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INTERVIEW: From 'Black Box' to Proven Potential – The Growth of Dry Grape Extract
Source: Feedinfo News Service
(dated 28/06/2017)

28 June 2017 - In February this year, the dry grape extract (Nor-Grape® 80) developed and commercialized by France-based Nor-Feed became the first botanical sensory additive authorized for animal nutrition by the European Commission. In the months following the authorization, Nor-Feed has witnessed numerous business opportunities accompanied by a significant increase in sales of Nor-Grape® 80.

Pierre Chicoteau
Founder & joint CEO

Feedinfo News Service spoke to Pierre Chicoteau (Founder of Nor-Feed and joint CEO), Olivier Clech (Joint CEO), and Alexia Lepont (Quality Manager & Regulatory Affairs) to find out more about the unique position the company has carved for itself and the potential of dry grape extract as a natural plant extract used in animal nutrition.

[Feedinfo News Service] Can you provide a brief history of the company's evolution between 2003 and 2016?

[Pierre Chicoteau] The Nor-Feed adventure started in 2003 with the company creation by Pierre and Cécile Chicoteau, with Danish associate partners (Nor-Feed A/S). From the beginning, the company’s objective was to produce and sell natural additives and plant-based ingredients for nutrition and animal health, with a focus on cultivated plants and standardized extracts. Nor-Grape ® was born in 2005, followed by saponin-based plants in 2007 and citrus extracts, initially developed by the previous Danish shareholders, and that were purchased in 2013.

Nor-Feed had three successive increases in capital (2007, 2009 with the employee’s acquisition of shares, then in 2012 with the arrival of Olivier Clech who also bought the last shares from the former Danish shareholders). Nor-Feed Sud SARL becomes Nor-Feed SAS in December 2015 with the purchase of the Nor-Feed brand from the former Danish shareholders.

Nor-Feed has been based in Beaucouzé (Angers) since 2011. The company is located in the heart of a region dedicated to medicinal plants, with specialized producers, a specific competitiveness cluster (Vegepolys) and the French Research Institute for Perfume, Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ITEPMAI).

2014 is also an important year in Nor-Feed’s history since the company went into 50% partnership with Adatris Anjou Plantes, specialized in medicinal plants for the brewing and pharmacy markets, to create Ubigreen and share a common industrial tool in Saint-Lézin (Anjou). This synergy and networking has been a marker of how Nor-Feed operates throughout its development, with the desire to share values and vision to move forward together.

[Feedinfo News Service] What was Nor-Feed's rationale for focusing the business on natural plant extract products only and not looking into essential oils (why develop straights rather than blends)?

[Olivier Clech] We offer natural products, and want to be compatible with the organic market demand. So we have to stay away from the confusion that sometimes exists with so-called “essential oils”, when some are “nature identical”, i.e. obtained by chemical synthesis. This being said, our plant extracts do contain a number of essential oils provided by the plant extract we use. Our objective is to provide the premix and veterinary industry with well documented actives that they are able to utilize in their own developments with a clean and standardized composition, defined both in terms of features (composition criteria) and benefits (activity criteria). And we are convinced straights correspond to these objective better than blends.

[Feedinfo News Service] How is Nor-Feed able to offset the sometimes "poor image" of plants based additives and ensure high quality levels with proven modes of action? 

[Olivier Clech] We conducted a market survey last year, questioning nutritionists, vets and decision makers in Brazil, the US, Thailand and France. The market is looking for new solutions, or so-called ‘alternatives’, to be able to raise animals in a more sustainable and quality oriented-way, and the botanicals category does represent an opportunity in their eyes. At the same time, the same people highlight the lack of explanations on the mode of action of many products on the market today, and the very little information of what the products contain, which they often refer to as ‘black-boxes’. These perceptions have been reported in other surveys conducted in the last 12 months that have been broadly communicated.

This is the very reason why we decided, years ago, to focus on few types of plants and actives only, to document them thoroughly. We are very transparent in what our products contain (composition marker and activity measures, with explicit methods of analysis), so that our clients can check by themselves and get re-assured that they know what they buy. Selling to veterinary laboratory companies is more proof of the level of quality and consistency of our products.

[Feedinfo News Service] What are the main ingredients used in the manufacture of Nor-Grape 80 and how are you able to ensure a consistent supply of raw materials? Also what can you disclose about its unique manufacturing process?

[Pierre Chicoteau] Nor-Grape 80 is a dry grape extract, which is different from a grape seed extract or a skin extract. We talk here about the full berry, which contains different polymers (some very short, like monomers and dimers) with antioxidants properties. They are located in the different parts of the berry. We do the same as for our other products, and balance the components so that eventually, we provide so much anthocyanins, pro-anthocyanidins, and other types of polyphenols.

