Over the past 18 months the company has gone through a number of stages on the road to commercialization of its ingredient Almega PL. Qualitas is headquartered in Jerusalem, Israel, but has built its algae production facility in West Texas.
Almega PL sports a unique chemical profile consisting of polar lipid structure featuring both phospholipids and glycolipids that the company says makes for superior absorption and digestibility. The company completed a successful NDI notification on the ingredient in June. Qualitas notes that its NDI notification is valid only for Almega PL’s specific composition and manufacturing process. Other aspects of Qualitas Health’s intellectual property—including algae growth and extraction techniques and Almega PL’s composition—are patent-protected.
The first products to be launched are Almega PL, introduced by Dr David Williams and sold by Healthy Directions, that contain EPA and polar lipids from Almega PL. This product is positioned as 100% vegetarian EPA omega-3 for mood and heart health. Healthy Directions is a direct-to-consumer nutritional supplement retailer and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Helen of Troy Limited. And Veggie Omega-3+ from Dr. Mark Merriman at Rejuvenation Science Labs, which is a blend of Almega PL, algal DHA and astaxanthin. Veggie Omega-3+ is positioned as a fully vegetarian LC-PUFA omega-3.
“These brands are known for innovation and being early adopters—on the cutting edge of nutrition science and market trends. This marketing channel might lend itself to more dynamic companies. It seems that algal omega-3s and Almega PL are the future of the omega-3 market and these consumer products are the some of the first signs of this movement. We continue to work closely with brands and expect that there will be multiple product launches in 2015 across several channels,” said David Hart, vice president of marketing for Qualitas Health.
The West Texas production location features ample sunlight, cheap land and access to large stores of saline groundwater to grow the company’s non-GMO Nannochloropsis oculata photosynthetic strain. Qualitas is pursuing an open-pond cultivation method, which it believes is the only algae cultivation approach that can be scaled up economically. The facility is at commercial scale now, Hart said, and has plenty of expansion potential.
“Our Texas facility is growing algae on approximately 30 acres and will be expanding to the full 60-plus acres throughout 2015. We have more than 350 acres available on this site, so we can easily expand by an additional 10 times from our current algae growth,” he said.
Brand specific goals
Qualitas has positioned itself both as a vegetarian source of EPA and also as the only company offering an omega-3 with a glycolipid profile. The Rejuvenation Labs product, which mixes Qualitas’s ingredient with another algal omega 3 source, would seem to water that message down somewhat. Hart said that’s part of the game when dealing with customers who might have specific needs.
“Every brand and product has its own focus, whether it is a specific health indication for EPA, improved bioavailability from glycolipids and phospholipids, a vegetarian omega-3 source or strong environmental sustainability. As an ingredient supplier, we understand and respect our customers’ different product development needs and make a concerted effort to support them. It seems like this product’s main positioning is as a vegetarian/vegan alternative to krill or fish oils. The clinical trials we have performed show that the glycolipids in Almega PL seem to be a more effective carrier for EPA than phospholipids, and this might help the overall omega-3 absorption in this product,” Hart said.
While Qualitas is focused on the commercialization of Almega PL, the company is also looking at other ingredients that it can derive from its strain of Nannochloropsis oculata. It is also looking at other strains for future development, Hart said.
“Our R&D and biology teams are working hard on the next generation of products. These include algal protein, concentrated EPA oils and omega-7. In addition, we are exploring avenues to create a DHA product from non-GMO phototrophic algae,” he said.