The coronavirus pandemic spread to Latin America later then other places on the globe. Benexia CEO Sandra Gillot said the situation is just reaching its peak in Chile, where the company has its headquarters and production plant, and in Argentina and Bolivia, where it grows its crops. But favorable legislation and prior planning means the company is as well set up as it can be to weather the crisis.
Planning, favorable legislation benefits company
“We are very fortunate that we could continue our industrial activities normally, thanks to the Chilean legislation that protects all the activities related to the food industry in general, and we are a food processing plant. We have to take a lot of precautions for our people, obviously, as Chile is in the worst time of the COVID-19 crisis,” Gillot told NutraIngredients-USA.
“In Bolivia and Argentina, where we grow our chia seed, we could become organized at the very early stage of the pandemic and get the genetics needed for the planting season, so everything is on track right now, happily. We are expecting good yields and results as far as we go in this very special growing season,” she added.
Over the years Benexia has diversified into finished goods and now produces a line of chia pastas, oils, flours and bulk protein to go with a new line of softgel supplements featuring chia oil, all under the SOW, or Seeds of Wellness, brand name. Gillot said the link between chia seed oil, which is rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and lower levels of inflammation has caught consumers’ eyes during this time when people are looking for any health edge possible.
Health properties boost sales
“There is no evidence that Omega-3 fatty acids have a direct relationship with the immune system's response to viral or bacterial diseases. Alpha-linolenic (ALA) Omega-3 fatty acid is related to immune support through its contribution to the body’s appropriate response in terms of inflammation. The excess of Omega-6 in our modern western diet leads to an exceeded inflammatory response, and a lot of chronic conditions and diseases that are due to inflammation,” she said.
“ALA is the precursor of EPA, which is itself a precursor of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. In addition, ALA acts to competitively inhibit the conversion of Linoleic acid (LA) to Arachidonic Acid (AA), resulting in decreased amounts of substrate available for the production of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids, derivatives of AA Omega-6,” Gillot added.
Gillot said Benexia has observed a shift in consumers’ buying habits toward foods and supplements with express health supporting benefits.
“We have seen a great increase in demand on our SOW product line, already before, but especially during the COVID-19 situation. Our SOW chia pastas and chia oil are doing really well, both selling amazingly well via our brick and mortar retailers as well as our online platforms. Especially during these challenging times, we’re seeing that people are much more aware of their food choices and that they are making healthy eating decisions based on a desire to nourish their body to improve their health,” Gillot said.
Having sufficient inventory is a key element to Benexia’s recent success, Gillot said. As well known dietary supplement and food brands struggle to keep out of stock situations to a minimum in this time of huge and unpredictable demand spikes, experts in the food supply realm say the situation has created openings for lesser known brands that are prepared to take advantage.
“Retailers like to take on higher stock levels on these items, as the demand from their shoppers show steep increases,” Gillot said.