NutraIngredients-USA spoke with Melanie Bush, chief science officer of the Fort Wayne, IN-based company at the Expo West trade show. Several years ago the company, which has long been in the berry business, rebranded its ingredients line as Berryceuticals, which Bush said matches the offerings with the company’s mission to promote the health properties of dark-hued fruit.
Chance encounter led to founding of company
Bush said Aronia berry (Aronia melanocarpa) could be the next in line in the familiar story in the dietary ingredients business of the ‘overnight’ sensation that was years in the making. The discovery of the fruit years ago by company founder Jan Mills was actually the basis for the whole business.
Mills came across the fruit during a business trip to Poland in the mid 90s during her previous career as an international consultant. Poland was and still is a pioneer in the commercialization of this little known fruit, and is one of the places Artemis now sources its raw material.
The botanical is a shrub native to eastern North America that is often grown as an ornamental because the leaves turn a vibrant red in autumn. Bush said the common name—chokeberry, referring to its bitter, earthy flavor—has been a barrier to wider acceptance.
Bush said there is a history of use for the berry in Native American cultures, but it is really modern science that is driving the story of the botanical’s health benefits.
“The Native American peoples were using a lot of the plant materials that were available to them on the land. It was known for its general health benefits. But now we know that the berry has tremendous heart health benefits,” Bush told NutraIngredients-USA.
Bolstering the heart health story
Past research has shown that daily consumption of 300 mg aronia extract for 2 months decreased blood pressure, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and total triglyceride, and increased antioxidant enzyme activity in adults with metabolic syndrome. Similarly, daily consumption of 255 mg aronia extract for 6 weeks reduced blood pressure, oxidized low-density lipoprotein, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, and monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 in patients that survived a myocardial infarction and were prescribed statins.
More recent research from 2017 conducted by researchers from the University of Connecticut and the University of Wisconsin showed that consumption of the berry reduced plasma total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in former smokers.
Getting the word out
What Aronia lacks at the moment, Bush said, is an affiliation with an established group that can drive both research and public acceptance as happened with wild blueberries. Several years ago Artemis brought on John Sauve as vice president of marketing. Sauve was instrumental in the early rise of blueberry when he served as executive director of the Wild Blueberry Association of North America from 1993 to 2004.
“What happened with blueberries is what needs to happen with Aronia berry,” Sauve said. When he started with the group, blueberries were thought of as just a nice fruit to eat, and the specific health properties were largely unknown, according to Sauve.
“Right now it’s more networks with people spearheading it such as Artemis on the ingredient side,” Bush said.
The company does have a recent high profile finished product win with the launch of a new Artery Health supplement by Weider Global Nutrition that features Artemis’s BerryDark Aronia 15% ingredient.