In an interview with NutraIngredients-Asia at the HI/FI China exhibition, vice-president Dr Kevin Jiang outlined the firm’s efforts and research priorities.
He said the firm had been conducting studies to discover and collect new probiotic strains from different regions within China, especially in areas with distinctive dietary habits, such as Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.
Such initiative is the firm's plan to realise the concept of "national probiotics", which is to study the special features of micro-organisms, the human body, different hereditary, dietary, and lifestyle habits to develop precision probiotics.
"Our gut is different due to the different dietary habits. If we want probiotics to bring better results, then we must study the special features of the human gut to develop more effective products.
“As the probiotics industry progresses and research deepens, the industry will definitely move towards a scientific, precision-based, and rigorous direction," Jiang said.
Citing the results of a nation-wide study, he pointed out that ethnic groups from different parts of China, for example, the nomads groups in Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, and those residing in the North, South, and Yellow River areas, have different gut features from one another.
As part of its research, the firm previously isolated the strain bifidobacterium longum BL-21 from the gut of the population residing in the Bama county of Guangxi.
The firm went on to receive a patent approval in China in March last year for the strain and later commercialised the strain.
Jiang said that the strain’s main functions were to combat free radicals, provide anti-oxidant effects, and slow down the process of ageing.
Besides in-depth research, he said that the firm also took care to develop functional probiotics that were in line with ongoing consumer trends.
At the exhibition, some of the key probiotics showcased are for providing sports nutrition, regulating high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high blood lipids level, uric acid levels, preventing stroke, and improving digestive health.
Looking beyond China
While China is its largest market, the firm has been pursuing overseas customers in the last four to five years and is currently selling to 40 over countries.
With the expansion, the firm has extended its research focus to the West as well, including discovering different probiotic strains and studying the functions of these strains.
“We conduct targeted research in different countries outside of China each year…Currently, we are conducting five clinical trials in Europe, and these are clinical studies on the Europeans. These studies are both precision and scientifically driven,” Jiang said.
Elaborating on the differences between Asians and Caucasians in terms of gut features, he said that these include physiological and dietary differences.
“For example, the gut length for both Asians and Caucasians are different. Also, there are differences in their genetic make-up and lifestyle habits.
“For the Westerners, their diet might be meat-based. For Chinese, it might be vegetable-based. Westerners consume mainly cheese, milk, and beef, for traditional Chinese diet, it would be vegetables and pickled vegetables.
Till date, the firm has amassed about 7,000 functional strains from within and outside of China.
New China factory
The firm has also set up a new factory in Henan that produces spores-forming bacillus coagulans. This particular strain is able to aid digestive health and prevent inflammation.
Since spores-forming probiotics can withstand high temperature, such probiotics could be used in general foods as well.
The factory, which would operate from next month, has an expected production capacity of 50 tonnes per year, Jiang said.