Australia's Tarac Technologies yesterday received a food industry award for its range of Vinlife heart healthy grape extracts, which have demonstrated significant scope and versatility through their use by a major ice cream brand.
The firm is now looking for export opportunities in the functional food markets in Europe and Japan.
"Market studies indicate that Japan accounts for 40 per cent of the global functional food sales, while the UK has in place industry friendly regulations and a pro-active process for the inclusion of health claims on food packaging," commented Grahame Tonkin, managing director of Tarac Technologies.
However a forthcoming European Union health claims regulation could force manufacturers of grape extracts or other polyphenol ingredients to run costly clinical trials and submit extensive product dossiers to back their products' health benefits.
"This will enhance the competitive position of those companies that can afford such trials, but companies without sufficient research resources may experience a reduction in marketing opportunities if they are no longer able to claim the health benefits of their products," noted research firm Frost & Sullivan in a recent report.
The company estimates revenues for the overall European polyphenols market in 2003 at $99 million (€77.88m), with antioxidant properties set to position green tea flavonoids, red fruit anthocyanins, grape polyphenols and olive polyphenols at the head of market expansion.
But despite future challenges for marketing the health benefits, polyphenols will in the meantime benefit from the consumer trend for 'cleaner' and 'safer' foods, with polyphenols increasingly replacing synthetic colours and likely to become popular in new product formulations or as replacements for other synthetic ingredients, predicts Frost.
And Vinlife, derived from the seeds and fruit of Australian grapes left over from the winemaking process, has already demonstrated its versatility in its first commercial launch.
While the product was designed to target the functional foods industry, the first food on the market containing the ingredient was an untypical choice - the low-fat Chocollo ice cream manufactured by ice cream retailer Wendy's.
Currently available in 270 Wendy's franchisee outlets in Australia, the Vinlife-enriched Chocollo will be launched in the firm's New Zealand outlets next month. The product, which is endorsed by Australia's National Heart Foundation, was originally launched in 1997 and obtained sales in excess of 4 million units in its first few years.
"Tarac has been recognised by the Australian food industry for not only the scientific research and development that has demonstrated the benefits of Vinlife for cardiovascular health, but also diversity and ease for which Vinlife grape extracts can be incorporated in many food and beverages," said Tonkin.
The Food Industry Innovation Award, selected by the Australian Institute of Food Science & Technology (AIFST) each year, has previously been given to Clover Corporation and George Weston Foods whose partnership resulted in the successful launch of Tip Top UP bread containing Clover's microencapsulated tuna oil HiDHA, and Unilever for its Flora pro-activ margarine.