Embria is a division of feeds maker Diamond V, based in Cedar Rapids, IA. EpiCor is a yeast fermentate that was originally developed as a feed additive. The ingredient and Embria as a division were born out of observations that the culture could have other uses following farmers' reports that their animals were not getting sick.
Human immune benefit identified
In 2004 insurance adjusters noticed that employees of Diamond V had far lower sick rates than other workplaces. The company thought the culture could be boosting the immune systems of workers who handled it.
Despite being technically ‘grandfathered in’ as a dietary ingredient safe for use in supplements under the 1994 Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act, the company submitted EpiCor to the new dietary ingredient (NDI) process, and received the green light from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011. EpiCor received self-affirmed GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status in May 2006. The fermentate has since been studied both for immune health benefits as well as improving several measures of gut health.
Push to diversify
According to Reuters, Cargill, along with fellow grain trading giants Archer Daniells Midland Co., Bunge Ltd. and Louis Dreyfus Co. has moved aggressively to diversify from commodities markets that are deluged with supply and suffer with correspondingly low profits.
Details of the private deal were not disclosed, but according to Reuters, Cargill did say it was among the five largest in the company’s history. Others have included the $1.5 billion acquisition of Norwegian fish feed maker EWOS in 2015 and a $1.2 billion deal in 2008 for starch manufacturer Cerestar.
EpiCor brand equity
While the EpiCor business represents a tiny fraction of the overall deal, Cargill has acquired an ingredient with a certain amount of brand equity. Brand-building efforts by Embria for its EpiCor immune support ingredient are paying off, the company said in a 2015 interview with NutraIngredients-USA.
“Building brand awareness with consumer is very difficult, but we were hoping to see a return on our brand-building investments. We were ecstatic to discover EpiCor brand awareness was better than expected,” said Paul Faganel, who was then Embria’s president.
The company’s brand-building efforts included web videos, consumer social marketing campaigns, working with a celebrity endorser (Christie Rampone, 3-time gold medalist, Captain of the US Women’s Soccer team and Mom-on-the-go), focusing on retailer and consumer advertising online and in print, and many others.
A survey of 1019 adult respondents (72% women and 28% men living in the USA) found that, when asked the question “Which health ingredients have you heard of before?”, EpiCor was known by 16.8% of immune supplement users, 9.81% of dietary supplement users, and 8.44% of the general population.
“These results show investments in brand-awareness can, and do pay off,” said Faganel. “We are thankful for our customers and glad that we can support them by helping to create consumer demand for products containing EpiCor.”