Pharmachem launches sprinkle-on application for Phase 2 carb controller in North American market

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

DietSpice could be packaged with frozen pizza, Pharmachem says.
DietSpice could be packaged with frozen pizza, Pharmachem says.

Related tags Weight management Obesity

Pharmachem Laboratories is seeking new markets for its Phase 2 carb controller ingredient with the North American release of DietSpice, a line of functional seasonings that can be sprinkled on food to help weight watchers absorb fewer calories from the starches in their meals.

Phase 2 is already featured in a number of dietary supplement brands from companies like Now Foods, GNC and The Vitamin Shoppe. DietSpice has already been introduced to the market in Europe, where the Phase 2 ingredient is known as Starchlite, and has also been available in Japan. The plan for the new delivery mode in North America includes co-packaging opportunities in prepared foods such as frozen pizza or mac and cheese, said Pharmachem managing director Mitch Skop. 

Marketing of weight management ingredients

Phase 2 is an ingredient that has been in the Pharmachem stable for a while.  It is a proprietary extract of Phaseolus vulgaris​, or white kidney bean.  The ingredient was developed in the late 1990s and first came to market in 2001. The company bills it as the “best-selling name in the carb blocker category.”  ​The ingredient first came to market at a propitious time, said Pharmachem managing director Mitch Skop.

“The ingredient started at the very end of ephedra and the very beginning of the low carb craze,”​ Skop told NutraIngredients-USA.

But weight management ingredients are perhaps more subject to market vicissitudes than most, with lavish (some might say outlandish) claims of efficacy for certain ingredients backed by massive marketing campaigns. These efforts generated huge sales spikes in some circumstances and also drew the attention of the Federal Trade Commission.

One of those companies was Sensa, a marketer of a sprinkle-on weight management product that purported to help users lose weight by heightening the flavors and aromas of food to promote satiety. In a permanent injunction motion filed by FTC in January 2014, the agency said that the marketers of Sensa claimed an average weight loss of 30 pounds for users of the product but did not have adequate scientific backing for that claim. The company also did not disclose material connections with its customer endorsers, the agency said.

Removing the Sensa stain

Does Skop believe the fallout from the Sensa affair has made for a more difficult climate in which to launch DietSpice?

“I absolutely do. The problem with [some] other products is that there was no data to support any type of claim.  The concept was extremely good—the concept of sprinkle, eat and at least control your weight. But that company got so big and they fell so hard because they had no data,”​ he said.

By contrast, Pharmachem says it has never played in the game of pushing the edges of the claims envelope. Phase 2 has been researched over a number of years, and the company makes realistic claims for the ingredient, Skop said.

Among the recent data on the ingredient is a placebo-controlled 12-week study, published in the journal Obesity​, that showed from as early as week four, subjects who took the supplement lost significantly more weight than their placebo counterparts. The same trend was observed in the body fat mass measurements: The Phase 2 group showed a significantly more marked reduction compared with the placebo group at weeks four, eight and 12. The authors concluded that the body weight reduction stemmed from loss of fat mass, not muscle mass. 

The company also touts the results of a 2010 meta-analysis conducted by J. Udani et al, that it says concluded that, in totality, studies performed with Phase 2 on people who were overweight or obese indicate that it reduces the rate of absorption of carbohydrates, thereby reducing the GI of foods. The evidence also indicates that Phase 2 promotes weight loss when taken concurrently with meals containing carbohydrates.

“We have so much data and with GRAS status ​(affirmed in 2014) we think the product is going to be very strong.  The claims loosely put are to help you control your weight.  You sprinkle the product on and have less impact from the dietary starches you consume,”​ Skop said.

Co packaging opportunities

Skop said Pharmachem has had discussions with marketers of packaged foods and has run tests to verify that the product will block carbohydrate absorption in those applications while not altering the taste of the food outside of the spices included in the packages.  DietSpice will hit the market first in four flavors: Italian, Asian, Butter & Spice, and Cinnamon Sweetener, with this last aimed at the breakfast foods market.  Packaging ideas are still under development, Skop said, with paper packets such as are used in the tabletop sweetener market or stick packs under consideration.  Individual serving packets will help make sure the Phase 2 ingredient is delivered at a clinically relevant dose, Skop said.

Skop said the preliminary work done before the product’s launch in the North American market indicated that the additional price for the packet of DietSpice won’t be a hurdle in commerce.

“We discussed this with a bunch of different companies who all said it fits their price mode.  We did a large consumer survey independently with frozen pizza or frozen mac and cheese.  Consumers said the inclusion of DietSpice make those products more appealing and they also said they would spend more money on it, so it adds some price elasticity,”​ he said.

“We could also sell it as a standalone product that a consumer could take to a restaurant,”​ Skop said. “No one would argue that a high-protein, low-carb diet is the way to go if you want to lose weight. But it is hard to stick to because we all love our starchy foods.”

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