Phenolaeis, based in Cambridge, MA, put together a brand, First Date, and a product, Date & Oat Bites clean label snack product for a better-for-you healthy energy positioning. It’s formulated as chewy granola bites, with three of the ‘bites’ per serving. The main ingredient is Phenolaeis’ Palm Fruit Extract.
Clearing the sustainability hurdle
The ingredient first debuted several years ago when it was first known as Palm Fruit Bioactives Complex. The ingredient gets around the sustainability concerns that dog palm fruit ingredients generally, especially the ubiquitous food grade oil, by sourcing its raw material from a palm oil plantation in Chiapas, the most southerly province of Mexico. The plantation was begun on land that had been reclaimed from a previous use as low-grade grazing acreage, meaning no virgin rainforest was razed for the operation.
The prototype game has changed in the post pandemic world, said John Musselman, vice president of sales and marketing for Phenolaeis. Prototypes offered in the context of a trade show booth can have rougher edges, as company personnel can walk a potential future customer through the possibilities the prototype represents. Without that personal interaction, the prototype has to be much closer to an actual finished product ready for the shelf, Musselman said.
“COVID has changed everything, that’s definitely true,” Musselman said. “We’re optimistic that this one could be absolutely be a ready to go private label opportunity.”
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 Bioactives Complex (PFBc) 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.
Powerful suite of functional ingredients
According to Phenolaeis, Palm Fruit Extract has a wide variety of unique polyphenols that have been studies for anti oxidant, healthy aging an immune health support benefits. For the healthy snacking prototype, Phenolaeis chose to team its extract with other synergistic functional benefits such as Taiyo’s Suntheanine, which is a pure L-isomer-theanine, which the supplier claims has been shown to stimulate alpha waves brain activity, which is associated with a relaxed but alert mental state.
In addition the product includes Bioenergy Ribose, a patented 5-carbon carbohydrate that stimulates the body’s natural energy production for greater endurance, enhanced physical performance and reduced muscle soreness post exercise.
Rounding out the function ingredient list is a raw coffee powder from Taiyo, which provides the boost of caffeine with addition benefit of a mores sustained release profile as the caffeine is presented in a form where it is still bound to the fiber in the ingredient.
The functional ingredients are carried in a base of dates and oats that provide energy, fiber and some healthy fat. Dates have a well documented preservative property, allowing the formula to claim a six-month shelf life without artificial preservatives.
The result is a product ready to carve out a niche in the marketplace for a potential customer, Musselman said.
“[It] is a great-tasting, clean label premium product with four premium, functional ingredients inside, in effective dosages, that complement one another. What you won’t see are ingredients that are in there for the wrong reasons, or for no reason,” he said.
Healthy snacking, sports nutrition, Esports
The potential market niches are healthy snacking, customers interested in mental alertness and focus and a potential sports nutrition application, too, Musselman said. In addition, he said, a delivery tweak that would feature physically smaller bites packed in such as so that the end user could eat them without having to handle them, such as dispensed from a tube, might interest the Esports crowd as it would avoid having to get one’s hands sticky.
This is the second recent stab and at a finished product formulation for Phenolaeis. An earlier such product was a premium chocolate, which traded on the ingredient’s ability to mask bitter flavor notes to go along with its bioactive properties. The company has also paired the ingredient with a premium freeze dried instant coffee powder prototype for the same purpose.