Aussie firm targets functional beverage and supplement growth after receiving EU novel foods status for fucoidan extracts

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Fucoidans are natural polysaccharides extracted from the cell walls of Undaria pinnatifida and Fucus vesiculosus seaweed.
Fucoidans are natural polysaccharides extracted from the cell walls of Undaria pinnatifida and Fucus vesiculosus seaweed.
Australian biotechnology firm Marinova has achieved novel foods status in the EU for its Maritech® fucoidan extracts, and the firm is now targeting growth in the region's functional beverage and supplement sectors.

The official EU fucoidan approval, issued by the Superior Health Council of Belgium last month, is the first such approval for the ingredient.

It comes after the company attained GRAS (Generally Recognised as Safe) status in the US, adding to prior approvals in Canada, Australia and Asia.

Marinova believes its proprietary, solvent-free extraction technology — which preserves the natural structure and bioactivity of fucoidans —​ played a key role in its novel foods status.

An opportune time

MD Paul Garrott is confident this latest development will open up a world of opportunities for Marinova in Europe, where the company has had a limited presence so far.

He told NutraIngredients-Asia​, "We've worked with niche companies in Western Europe and haven't really been active until now. But there is a propensity in Europe for high-priced, high quality nutritional products, and our fucoidan extracts fit the bill."

He added that while Marinova has yet to sign any deals with companies in the region for the use of its extracts, it now has a significant focus on the EU, where it will be at this year's VitaFoods event in Geneva.

The company will also continue to consolidate its research findings on fucoidans' health benefits to increase its visibility and credibility in the EU.

Established presence

While it is relatively new to Europe, Marinova has had an established presence in Asia and North America, where its main activities involve supplying ingredients to companies to produce nutrition supplements, typically in the form of capsules or functional beverages.

Garrott said, "We export to 25 countries at the moment, and our products have been quite widely distributed in North America over the last 20 years."

He further shared that the firm has been enjoying steady sales growth: "I'm happy to say our average sales turnover figures have reached 20% per annum over the past five years, mostly due to North America.

"In Asia, Taiwan has been a very strong market, and we've managed to diversify our customer base there."

What the fucoidan?

Fucoidans are natural polysaccharides extracted from the cell walls of Undaria pinnatifida ​and Fucus vesiculosus ​seaweed, and are said to have been consumed for centuries (particularly in Asia) for their apparent immunity-boosting, digestive, and anti-inflammatory benefits.

In addition, fucoidans may also exhibit anti-cancer activity.

Garrott said, "A very large part of our research programme is dedicated to investigating the anti-cancer activity of fucoidans.

"We are exploring it as an immunity-boosting ingredient to be used in conjunction with cancer treatment, as our research has found it can improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy."

He added that part of Marinova's research is also focusing on its fucoidan extracts' potential in the area of digestive health, which he said is "significant in Europe"​.

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