KEY INTERVIEW: Making the Move into Human Nutrition

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14 Nov 2016 --- NutritionInsight caught up with Marc Jensen, Senior Technical Sales Representative at BIO-CAT Microbials, an innovative new player in the human probiotic sector. 

Not to be mistaken with BIO-CAT, it’s better-known sister company which primarily distributes and blends custom enzymes for various customers in the United States, BIO-CAT Microbials has its hopes set on innovating the growing market for human probiotics.

Moving into Human Nutrition

Having traditionally specialized in natural products for industrial purposes, BIO-CAT Microbials is now making vast strides into the human nutrition space.

“We acquired the company 10 years ago, and we’re building on a business that was traditionally agriculture, soil, animal feed and waste,” Jensen tells NutritionInsight, “So we’ve sort of converted that business from microbial natural products for industrial purposes into human nutrition.”

“Now we’re innovating with human probiotic strains and we hope to have a long line of available probiotic strains either in blended or single strains.” 

The company hopes to put all newly developed strains for the human probiotic market under the trademark platform, OPTI-BIOME, something that Jensen explains “is the most exciting development for company right now.”

“Beyond OPTI-BIOME, we continue to look for new sourcing of innovating enzymes for dietary supplements, food applications and animal feed,” he adds.

Discussing the move into human nutrition, Jensen explains that after discovering probiotic strains suitable for monogastric animals like pigs and chickens, digestive systems somewhat similar to the human, “the next logical extension was to look at strains that would fit into human nutrition, either in food products or in dietary supplements.”

“So our first strain, Bacillus subtilis MB40, is just that,” he states.

Claims, Benefits & USPs

“Bacillus subtilis MB40 was selected for its ability to protect itself from the environment a natural protective  coating, and is shelf stable for 24 months at room temperature.”

This 2-year shelf life is something that Jensen is keen to focus on, stressing, “When you’re talking about other probiotics, that’s unique.”

“There are other bacillus that have come to the market in the last 4 to 5 years, but we feel this is the most stable and has the broadest of potential products that it can be added to, both solid and liquid depending on PH and temperature.”

Another innovation held by the Bacillus subtilis MB40 product, is that that the strain germinates and grows well in natural environments. 

“It’s also compatible with some of the more traditional probiotics like the lactobacillus family,” Jenson adds, explaining, “They’ll grow together in a anaerobic environment. However, MB40 is different, in that if exposed to oxygen in the production or storage of the product, ours remains alive and the lactobacillus don’t necessarily.”

He continues, “Businesses using our product can sustain the activity levels that you put on your label for 24 months, without concern of over formulation in order to compensate for microorganism death during storage or production.”

With regards to how the product benefits consumers, Jenson explains that although the product has so far been launched without efficacy or claims data, a current clinical study is  “designed to evaluate its ability alleviate digestive symptoms, and bloating – that’s the primary one.” 

“We’re currently running a placebo controlled study run by a prominent clinical third party contractor,” explains Jenson. “We hope it will be finished by the end of this year and published in the first quarter of 2017.”

Food Applications

The company’s first approach has been to add the probiotic to protein powders, drink mixtures, flours, and grain products for mixing, batter and baking, something that Jenson thinks can significantly enhance common household foods.

“By baking a product with flour that contains probiotics, you end up with live organisms that are healthy and add to the flora of the person consuming the bread, cake or cereal product, so that’s really unique.”

Changing the Business Model

Despite being newbies in the human nutrition market, BIO-CAT Microbials has big plans for future expansion and innovation in the sector, moving away from the traditional B2B business model utilized by ingredients companies, and focusing on proprietary products.

“We hope to change our business model over the next 5 years to include proprietary products, combination products of what we do best, which are probiotics, enzymes and prebiotics,” Jenson tells us.

“Prebiotic, probiotic and digestive enzymes are used in many different dietary supplements already, and we think that having those 3 together is key,” Jenson says.

“So that’s what we’re doing, we’re developing these with our R&D team now, and hope to find simple proprietary ingredients that have unique properties to match our unique our strains.”

“Until now we’ve been B2B, so we hope to expand our sales expertise and networks within the consumer product sector and have an immediate impact in the next 4-5 to years.”

Overcoming the Challenges

With great ambitions come great challenges, and the BIO-CAT Microbials team is well aware that these are plentiful in the thriving human probiotic market.

“I think the fundamental challenges are the regulatory pressures and consumer pressure to prove effthicacy and have a clinical development plan that is rigorous, well designed, well explained and published in 3rd party peer reviewed publications.”

“That’s number 1,” says Jenson,“Number 2 is to maintain a solid supply chain that is dependable and innovative. We have to depend on our current suppliers to do that, and after 25 years of doing that, we’re confident that wont change.”

“Lastly, you have the challenges of actually up scaling the unique strains we’ve discovered in our lab, and giving the production scale and volumes we feel confident we can market and build and innovatory with.”

“That requires the infrastructure that the owners of the company are committed to doing, in fact we’re improving our equipment on a routine basis.”

Growth and Expectations

Controlled growth is key on the agenda for BIO-CAT Microbials. “We’re planning to grow under our own control,” Jenson confirms. 
 
He adds, “Proprietary functional food and supplements is an area where we think we can expand as we have the internal expertise. We have the connections in the industry and it will provide a different stream of income for the company, rather than direct distribution.”

“We have a very creative owner, and our executives are very creative and imaginative too, and we want to capitalize on that.”

by Hannah Gardiner

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