Cognis Nutrition and Health used the Vitafoods exhibition taking place in Geneva, Switzerland this week as the right platform to launch its Tonalin CLA to the European market.
The global company, also executive sponsor for the show, gained the rights to Tonalin earlier this year from Norwegian firm Natural. The product is a natural form of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) derived from safflowers, and is already the leading brand of CLA on the international market, thanks to strong marketing and scientific support by its original owner.
Cognis is positioning Tonalin as a fat-reduction ingredient, although CLA is also said to help maintain a healthy heart and boost the immune system. Rival Loders Croklaan introduced a new CLA product this week too (Safflorin), but are instead marketing it as a flu-fighting product.
"We don't feel that all the science is there yet on other properties of CLA so we will concentrate on body shaping in the first year," said Kathleen Moran, market segment manager for dietary supplements at Cognis. Future research will however look at the immune-boosting potential, and also its anti-carcinogenic ability.
There is substantial research on Tonalin showing that it can decrease body fat while maintaining lean body mass. Results of a long-term study, presented at the AOCS meeting in Kansas, US last week, found the ingredient to be safe and effective in people at a daily dose of up to 6.8g over a 12-month period. Tonalin reduced body fat by 9 per cent and increased lean muscle by 2 per cent in the overweight subjects.
"We need to be very careful about how we position this product," Moran told our sister site NutraIngredients.com yesterday. She explained that it will not target those looking for immediate weight loss, but rather people who are interested in a gradual improvement in shape. "It will be more of a lifestyle product, compared to those present on the weight loss shelves."
While Cognis has used a multimedia consumer marketing campaign to build brand recognition in the US, where it was introduced in 1999, Europeans will get a slightly different treatment. The firm will seek brand marketing partners in European markets and says it will match its partners' advertising spend on the Tonalin brand.
With Tonalin finally in its portfolio, Cognis, which recorded sales of E3.1 billion and an operating profit (EBITDA) of E393 million in 2002, has a strong monopoly of what is likely to be a growing market.The ingredient is made at its site in Illertissen in Germany, by a proprietary process which results in a high level of the two active isomers - cis-9, trans-11 and trans-10, cis-12. Its composition is licensed by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), which holds the majority of patents on CLA.
"Tonalin has more than 70 per cent of the market share, and we will obviously try to grow this," said Moran, adding that there is not much room for competition. "The market needs to grow much faster before any competitors can enter. And the claim area is so tight, with WARF owning most of the patents. Only Cognis and Loders have licences for these."
Moran adds that the brand is an ideal fit, and is clearly excited by the budget behind it, which will be spent on both advertising and further research. "Our other products, like Covitol, have a much smaller market share. Advertising spending will be proportional to the presence Tonalin has in the market," said Moran.