary reason is that the technology is based on real science that shows a benefit. We have numerous plublished clinical studies that shows the benefits of Wellmune,” Mueller told NutraIngredients-USA.
“And immune health and the importance of the immune system is reaching critical mass with consumers.”
Immune system potentiator
Wellmune is a 1,3/1,6 beta glucan derived from yeast. Biothera says that more than $350 million has been spent developing the ingredient and researching its mode of action. The company’s research shows that ingredient works by binding to immune system cells known as neutrophils, priming them for activity against invaders. But unlike other ‘immune boosting’ ingredients, such as Echinacea, the ingredient does not ramp up immune system activity; rather it helps the neutrophils respond more effectively when they are called into action. So it can be used on an ongoing basis, whereas other immune system ingredients are generally recommended for only occasional use.
“Early on, immune products, including ours, were looked at a seasonal product. There were big increases in cold and flu products beginning in the fall, at least in North America,” Mueller said.
“But because of the understanding of our mechanism action and the need for a year-round strengthening of the immune system, that has changed.
“We are now in many products around the world that are year-round products. We are even in a bread which is a daily-consumed product,” he said.
Filling the niches
With the ingredient’s formulation flexibility, Mueller said Biothera is looking to fill as many market niches as it can. And immune health ingredients don’t seen to bear the burden of other ingredients that might have consumer preconceptions about where they belong. Probiotics, for example, have stumbled in certain delivery formats and have only recently started to gain traction outside of supplements and the dairy aisle.
So while the straw product is unlikely to be one of Biothera’s biggest sellers, the launch is important nonetheless.
“One of the reasons is to show consumers that they can end up with the health benefit of Wellmune no matter how they want it delivered to them. Every consumer is different. We want to be in every type of delivery vehicle that consumer wants or in every type of food or beverage that the customer consumes,” Mueller said.
Biothera will highlight the new staws at its booth at the upcoming IFT show in Chicago. In addition to the straws, the company will showcase two other recent launches, a functional yogurt combining Wellmune with a probiotic and a freezer pop containing Wellmune and a prebiotic.