Barking Mad

Catherine Beard

Who would have thought that a natural product used centuries ago by indigenous people is now being used as a powerful ingredient in ‘functional food’, to combat the stresses, strains and ailments of our modern world?

Customers around the world are going mad for a nutritional product that’s been scientifically proven to help, not just with preserving one’s youth and vitality, but with more serious conditions such as brain injury, dementia or ADHD. It’s all from the benefits of a naturally occurring substance – tree bark.

Pine bark tea, used by North American Indians, came to Europe 500 years ago when explorers in Quebec used it to cure scurvy. It has also been used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine.

David Giles and his team at ENZO Nutraceuticals have combined the science from New Zealand’s top universities with the bark of our Pinus Radiata trees, to tap into a consumer demand for antioxidant rich products, and a growing trend in using supplemented food and drink as a form of treatment for physical ailments.

Through Canterbury University, they developed a process that refined some of the compounds in the bark. Studies on mice found they lived significantly longer, were healthier and more mobile in their old age.

David saw the commercial potential in the research and from there started taking the pine-bark extract product – Enzogenol – to the world.

ENZO Nutraceuticals has continued to invest in R&D and developing IP, and has completed multiple human clinical studies especially in the area of brain health.

“By applying pharmceuctical type clinical trials and research to  a nutritional product,  we’re getting our product more and more into brain health products for ordinary healthy people wanting a boost, or people with brain injuries or early-onset dementia. So it’s a multi-pronged approach, catering to several different markets with one product,” says David.

“We started selling in New Zealand, still an important market, and 90% of our business is now in exporting. We started with trade shows in the USA (our second biggest market) and the same with Japan.”

India has now become their biggest market, selling to pharmaceutical companies that have nutritional divisions. The expensive registration process is currently too prohibitive in China and Europe, but David says they hope to get into these markets in the future.

Most sales under the Enzogenol brand are made online to consumers, health practitioners and nutritionists, and the bulk powder is sold to companies such as Nutra-Life and Alphagen who produce a drink for mental clarity called Ārepa – New Zealand’s first.

Hailed by its developer Angus Brown as a natural “caffeine-free alternative to Red Bull”, Ārepa (Maori for alpha, the brainwave thought to be activated) is something that could be used by stressed professionals.

“We’re getting more into functional foods as companies want to use Enzogenol in food and drink products. These are aimed at helping people suffering from modern ailments such as data smog and being overloaded with too much information. These new products help people to focus and filter out distractions and irrelevant information.

“A key selling point of our product is our science,” says David. “We wouldn’t even get our foot in the door if we didn’t have human clinical trials to support the authenticity of our product. The clean green New Zealand image is secondary to that.

“It’s our view that healthy nutrition can help with things like traumatic brain injury, or kids with ADHD, and our science supports that. We’re getting sales from that alone. Our studies go into scientific journals and get picked up by other researchers around the world. It’s like a snowball marketing effect for us.”

12 Mar, 2018

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