Bened Biomedical won the Probiotic Product of the Year award at the recent NutraIngredients-Asia Awards for its PsychoBiotic PS128, a novel supplement meant to modulate the microbiota-gut-brain axis.
Daily consumption of the product is supposed to increase dopamine and serotonin concentration in key brain areas such as the hippocampus and frontal cortex, and help to prevent or alleviate mental and motor disorders such as autism, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s disease, insomnia and IBS.
Speaking at Vitafoods Asia's Global Health Theatre, founder Professor Tsai Ying-Chieh — who is also the director of the Microbiome Research Centre at Taiwan's National Yang-Ming University — presented findings from clinical animal and human studies that had been conducted on the probiotic used in the product, Lactobacillus plantarum PS128.
In a 2016 mouse study, depressed mice given PS128 stayed immobile for shorter periods and tended to travel greater distances than depressed control mice.
A 2017 study involving mice with induced Parkinson's disease symptoms found that those treated with PS128 displayed better mobility and grip due to improved muscle control from increased dopamine levels.
Meanwhile, an RCT conducted on 72 autistic children aged seven to 15 earlier this year reported that daily intake of PS128 alleviated the core symptoms of autism (social communication and interaction deficits, and restricted, repetitive behavioural patterns), as well as related symptoms such as anxiety, defiance and hyperactivity.
Sales and negotiations
Bened’s marketing and communications director Cristina Tsai told NutraIngredients-Asia: "Professor Tsai has been researching this probiotic (Lactobacillus plantarum PS128) for more than 30 years, but the notion of psychobiotics is quite recent.
"A lot of experts in the medical industry had been trying to find the secret of the so-called 'gut-brain axis', and they found that a lot of neurological diseases were actually connected to the gut microbiota. Now, we have provided a solution."
The product, which comes in powder form and can be used in capsules or stored in sachets, is sold via two channels: one targeted at medical professionals, and the other at the general public.
Tsai said, "A lot of doctors use PS128 as treatment support, for those who do not want to take anti-depressants or sleeping pills, or for whom the prescribed medication does not work well enough.
"For the general public, we target people like surgeons, medical doctors, lawyers, accountants…basically, those who work under huge pressure. They find PS128 very helpful for their work performance, and to help them relax."
PsychoBiotic PS128 is currently sold in 15 countries, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, and the US, and Bened is currently in negotiations with distributors in Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan and India. It is also eyeing several European countries.
At the same time, Tsai revealed: "Our repurchase rate in Taiwan is over 60%, so the product actually speaks for itself. We don't have much of a budget for marketing, but customers have continued to buy it and share its benefits with their friends."
She further said, "We will launch the product at the end of this month in Singapore, so it’s perfect timing that we won this award. We're very happy with that."
With regards to Bened's decision to enter PS128 into the awards, she said: "We are one of the first in the world to have commercialised a psychobiotic product, so we thought we should let everyone know such a product exists.
"We didn't really expect to win the award, because there weren't many Asian companies among the finalists, we're very young, and there were big names that had been shortlisted.
"We knew our product was special, but we were not confident enough that we were as strong as the other finalists, so this is a great honour for us."