Wellness Food Processors Show a Growing Interest in Botanicals

That botanical solutions for health are big is no question. But why are they taking so long to get traction among consumers?

By David Feder, RD, Technical Editor

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The FDA granted GRAS status to L-Teactive last year, so it now can be used in many food product applications, including beverages and even confectioneries. "Imagine delicious chocolates that can help you relax!" she says.

Blue California provides an extensive catalogue of naturally derived botanical extracts that address other stress-related needs, such as inducing sleep, improving mood and, of course, providing energy for the dual-end candle burning that creates the stress in the first place.

Thinking big
In considering naturally derived health, another advantage is that botanical ingredients can offer more than single-compound enhancement. The past few years have shown that "whole-fruit" ingredients, such as açai and goji, are a huge attraction to consumers tuned into getting their nutritional extras from nature. And by being inclusive of the whole source, they can offer a shopping cart of functionality.

With this door wide open, there always is room for the next exotic fruit concentrate or powder to become a hit trend. Baobab fruit is a newly arrived example worth noting. The African fruit is noted for high levels of vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium, magnesium and zinc. These ingredients have a plethora of research backing beauty from within, immunity and health.

The A and C and the magnesium lend collagen structure enhancement and cell lipid support, while the zinc acts as a key component of the immune system. The calcium and potassium promote cardiovascular and blood pressure health in addition to building bones and teeth. Powerful antioxidants round out the immunity and health-protective effects of baobab, with high fiber content adding digestive health and increased satiety to help counter inflammation and obesity.

BI Nutraceuticals Inc. (www.botanicals.com), Long Beach, Calif., launched its baobab fruit powder as a superfruit ingredient for multiple applications, including smoothies, fruit juices and powdered drinks; breakfast cereals and cereal bars; and ice creams, yogurts and dairy products.

And speaking of whole fruit sources of botanical health benefits, it's not always about the exotics. Those simple and common fruits and veggies mom always told us were good for us are, well, good for us.

"Oranges are the new superfruit," claims David Hart, business development and marketing manager for Herbamed (www.herbamed.com), based in Rehovot, Israel. "Herbamed has developed a series of nutritional health bars based on its unique citrus ingredient, naturally rich in flavonoids and dietary fibers. The nutrition bar has been clinically proven to have a positive effect on blood lipid profile and improve the cardiovascular system in general."

Noting the seeming barrier between pharmaceuticals and functional botanicals, Hart adds, "Studies consistently demonstrate that health-conscious consumers prefer to enjoy nutraceuticals in food and beverages rather than in pills or capsules."

Although American consumers are playing catch-up to the rest of the world when it comes to "thinking naturally" for preventive and palliative health, the perception has been that botanicals somehow have a less than scientific track record. It should be noted that by some estimates more than 92 percent of pharmaceuticals are based on naturally occurring chemical compounds. Plant derivatives and extracts commonly undergo rigid testing in clinical laboratories under strict controls. And what is tested is key.

"We see that most published clinical trials involving botanical ingredients rely on the active marker compound and attribute the health benefit based on the standardization," says Steve Light, business development manager for Amax NutraSource Inc. (www.amaxnutrasource.com), Eugene, Ore. "We aren't just dealing with powders where the raw botanical material has been ground up — this [level of testing] is a benefit to our industry for ongoing reliability."

Amax NutraSource validates the potency and purity of its standardized botanicals, providing consistency for customers and the labeling those customers must provide on finished product.

"Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of what to look for in supplements, foods and beverages," continues Light. "They aren't just looking for ‘green tea for antioxidant/immunity,' they are looking for the pure and active polyphenols that the green tea provides. This will only continue as consumers continue to educate themselves."

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