The company, based in Santiago, has for years marketed and processed chia grown in Bolivia and elsewhere. But where years ago the company was packaging bulk seeds at it production plant in northern Chile, it is now mining the seeds for value added ingredients.
Making the switch to ingredients
“Our sales have changed from selling the bulk seeds to now 85% of it are ingredients,” Benexia’s CEO Sandra Gillot told NutraIngredients-USA.
The latest ingredient to arise form this process is called Benexia ALA Powder. The encapsulated, water-soluble ingredient is 25% alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) by weight. Gillot said it’s also highly stable, and has a high antioxidant content consisting of tocopherols and plant sterols.
Gillot said the new ingredient is aimed at beverages, meal replacements and other liquid applications as well as sachet delivery systems. It is well placed to capitalize on the plant-based nutrition trend, which she said is at its core a desire to get back to a more natural, cleaner label positioning for nutritional products.
Capitalizing on clean label trend
Maybe 50 years ago consumers were attracted by the modern marvels of food processing, which made products more convenient, with longer shelf lives and so forth. Today’s consumer is more focused on the tradeoffs inherent in that approach, whether it be lesser nutrition or diminished taste, and is seeking alternatives.
“The noise around the plant-based products in recent months has much to do with their lengthy ingredient lists, which sometimes include products or substances that we don’t want to see anymore. The industry will have to adapt its products to these new requirements from the market,” Gillot said.
Gillot also said the plant-based trend is not just about labels, taste and nutrition, but also addressed concerns about how food production affects the planet as a whole.
“You see big companies entering into the plant-based world, they understand this will be a big part of the market tomorrow. That answers veganism and flexitarian needs and also answers the efforts that need to be done to tackle the climate issue, which must be a priority in our industry,” she said.
Gillot said a big advantage of chia as a source of ALA-rich oil is its taste. Some other sources, like flax, tend to have more of a fishy odor typical of omega-3 products in general, but chia has more of a flavor note she likened to ‘roasted dry fruits.’
Focusing on benefits of ALA itself
The encapsulated dry powder will add formualtion flexibility, Gillot said. And it will help manufacturers breathe life back into the story of the benefits of ALA consumption, which she said had gotten lost a bit in the debate about conversion rates of ALA to EPA and DHA.
“For many years, they have downplayed the importance of ALA, focusing the debate on the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA,” she said.
“The health benefits associated with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) consumption include cardiovascular effects, neuro-protection, and benefits against autoimmune disease. ALA also plays an important role to counter inflammatory response and. ALA is key in growth and development; in maintaining healthy skin and cell structure; in the metabolism of cholesterol and in gene regulation,” Gillot added.