A formulator’s perspective taking a microscopic look at the world of supplements and functional foods from a technical standpoint, not as a consumer…
By Philip Bromley, CEO and Co-founder of Virun® NutraBiosciences®
Even though I am CEO and co-founder of Virun® first and foremost, I am a formulator, product developer, and inventor at heart who’s developed 100s of products and worked with numerous companies throughout my career. Virun specializes in creating novel delivery technologies and formulations for fragile or difficult to use ingredients for suppliers, distributors, and manufacturers to incorporate into many food, beverage and supplement products. People come to Virun and ask us to make crazy products that should be impossible to develop. I have been known to literally get off the phone with a client, stand up from my computer, and look around at everyone next to me, here in the lab in utter disbelief. Then I say, “How the hell are we going to make a 500mg Ugandan tree bark terpene phenols combined with MCT from coconut oil along with Phyto CBD delivered in a liquid emulsion, great tasting, coffee creamer?”. But you know what, we laugh, brainstorm, figure out the process and produce the damn batch to get it done in record time. You see, at the end of the day, our clients have analyzed the market and know there is an opportunity for this product. That’s why they come to us because we create technology to do the impossible. Plus, we are good at taking feedback and we simply “get’r done” on time too.
This leads me to my first separation of product brands and distribution. You may ask yourself, what’s so great about this 500mg Ugandan tree bark terpene phenols combined with MCT from coconut oil along with Phyto CBD delivered in a liquid emulsion, great tasting, coffee creamer? Ten years ago, I would have thought this company was insane. I mean seriously! Who the hell is going to ingest this crap and why? But, the market and demographics are very different today than it was ten years ago. Brands and consumers are much more intricate and complex. Markets are demanding everything: combining new stuff, old stuff and a combination of this Old World Meets New World fusion of positively charged, chaotic volatileness that will allow us to supersede our mortality and leap tall buildings in a single bound (Superman reference for the Gen Xers like me and older). Okay, maybe not all of that last sentence is true, but hopefully, you get the point. (This first separation of product brands, we can classify as evolved nutrition. (I could label it as Millennial Nutrition. But, I just think that is lame and an overused classification of everything new today. Plus, I want to respect our new generation of innovators who should be recognized for their creativity, and not for the fact they have reached “adulthood” around the year 2000.)
At this point, you may be asking, what is the second separation of products brands? That is an excellent question. The second separation of goods are the crappy products sold in every grocery chain such as Wal-Mart or other commodity-driven distribution channels. You know this product, they all have B vitamins in it, some have sprinkles of electrolytes and others hydrate you, presumably better than water. In the early 2000’s, everyone stopped drinking carbonated soda. So, they took the carbonation out, added some B vitamins and voila, …we now have healthy soda alternatives that are better than plain water. I don’t think I even need to go any further than this. We all know these products, the companies who make them and we are all hopefully gaining an understanding of how crappy most of these products are.
Onto the final and third separation of brands and distribution: milk, yogurts, and juices. I have a lot of opinions on these. My first thoughts are directed toward probiotics. You see, probiotics are living organisms in the form of good bacteria traditionally found in your gut and some fermented foods. However, many factors such as poor diet, stress, and antibiotics (just to name a few) contribute to low amounts of probiotics produced in your body thus the need for supplementation.
Outside of the body probiotic strains are very fragile ingredients to formulate. Especially since many of them can’t survive processing at high temperatures. There are a few that have some heat resistance, but most do not tolerate pasteurization or UHT (Ultra High Temperature) processing which is how most yogurts, milk, and juices are made. Also, I know some probiotics ingredients require frozen storage. However, these products sold on the market today are, refrigerated at best, definitely not frozen. Not to mention these products contain water or moisture which are detrimental to the survival rate of some probiotic strains. At this point you may be asking yourself if the probiotics in raw material form require freezer storage, are sensitive to high heat processing and need to have low moisture, then how can they be incorporated into juices, yogurts, and milk?
One technique to assure stability is to add a ridiculous amount of overage (like 200%) to allow the probiotics to meet the desired specification. And that is only to make the probiotic survive processing. Don’t even get me started on shelf life. I urge anyone one with a micro lab in their house as most of us do, to test for the survivability of probiotics. I’m confident you all will rush home from work, pull out your cell petri plates then begin growing bacteria with your agar source to study new probiotics and microbiology. Yeah right! But let’s say you did have this ability. If you tested all these products for the term of their shelf-life, what do you think you would find? It might surprise you. There is a chance it could be something very different than the expected result, and I don’t mean in a good way. I mean in a way where 4 + 4 equals 2, not 8.
At this point, you may be wondering what all three of these product brands and distribution have in common. My main point is although the nutrition industry is constantly developing products (some good and bad) for the changing markets that doesn’t mean we can overlook the health and quality of the products found in stores all over the world. Make sure you are partnering with companies that you trust, who have strong ethics towards developing products that are truly healthy and nutritious. If you do this, you will also ensure your products have adequate amounts of healthy ingredients throughout the entire shelf-life of the finished product.