NZMP, Sun Genomics team up for precision probiotics

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / Henrik Sorensen
Getty Images / Henrik Sorensen

Related tags Probiotic personalized nutrition

The duo will undertake consumer studies to better understand the various health benefits of probiotics.

NZMP, the ingredient-solutions brand by global dairy company Fonterra, and Sun Genomics, a made-to-order probiotic company, recently announced a partnership focused on consumers.

The two brands are joining forces to explore the health benefits of HN001 & HN019 probiotics.

Sun Genomics develop their precision probiotics, branded Floré, by having users test their gut microflora, formulated to address individual needs.

Over two decades ago, Fonterra discovered and commercialized the HN001 and HN019 strains. Sun Genomics had already been using the strains in Floré for a number of years.

After assessing market opportunities, both parties recognized the benefit of working together to better understand how these strains could target specific consumer health issues.

“Sun Genomics is both a customer and business partner. We chose Sun Genomics because we were impressed by their consumer-centric approach, which closely aligns with our desire to intimately understand the consumer,”​ said Chris Ireland, US Probiotics business manager, Active Lifestyle, NZMP. “Working with Sun Genomics to tap into their consumer base is an innovative way to directly validate our probiotics effectiveness, and build a deeper understanding of what consumers truly need. This novel approach to substantiating our strains is the perfect complement to our clinical research. These consumer studies will bridge the gap between meticulously designed scientific studies and the day-to-day realities of consumer life, allowing us to marry the strengths of consumer and clinical research when positioning our probiotics in the market. This work also opens up opportunities to explore potential new formulations together, which reflects our broader efforts in addressing health benefits across physical, mental and inside-out wellness. Our focus on probiotics reflects the expansion of our classic health & wellness portfolio through our specialty ingredients.”

Consumer research

Neal Gidvani, COO Sun Genomics, explained to NutraIngredients-USA​ that SunGenomics has built up a unique and very loyal consumer base and NZMP has been able to tap into a subset of these consumers to offer them their probiotic solutions and monitor how the consumers respond to them.

The consumer studies include testing LactoB HN001 and BifidoB HN019 strains with Floré customers through a Fonterra-sponsored consumer project to determine if there are any significant improvements in health and mental wellness. The results gathered in this consumer testing will provide complementary evidence to existing clinical trials on HN001TM and HN019TM, by providing evidence that NZMP probiotics’ benefits can also be seen outside of clinical settings and can withstand being subjected to the rigors of normal consumer lifestyles.

“Learning and truly understanding how a customer is feeling and responding to a product helps the company understand the value of its product. This project with Fonterra highlights the innovative method by which Sun Genomics looks at consumer-driven gut health solutions. Only by understanding the very nature of the consumer and truly considering individual feedback, can efficacious solutions be provided,” ​said Gidvani. “We are expecting results from some of our initial studies later this year and look forward to sharing the results with the NZMP team.”

Untapped potential

As a dairy company, Gidvani said microbial cultures are part of Fonterra’s DNA.

“We have been dealing with microbes for almost a century already. In fact, our microbial fermentation unit (MFU), where we manufacture our probiotics, was opened in 1927. It is considered the founding section of Fonterra’s Research & Development Centre (FRDC) in New Zealand,” ​explained Ireland. “Over several decades, we developed the largest dairy culture library in the world (over 40 thousand strains) and realized we were sitting on a lot of untapped potential. In the 90s, we began genetically screening out microbial cultures to see if we could select particularly promising microbes to kickstart a probiotics business.”

From there, the company validated top strains by moving through a series of in vitro, animal and human clinical studies. The process took several years and eventually led to the commercialization of LactoB HN001TM, isolated from their New Zealand cheddar cheese culture and BifidoB HN019TM, extracted from their yogurt culture.

When the company first commercialized their probiotic strains, the biggest market opportunity was in the pediatrics space, so they initially targeted infant and maternal health.

“However, in more recent years, there has been a surge of awareness around probiotics which has really broadened their appeal. This is why in 2019 we launched our probiotics strains into the adult health and wellness space as well,”​ Ireland explained. “The key thing to understand is that truly credible probiotics are years in the making. It takes time to build up clinical evidence for different target consumers and health benefits. We are still continuing to research the impacts of our probiotics in emerging health concern areas in adults to explore further opportunities.”

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