Eric Anderson, managing director of NXT USA, said the curious thing about companion animal supplements is that the choice of these products is often driven by what their human owners have used and have had success with.
“Human owners who have been taking a certain supplement for their joint health or for their digestion and they’ll see that Bucky’s walking a little stiffly and think, let’s give him some of this,” Anderson said.
NXT USA, which debuted its TamaFlex supplement in 2018 on the human market in GNC stores, wants to enter the equine market supported by data, rather than mere product familiarity, Anderson said.
Ingredients taken from Ayurvedic tradition
TamaFlex is produced by NXT USA—backed in part by Norwegian investors—which is a multinational group formed to develop the ingredient. TamaFlex pairs a tamarind seed extract with a turmeric extract to achieve what the developer calls a synergistic combo that addresses joint discomfort via several biochemical pathways.
In both cases the ingredients arise out of Indian herbal medicine and culinary traditions. Turmeric has been a base ingredient for curries in all parts of India for many centuries. Tamarind seeds and fruit is a prominent spice in curries from southern India. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a root crop, whereas tamarind (Tamarindus indica) is a fruit bearing tree. Both plants are cultivated on a wide scale in India and have been introduced in tropical climes in other parts of the world.
Developer: Joint health market overdue for something new
Anderson said the opportunity for joint health ingredients in the human market remains a robust one, even if the market for these ingredients has lagged somewhat.
“The population is aging yet people still want to be significantly ambulatory and have an active lifestyle. As we hit age 40 or 50 even general exertion, such as taking our kids to the park or gardening, can get you sore. That can progress to significant joint discomfort,” Anderson told NutraIngredients-USA.
“But the old standbys, glucosamine and chondroitin, have been losing significant sales over the years. The market is looking for something new,” he added.
Anderson said the TamaFlex ingredient has been under development for a number of years. The choice of ingredients was based on their biochemical properties and wasn’t driven by market forces, Anderson maintains. A snap reaction for the announcement of a new turmeric product might be that the line is a long one.
“We chose tamarind seed extract and turmeric extract because they have complimentary mechanisms. When we settled on turmeric, it hadn’t yet blown up the way it has in the past four years,” Anderson said.
Potential big market for equine joint care
The market for joint care supplements in the equine market is potentially significant. Anderson said in conjunction with the human joint health market there hasn’t been much new for horses, either. A somewhat older survey from The Veterinary Record found that of 399 horses in the Netherlands used as a baseline sample 20% were lame and 12% suffered back problems (the ‘experimental’ sample in this survey pertained to working jumpers and dressage horses which, not surprisingly, suffered orthopedic issues at far higher rates).
The most recent survey of US horse ownership, done in 2017, showed that there were about 1 million horse owners in the US who were maintaining about 7.2 million horses. If the Dutch statistics hold true, that would mean there are about 1.5 million horses out there suffering enough joint pain for the disability to be noticeable and to affect their utility as mounts.
Market entry to be based on data
To access this market, Anderson said the NXT partners decided to sponsor a study on horses. The research, which is nearing the publication phase, was done on working horses in India that were disabled enough that they had been sent to the slaughterhouse. The placebo-controlled trial showed that 2.5 grams of the TamaFlex extract combo, given by daily oral gavage over the course of the 84-day study, significantly improved lameness scores and restored most of the treated group to apparently pain free ambulatory condition.TT
In addition to the somewhat subjective lameness scores, which were assessed by trainers, the researchers also did several blood draws during the course of the study. Anderson said these showed the product was down regulating markers of inflammation and also seemed to be suppressing the expression of markers pertaining to cartilage degradation.
“This is how we planned to build our business for TamaFlex, is to base it on the evidence,” Anderson said.