Phenolaeis’ ingredient was a finalist in the 2019 NutraIngredients-USA Awards in the Healthy Aging category. At that time the ingredient was referred to as Palm Fruit Bioactives Complex. Phenolaeis, based in Cambridge, MA, has developed the ingredient in partnership with Grupo AIEn, a large Mexican CPG firm.
Ingredient development spans close to a decade
Phenolaeis was established in 2011 and was granted a worldwide license by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) to a portfolio of patents related to the isolation, formulation and methods of use of a water-soluble material produced from the fruit of the oil palm tree. Kevin Ohashi, PhD, CEO of Phenolaeis, said the water-soluble Palm Fruit Extract produced from the fruit of the oil palm tree has been subjected to extensive scientific study over the past 15 years. The fundamental technology development was led by MPOB which worked in collaboration with scientists from world-renowned universities and institutions such as MIT (Cambridge, MA), Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston, MA), Brandeis University (Boston, MA), Wayne State University (Detroit, MI), and CSIRO in Australia.
In December 2017, Phenolaeis completed a Joint Venture Partnership with Entorno Agroforestal and Evergreen Health to form Phenolaeis Mexico S.A.P.I. de C.V.
Ohashi said the palm oil plantation was established on land in Chiapas that had been cleared decades ago for pasture, so no rainforest was lost to grow the raw material.
The extract is a water-soluble, non-GMO plant complex derived from the oil palm fruit that is composed of at least five natural polyphenols, fibers, carbohydrates and protein. Its soluble fiber is a carrier of various bioactive components. The ingredient has shown some cognitive performance benefits both in terms of quelling oxidative stress as well as up regulating dopamine levels.
But it has another attractive property in that it can easily round out bitter, acidic notes in foodstuffs such as coffee and, now, chocolate.
John Musselman, vice president of sales for Phenolaeis, said the company’s new prototypes of Palm Fruit Extract in chocolate have followed a recent trend in which companies have found they need to take their prototype game up a notch if they want to get the attention of potential customers in this unusual time.
“People are being bombarded with webinars, zoom invites, and emails that say things like, ‘Would you please read this technical bulletin,’” Musselman said.
“We decided we really needed market ready solutions, something that was truly ready for white label,” he said.
New ingredient dictates new approach
“Even before we knew how much COVID was going to affect our go-to-market ability, we know that people don’t know what this is, and they don’t know how to use it,” Musselman said.
Musselman said the ‘innovation boxes’ that the company has sent out using the extract first in coffee and now in chocolate has generated some interesting feedback. The resulting formulations are less bitter than coffee or chocolate alone, and the new formulas have improved, creamier mouthfeel as well. Musselman said it’s not entirely clear yet how the extract is achieving these effects.
“We have an ongoing clinical study right now looking at cognitive and mood support states. We are hearing from the market a mood states support/emotional state support association is a great fit with what people already associate with coffee and chocolate. It’s a great fit,” he said.