Comet continues on growth trajectory in booming prebiotic fiber market

By Asia Sherman

- Last updated on GMT

Comet upcycles crop leftovers sourced from local wheat farmers to extract its Arrabina-branded arabinoxylan prebiotic dietary fiber © Justin Paget / Getty Images
Comet upcycles crop leftovers sourced from local wheat farmers to extract its Arrabina-branded arabinoxylan prebiotic dietary fiber © Justin Paget / Getty Images

Related tags Dietary fiber upcycled ingredients Unmetered

Canadian ingredient manufacturer Comet now converts an annual four million kilograms of agricultural waste harvested from Danish farmlands into dietary fibers for use in supplements, foods and beverages.

Its Arrabina-branded arabinoxylan prebiotic dietary fiber—developed as a better-for-the-planet, low-dose and fully-soluble powder—continues to grow its applications across baked goods, chocolate and confectionary, coffee, functional beverages, gummies, protein powders and snacks. The company also markets a line of Sweeterra syrups as a natural, functionally-equivalent alternative to corn syrup.

“We strive to break the gut health market status quo by supplying ingredients that are naturally better in terms of sustainability, versatility and nutrition,” Loula Merkel, chief business officer at Comet, told NutraIngredients-USA. “At Comet, we prioritize creating ingredients that are not only healthy, but also practical. It does not matter how healthy an ingredient is if it does not deliver on taste or cannot be easily added to products.”

Arabinoxylan is abundant in nature, but large quantities of processed grains are needed to produce a single soluble serving. Comet says it has solved for this problem by using its patented upcycling technology to extract the fiber and produce it at a cost point that enables large-scale commercialization and a low inclusion rate needed for on-pack prebiotic claim.

“It is stable in solution and does not break down like other prebiotic dietary fibers in high heat or low pH manufacturing conditions,” Merkel said. “Even more important, it is clinically proven to be well-tolerated and gentle on the stomach, even at a 15-gram serving.”

Comet’s path to commercialization

When Comet launched in 2019, it already had its eye on what would become today’s booming consumer market for gut health and sugar reduction solutions. 

In 2020, the NutraIngredients-USA Awards recognized Comet as Start-Up of the Year for its innovative line of ingredients and technology that tackled both nutrition gaps and food system waste. 

“Receiving industry recognition [validates] our efforts and the need for a novel prebiotic fiber option,” Merkel said. “We can only close the fiber gap with industry support and recognition of our proprietary dietary fiber.”

At the time, the start-up relied on pilot and contract manufacturing facilities to produce commercial batches on a campaign basis but by 2021 decided to expand production and secure its own manufacturing capacity, partnering with RE Energy to retrofit the Meliora Bio refinery in Kalundborg, Denmark.

The facility, which came online in April 2023 and increased Arrabina production from some thousands to millions of kilograms a year, is fed with wheat straw biomass sourced from local farmers. 

Looking ahead and staying on trend

In its 2024 trend predictions​, Comet highlighted a list of top 10 biotics opportunities to accelerate microbiome-enhancing foods, beverages and supplements, packaged as four macro trends.

These range from offering sustainable weight loss alternatives in the wake of the GLP-1 agonist craze and targeting Gen Zers as the soon-to-be largest consumer base to appealing to consumers driven by perceived value and formulating for women across ages and life stages.

In terms of how Comet’s Arrabina fits within this picture and a prebiotic fiber market projected to grow to close to $11 billion by 2033 (Future Market Insights)​, the company says that consumers will benefit from having more prebiotic options as gut health is not one-size-fits-all.

“No one scientifically validated ‘super prebiotic’ optimizes every strain of probiotic in the gut,” Merkel said. “A diverse diet of prebiotics is needed to optimize an array of probiotics within the gut. This is why personalization of gut health regimens is going to be paramount in coming years.”

Entries still open for this NutraIngredients-USA Start-Up of the Year award

Comet took home the 2020 NutraIngredients-USA Award for Start-Up of the Year, an award that recognizes up-and-coming companies that are doing it the right way, building their businesses on strong science, robust partnerships and collaborations, and exemplary ethics. Previous winners also include Radicle Science, Chinova Bioworks, Brightseed, Plasma Nutrition and Prenexus Health.

This year's awards are open for entries until April 12 (11:55 p.m. CT) and cover 14 categories ranging from ingredients and finished products to nutrition research to innovations in women's health.

Please see the 2024 NutraIngredients-USA Awards website​ for further details.

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