Kemin’s algae-sourced beta glucan BetaVia gets novel foods nod: ‘An opportunity for innovative product developers’

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

Kemin's beta-glucan ingredient targets needs of health and wellness consumers / PIC: iStock.com/Gilitukha
Kemin's beta-glucan ingredient targets needs of health and wellness consumers / PIC: iStock.com/Gilitukha

Related tags: Beta glucan, Immunity, Novel foods

US-based Kemin Industries has received a positive safety assessment from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for its algae-sourced beta glucan ingredient, BetaVia. This unlocks the opportunity for ‘innovative product developers to be the first to communicate around the source’ and tap into surging interest in immunity, the group’s European marketing manager, Miguel Martinho, tells FoodNavigator.

BetaVia Complete, an algae-sourced beta glucan ingredient, is manufactured through a patented process using a proprietary strain of algae, Euglena gracilis ATCC PTA-123017. It is the ‘first and only’ ingredient derived from this strain to be issued a positive opinion from EFSA, according to Kemin. 

EFSA has concluded that BetaVia Complete is safe when used in food supplements; foods for total diet replacement for weight control; and as a food ingredient added to a number of food products.

EFSA’s positive safety review reflects the safety evaluation performed by the EFSA Panel on Nutrition, Novel Foods and Food Allergens on Kemin's immune support ingredient. The company said the food safety agency could not have reached this positive conclusion without Kemin's proprietary safety data.

The news paves the way to full novel foods approval, Miguel Martinho, marketing manager Europe at Kemin Human Nutrition and Health, explained.

“We are now just awaiting the European Commission’s formal adoption of the opinion which gives the green light for the commercialisation the ingredient, which is expected in the coming months,”​ he told this publication.

“EFSA’s novel foods nod is a significant milestone in our ambition to address this huge market with this innovative ingredient, particularly during a time when immune support has never been more in the spotlight.”

BetaVia Complete contains greater than 50 percent beta 1,3 glucan, as well as proteins, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and carotenoids. This nutrient-rich ingredient is derived from a dried, whole algae fermentate. According to Kemin, BetaVia is ‘ideal for year-round immune support products’.

Immune support gets COVID-19 boost

Martinho said that the European market opportunity for products that support immunity is large and growing.

“The European market for immunity products represents around one-quarter of the total global market, and accounts for more than one-third of the global beta glucans market. As we begin to promote BetaVia Complete to European customers in the coming months, the fact that we were able to clear EFSA’s criteria will be a major feather in our favour.”

The coronavirus crisis has raised consumer awareness of ingredients that support immune health. While receiving this EFSA opinion ‘several months earlier’ would have been ‘ideal to be able to ride the current immunity wave’, Martinho believes ‘huge market potential remains for the foreseeable future’.

As the region exits lockdown, Martinho expects this trend to continue to extend its influence.

“Never has the issue of immune health dominated the nutritional agenda as it does today with a recent surge in supplements, including vitamin C, zinc and other nutritionals to boost the immune system. As some sort of normality begins to return in European markets, this immune health trend will continue, with consumers becoming more knowledgeable about the value that nutrition has in keeping us healthy.

“Six months from now, a market will exist that is much more aware and educated around the role for nutrition in immune health. By that time, brand owners and manufacturers will be looking for ingredients to differentiate themselves in this space. Novelties and innovation such as BetaVia will offer them the chance to stand out,”​ he predicted.

family ageing generations
COVID-19 has raised awareness of immune health and Kemin says this trend is here to stay / ©iStock

“The baseline of consumers looking for information on how to build up a strong immune system, how to adjust their diets in the best possible way, and how to incorporate supplements into their routine to close any shortfalls, is only beginning to build.”

Beyond supplementation: Mainstreaming functional ingredients 

The current market for beta glucans is primarily in the nutraceutical space. But Martinho expects demand to evolve into mainstream and everyday food categories – and Kemin’s research and development teams have been working on formulations that meet this need.

