Xsto's new cell culture form of echinacea could hit sweet spot in market threatened by adulteration

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Xsto Solutions image
Xsto Solutions image

Related tags Adulteration Immune health coronavirus Cell culture

Branded ingredient supplier Xsto Solutions is launching a new echinacea product line based on a cell culture technology that hits the market at a what might prove to be a propitious time when supply of this botanical has been skewed by a huge spike in demand due to the coronavirus crisis.

The new product line is branded as EccaTrue and is launching in the United States in partnership with an  Italian firm Active Botanicals Research (ABR) that invented the technology.  The technology applies to several botanicals, but the choice has been made to concentrate on echinacea for the time being.

Cultivating the cells, not the plant

The Italian developers took the tack of identifying what particular cells within the plant were producing the bioactives of interest. Then those cells were cultured and their production of metabolites amplified via the use of a fermentation medium.  The resulting product is then purified into its final form and is standardized to 4% content of the active metabolite echinacoside.

“We try to launch one or two new branded products like this a year,”​ Dan Murray, vice president of business development for Xsto Solutions told NutraIngredients-USA.  “We (Murray and his partner Patrick Foley) fly around the world going to meetings with product developers. This partnership started with a representative of  ABR approaching us at a trade show.”

Xsto first announced the partnership in 2018​, but now the ingredient is finally ready for market.  It’s a rare foray into botanicals for Xsto, which in the past has concentrated on branded forms of minerals and vitamins like a no-flush form of niacin.

“We traditionally have not handled a lot of botanicals because of the lack of validation or the adulteration aspect,” Murray said. 

But Murray said the new products have the reliability of a defined chemical process behind them.  While that may not fit into what some advocates of botanical ingredients deem natural, it does make for lot to lot reliability in Murray’s view.

“We like this product because of its clean aspect,” ​he said. “I believe in chemical synthesis.  It gives you a clean, known, pure product that you can duplicate every time.”

Murray said ABR has achieved Novel Foods status on the product in the EU and Xsto has completed a GRAS dossier on it for the US market.

Solid data for positive ID

In addition to the known parameters of ABR’s process, Murray said Xsto has taken an additional step of developing an NMR fingerprint for the product to provide a rock-solid underpinning for ID testing.  It brands the approach as NMRPure Botanicals.

The ingredient will be hitting the market at what might be an advantageous time.  Interest in any dietary supplement ingredient that has an immune health tie in has soared, and echinacea is no exception.  Experts contacted by NutraIngredients-USA were of the opinion that the market is likely to be short in the months ahead​.  That could extend to years if the current torrid pace of sales continues at some heightened level into the future.  Echinacea is cultivated in many areas around the globe, but the plant is a perennial that takes a few years to mature, especially if it’s the roots you’re after (formulators use both the roots and aerial parts of the botanical).

The consistency and authenticity of Xsto’s ingredient will come at a bit of a premium. But in Murray’s view that will buy peace of mind in a market in which adulteration could become a growing concern.

“We are not an agriculturally produced commodity,”​ Murray said. “We aim to be about 10% more expensive than high quality echinacea. We would be about 20% more expensive than some of the inexpensive ingredients out there.”


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