Horphag CEO: “Marketing alone won’t do it; we give more weight to education”

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

The book "The Pycnogenol Phenomenon" was published November last year during Supplyside West.
The book "The Pycnogenol Phenomenon" was published November last year during Supplyside West.

Related tags Pine bark extract

An already a familiar name in the supplements industry, Horphag is ramping up its consumer education efforts on Pycnogenol to appeal to the new wave of environmentally-conscious, well-researched, and clean-label oriented consumers.

Antioxidant-rich maritime pine bark extract appears in a plethora of supplements, from sports to skin health to healthy aging. Unifying all the studies and trials that have been done, Geneva-based Horphag, manufacturer of the proprietary maritime pine bark blend Pycnogenol, is promoting a book published last fall, The Pycnogenol Phenomenon​.

“[The authors] wanted to create a book that was more consumer friendly than only being in academia,” ​Victor Ferrari, Horphag’s CEO, told NutraIngredients-USA at the Ingredients Marketplace show in Orlando last weekend.

“Our big challenge being that, with 340 published studies and more than 134 clinical trials in 10,000 pages—it makes a lot of data that is difficult to digest either for industry partners or the consumer,” ​he added.

The 196-page book was written by Richard A. Passwater, PhD, a research biochemist who is also the science editor for WholeFoods Magazine​, along with Peter Rohdewald, PhD, head of research and development at Horphag. Filled with graphs, tables, and texts in layman’s terms, the book combines study observations with anecdotal information, said Cheryl Costanzo, director of global communications at Horphag.

More research, more uses

At the close of 2015, a study on Pycnogenol’s efficacy to support healthy aging and improve cognitive functions among the baby boomers​ was published in the Journal of Neurosurgical Sciences​. According to Ferrari, as new observations of Pycnogenol’s benefits continue to emerge, it’s becoming increasingly important to invest in consumer education.

“We communicate first to the academic community through the publication of the studies, and then this allows for [peer-reviewed] verified data,” ​Ferrari said. “But that’s not enough, we also need to communicate that o the trade and business partners. So they get data the scientific data.”​ Then, in a variety of ways ranging from seminars to advertising to social media, they translate the difficult scientific language to ways more consumers can understand.

Ferrari said that the overall budget for research is above $1.7 million, “so it’s obvious that in our company, it’s an important investment to get the news out,” ​he added.

A different message for today

The ingredient has come a long way from when it was first studied in the pharmaceutical industry in the 50s and 60s. Ferrari emphasized that different aspects of the extract should be marketed today as consumer preferences have changed. 

Les Landes de Gascogne Pycnogenol
Pycnogenol is extracted from maritime pine tree barks from the Les Landes de Gascogne forest near Bordeaux, France.

“Pycnogenol would apply to ‘clean label’ perfectly for many reasons,” ​Ferrari said. “The extract comes from one particular source, geographically defined, and one particular plant species. Pycnogenol is the only pine bark extract that is pharmaceutical GMP-approved.”

The narrow sourcing criteria makes for a traceable product in a protected area, Ferrari added. Moreover, trees do not have to be specially cut down to make the ingredient, as the extraction process is done using by-products of other timber industries in the Les Landes de Gascogne forest in southwest France.

“Whenever a tree is cut for timber purposes, by law, they have to be replanted, and they are replanted. So it’s a renewable source, and a renewable ingredient,” ​he added.

According to Ferrari, green practices were something that had to be slowly implemented as technological advances developed: “Today you have new extraction technologies, new analytical technologies, and we know that environmental responsibility is very important, so we know we are a leader in this.”

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