In general terms, for all the actives and ingredients we utilize, we qualify at least two suppliers, sometimes more. Once audited, we establish contracts with them and buy on specifications. Then based on our internal analyses of the extracts we receive, we formulate and balance the various components to meet the specifications of our standardized formula, so that it always features the same composition and activity, thus the same benefits.

[Feedinfo News Service] The use of Nor-Grape 80 in feed helps to reduce the effects of oxidative stress in animals and also has an effect on meat quality. These antioxidant properties also characterize other types of feed additives. Why should a livestock and poultry producer turn to dry grape extract rather than vitamin E, for instance? 

[Pierre Chicoteau] Vitamin E has a key-role in animal nutrition, however, it has its limits. It covers a large family with different, non-equivalent properties (D alpha tocopherol, DL alpha tocopherol acetate, etc.). Moreover, the price of vitamin E suffers from very important and regular fluctuations and is difficult to estimate. Eventually, the weak assimilation of vitamin E limits its use by animals. Consequently we recommend to diversify, through Nor-Grape, the antioxidants supply in the diet, for a better physiology and a better cost control. Nor-Grape proved its capacity to regenerate vitamin E at a stable price (vs. vitamin E): the research we made proved that 1 gram of Nor-Grape 80 is equivalent to 11 g of vitamin E (tocopheryl acetate). This equivalence helps to formulate the antioxidant supply. A recent study on fattening pigs reveals, for instance, that Nor-Grape 80 allows a saving of 0.41 EUR/T of complete feed.

Olivier Clech

[Feedinfo News Service] What is the significance of the February 2017 EU approval?

Alexia Lepont
Quality Manager & Regulatory Affairs

[Alexia Lepont] This was a major milestone for our company because the European Food Safety Authority clearly stressed out the efficacy and safety of the use of dry grape extract in animal feed. Moreover, this month “grape seed extract” was removed from Annex I of the EU's Register of Feed Additives. As a result, the only and sustainable grape extract is Nor-Feed’s dry grape extract. Many players in the animal health and nutrition industry are already using Nor-Grape 80 to compensate for oxidative stress in animal farming and to bring water-soluble biological antioxidants, using Nor-Feed publications to build their own allegation dossier.

The decision is important in two ways. Firstly, the presence of the dry grape extract on the official European Union Register of Feed Additives is for us - and our customers - the guarantee that our product is duly standardized and based on sound and validated scientific bases. And secondly, since the authorization was based on the results provided by Nor-Feed, it is the company methods of analysis and characterization of active substances (total polyphenols, proanthocyanidins and anthocyanins) which will eventually be used for the evaluation of possible future grape extracts looking for the same authorization.

[Feedinfo News Service] Nearly 6 months after the EU authorization, are you able to stand back and measure the opportunities that such a development has created for Nor-Feed? Has demand for Nor-Grape 80 increased in recent months and what are your expectations moving forward?

[Olivier Clech] The opportunities are very positive. The general understanding of the meaning of this registration and the fact that Nor-Grape is the first and only grape extract allowed in the EU is clear for most, be they formulators, quality managers or auditors. Nor-Grape 80’s guaranteed content of polyphenols of several types is particularly interesting for the several industry stakeholders (premixers, food manufacturers and breeders). And following the publication of the authorization, requests have originated from countries where we have no presence. We have also seen demand to evaluate the potential benefits of dry grape extract in applications we had not even considered. 

We have had a 31% increase in sales from the previous year, and more than 80% of the French premix and specialty products players turned out at our Nor-Grape seminar a few months ago. Nor-Grape 80 is today one of the company’s scientific and commercial pillars. Sold in over thirty countries worldwide, it is entering the composition of more than 10 million tons of complete feed. Nor-Grape is a standardized and very concentrated extract, used at 10-100 ppm of complete feed, and manufacturing capacity is not an issue.

From a scientific point of view, grape extracts are an essential R&D topic at Nor-Feed and have been for more than 10 years. Paul Engler, R&D Manager of the Nor-Grape range, is conducting his PhD thesis on this issue within the SONAS laboratory (University of Angers).

[Feedinfo News Service] What are Nor-Feed's R&D priorities moving forward?

[Pierre Chicoteau] We will pursue our research efforts on our four pillars. For dry grape extracts we established a close cooperation with SONAS, one of the most advanced laboratories in pharmacognosy in Europe. A patent will be published later this year and will soon be able to utilize the data we have generated with metabolomics. We will continue our focus on citrus extracts and their favorable properties on the microbiota, playing on both sides (boosting the lactic acid bacteria, and containing the unfavorable flora). As for saponins, everybody knows yucca, but this class of secondary metabolites offers much more potential that people think. Finally, in-feed repellents. This is a more recent development in the company, with applications against red-mites, flies, mosquitos, and in aquaculture too.


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