“There are a lot of food applications that could be interesting to explore as well. Product developers may look to inspiration from recent supplement projects in the US and functional foods formulations in APAC markets, where the ingredient was approved in early 2019.

“So far, US introductions with BetaVia have mainly occurred in capsules, and include Dr. Mercola – Fermented Beta Glucans, The Synergy Company – SuperPure Beta 1,3 Glucan and Dr. Gundry – Untox. Food launches containing the nutritional such as juices, powder sticks, squeezable drinks, and even egg rolls, have appeared in APAC markets. This difference in applications can be related to the awareness and relationship that APAC consumers have with algae, which has helped to boost the ingredient’s potential for success in foods.”

Like Americans, Europeans are ‘generally quite limited’ to their exposure to algae as a food ingredient. This, Martinho suggested, ‘presents an opportunity for innovative product developers to be the first to communicate around the source’.

BetaVia - Kemin Industries
BetaVia Complete is made from a proprietary strain of algae ©Kemin Industries

“Dietary supplements in different formats will hold the most initial potential in the EU. But the novel food opinion allows for its use in food products too, such as dairy and bakery products and beverages such as fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies and nectars, at different levels of inclusion.”

Since the ingredient is sourced from algae it will require flavour masking, just like most of the other nutritionals derived from algae. “Kemin product developers therefore have worked on different applications, now know that even in gummies with a citrus flavour such as orange, it will work. We also tried it in bars, where a small bite could contain the effective dose of 375mg of BetaVia,​” Martinho revealed.

Immunity health claims in Europe

Ingredients that are able to make immunity health claims in Europe are limited by the region’s strict health claims regulation.

Ingredients have won immunity claims include vitamins and minerals, such as copper, folate, iron, selenium, vitamins A, B12, B6, C, D and zinc.

Beyond this, Martinho said, ‘there are currently no ingredients for which immunity claims are allowed on the EU market’.

“EFSA’s opinion on BetaVia Complete relates to the safety of the ingredient as a novel food and we have gained a lot of experience through the novel foods procedure in terms of addressing the Agency’s gold standards, that we can use going forward,”​ he said.

In the meantime, there are ways to work within European regulation to communicate the health associations of beta glucan consumption, Martinho continued. 

“Manufacturers wishing to use immunity claims can consider communicating around statements of fact. We are currently pursuing the possibilities for our customers when it comes to BetaVia Complete and how they can communicate around an ingredient derived from an algae source that has a high content of beta 1,3 glucan. A further option is to incorporate vitamins and minerals that do have approved claims in relation with the immune function into their product containing BetaVia and use this claim on the product packaging. This is a strategy that has been and is being widely used with other nutritionals too.”

The benefits of algae-sourced beta-glucan

While there are other beta glucan ingredients on the market in the EU, Martinho emphasised the benefits of ingredients derived from an algae source.

He suggested that these are a ‘natural fit’ for consumers who are ‘increasingly health-minded and focused on protecting the environment’. “It can partially be attributed to a rapidly growing world population with focus on more sustainable food options, and consumers wanting the maximum nutritional value from food. Kemin Human Nutrition and Health is addressing this shift with BetaVia branded sustainably produced algae.”

BetaVia Complete is a vegetarian, non-GMO, allergen free, nutrient-rich ingredient containing beta 1,3 glucans, proteins, vitamins/minerals, fatty acids and carotenoids.

“For consumers in Europe, the consumption of algae is still a novel concept, yet the trend is shifting swiftly in that direction.”

BetaVia’s production process and proprietary algae strain can be leveraged to help food formulators respond to this shift, he suggested.

“BetaVia Complete is manufactured through a patented fermentation process involving the heterotrophical growth of a proprietary strain of algae and providing an exceedingly sustainable process to deliver wholesome and functional ingredients that helps to prime the immune system for healthier living.”

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