The new brand name, Veri-te, will help boost awareness of an ingredient that was ‘hard launched’ at the Supply Side West trade show in Las Vegas in late 2014. But sales for the ingredient, which Basel, Switzerland-based Evolva acquired when it bought the Fluxome business out of bankruptcy in 2012, were slower to develop. Angela Tsetsis, the US-based vice president of health and wellness for Evolva, said it was time to put a more market-facing image onto the ingredient.
“We had been using the corporate name for the ingredient, but I don’t think that brought very much to the party when it came to differentiating the ingredient,” Tsetsis told NutraIngredients-USA. “We see this a good time to do this. We’ve grown our commercial team. With any premium ingredient where you don’t want it to become commoditized, you have to highlight its differentiating factors.”
“It’s the same ingredient, a greater than 98% purity resveratrol. But we have definitely improved our processes to bring down the cost to a more competitive level. That can happen with fermentation,” Tsetsis said.
Question of synthetic biology
In the time since the initial launch of the ingredient in 2014, the conversation around so-called ‘synthetic biology’ has taken a hard turn. The term refers to the genetic modification of organisms to produce new compounds of interest, which is what Evolva has done with its propriety strain of bakers yeast, modifying it to produce resveratrol. ETC Group, a non profit entity based in Ottawa, Canada, has raised awareness about the effects of this fermentation technology on markets of natural ingredients, such as vanilla derived from vanilla beans. The question, according to Jim Thomas, program director for ETC Group, is whether fermented ingredients should be able to call themselves ‘natural’ because fermentation is a ‘natural’ process, or so the argument goes. The cost of those ingredients could undercut the natural supply chain by a significant amount, disrupting the livelihood of indigenous producers, if they are allowed to compete on the same playing field, he has argued.
The situation is somewhat different with resveratrol in that it has always been a compound extracted for use a dietary ingredient, and the natural vs synthetic question is a less burning one in dietary supplements. First identified as the substance in red wine that could account for the French paradox, the botanically-sourced resveratrol that is on the market comes primarily from Japanese knotweed. There are no village dwelling resveratrol farmers to put out of business, in other words, and supplement consumers have (perhaps in ignorance) happily used products containing synthetically produced vitamins for many years.
Tsetsis said that Evolva’s position is that it wants to be completely transparent about what the ingredient is and where it comes from, hence the new name, which means ‘truth’ in Romance languages. Evolva does talk about fermentation being a ‘natural’ process.
“We are completely transparent about it because we are not trying to pass ourselves off as something that we are not. For some, resveratrol from fermentation is not what they are looking for, but there is a place for it for those who are looking for a product that is consistent batch-to-batch and is independent of concerns about environmental contamination,” she said.
“We say that we are non GMO. There are GMOs used in the production process, but the compound itself is expressed outside of those organisms,” Tsetsis said.
Building the science
Evolva is working on building up the science backing for the ingredient. The company announced a study looking at the effects of resveratrol supplementation for post-menopausal women. Results from that study are about a year away, and the bone health endpoints are new for the category and could serve to expand the market for the ingredient, Tsetsis said.
“In that study we are looking at the effects on bone health. We already have two studies completed that look at our resveratrol and its effect on men with metabolic disorders, a lot of whom can develop osteoporosis when the metabolism is out whack and bone formation is not what it should be. And when you think about osteoporosis, post-menopausal women are at the most risk,” she said.
While resveratrol is an antioxidant, it functions differently than most, Tsetsis said. Most antioxidants have their effects at the surface of cells, soaking up free radicals there and preventing damage to cell membranes. Resveratrol is incorporated deep into the cell and can help protect telomeres on DNA strands and can help prevent the erosion in the functioning of mitochondria, the cellular energy factories, as the body ages. And while healthy aging will always be the wheel house for the ingredient, those mitochondrial effects means that sports nutrition could be a new growth area for resveratrol, she said.
“There hasn’t been a lot of research that shows results there yet but I have seen several trials that are focused on sports recovery or performance.”