French fruit specialist bets on probiotic to fuel Americas launch

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: Charles & Alice
Photo: Charles & Alice
French firm Charles & Alice is making its first foray into North America and markets beyond based on the benefits of a well-known probiotic: BC-30, which was developed by Ganeden, now part of Irish ingredients giant Kerry.

Charles & Alice has a 75-year history in the French market as a producer of chilled fresh fruit snacks. To mark its first entry to a market outside of France the company chose a functional platform of boosting gut and immune health via Ganeden’s well-researched Bacillus coagulans​ strain.

Formulation advantages of spore-forming probiotic

This probiotic is of the spore-forming variety and offers some formulation benefits. The organism is an exogenous probiotic, which was first isolated from soil. This means it was adapted to survival for long periods outside of the environment of the guts of animals, making it naturally shelf stable.

And the strain has well-documented specific germination criteria in terms of pH and temperature, meaning it can be added to certain food matrices without the risk of accelerated spoilage.

Evan Eckman, chief marketing officer of Charles & Alice North America, said all of this made it a natural fit for Charles & Able’s US market launch product, which is named Kids! Fruit Probiotics.

“We started developing this product more than three years ago,”​ Eckman told NutraIngredients-USA. “We worked with Ganeden and were intrigued by their product’s efficacy. It’s a very well researched strain, with more than 25 published papers.”

The fruit pouches provide 1 billion CFU of BC-30 in two 3.2 oz (90 g) servings. The products, which are labeled with a Nutrition Facts panel, are branded with a claim of “supports digestive & immunity health”​ on the front.  They retail for $1.49 each.

Eckman said the idea behind the product, which must be refrigerated, is that it will go into the chilled, insulated lunch boxes that are now common in the market. And the second serving could be taken as an after-school snack.

French emphasis on food quality

Eckman said Charles & Alice’s emphasis on product quality and taste—important aspects of French culinary culture—won’t be sacrificed as the company adapts its message to the US market.

“Our original and primary focus was introducing the delicious taste of these chilled fruit products to the US. The company has dozens of products that are sold today in France,”​ he said.

“That aspect of French culture is really important to the company. There is increasing marketplace interest in the US in plant-based foods and in grab and go snacks,” ​Eckman said.

Distribution beyond US

To maintain its quality standards, Eckman said a decision was made to invest in a dedicated production facility in Lancaster, PA, rather than to launch via a co-packer. The facility has enough capacity to support not only growth in the US market, but beyond, to places such as Latin America, Eckman said.

“We have distribution in selected Walmarts, in the Price Chopper chain and in Meyer, but that is really changing daily,” ​Eckman said.

“Our factory is prepared for this product to be a breakout success for national distribution in the United States and in the Americas. We have had customer receptivity and we are very interested in marketing this product beyond the US,” ​he added.

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