Aminofacts is presented as a “an independent, non-profit organization that brings transparency to the sourcing and production processes around food grade amino acids.” During a conversation with some of the leaders of the effort, the group revealed to Nutra Ingredients-United Statesthat seed funding for the project was provided by South Korean amino acid manufacturer CJ Bio.
Amino acids, which are organic compounds of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen with varying side chains, are the building blocks of proteins. Twenty amino acids are found in the body. Of these, nine are classified as “essential” in that they cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from the diet. These are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine are further differentiated by their side chains and are characterized as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). These are popular ingredients in sports nutrition products. Leucine in particular is closely related to muscle protein synthesis, which explains its ubiquity in this product category, either as a stand-alone ingredient or in proteins rich in leucine.
The ingredients are common; procurement information is not
But while these amino acids are rife, the group’s organizers say it’s almost unknown to have label information on their origin. And this answer can be surprisingly complex.
Amino acids are made by deconstructing proteins through various chemical processes, and these proteins can come from a wide variety of sources. Much of the material left over from animal processing still contains proteins, for example, which could be broken down into their building blocks. The same is true for most plant “waste” from the processing of food ingredients.
Among those involved in the new group is Mitch Kanter, former director of health and nutrition at Cargill and former director of nutritional research at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Kanter said he agreed to become an advisor on the project because he believed it was time for consumers to have this information.
“This is a group that wants to bring transparency to the sources and production processes around food grade amino acids, especially for people who are vegans or who wish to practice a vegetarian diet. These days everyone claims to have a herbal product. A lot of people don’t really know what these terms mean, and it’s hard to know where these amino acids come from. This effort aims to bring a little transparency and education to the people of this camp ”,Kanter said.
Amino Acid Supply May Be an Opportunistic Decision
Laurie Cairns, a Chicago-based communications professional, has been involved in the organization and branding of the effort, which you could say is nearing the end of its beta testing phase. Part of the work so far has been to assess how difficult it will be to assemble a comprehensive database of all the products containing amino acids on the market.
Cairns said staff members have so far gleaned information from manufacturers’ websites where possible. If more information is needed, as is usually the case, it is obtained by calling the company contact line and talking to people in call centers. In addition to information on the amino acid supply, the project inquired about certifications that might be important for vegan consumers.
Cairns said this pilot phase gave project organizers an idea of how long it would take to get the information for each entry.
“At the moment, there are around 150 products in the queue to validate. We started by focusing primarily on supplements and will expand into sports nutrition more broadly. I think that the total number of products that will interest us will be in the tens of thousands ”,she says.
“What we’ve found so far is that these amino acids come from both plant and animal sources. Sometimes it seems like an opportunistic choice for manufacturers based on supply and price ”,she says.
Cairns said that while the amino acids themselves would be the same, whether isolated from a protein that was originally part of a plant or an animal, this sourcing information will be important to them. vegan consumers. This is especially true when considering some of the sources of amino acids that might be considered unpleasant, such as hair, feathers or what Cairns called “fish silage.”
Ross Craig, director of marketing and business development for CJ America BIO, the North American brand of the South Korean parent company, is helping lead efforts on CJ Bio’s side. He said the ultimate goal is to bring consumers into the project in a kind of crowdsourcing model.
“We invited consumers who were reading the site to provide us with the brands they use and that they would like to know more about the site to provide us with the brands that they use and that they would now like to know more about”, Craig said.
Reduce information targets so consumers can participate
Craig said the project was nearing the end of its pilot phase when he planned to release its first round of results. After a while, the consumer-focused crowdsourcing phase will begin.
The pilot project refined a standardized questionnaire that consumers could ultimately use to obtain procurement information from manufacturers. Kanter said the pilot has refined this down to a body of information that can be obtained within a reasonable timeframe.
“In the first iteration of this questionnaire, there were some pretty complicated questions, such as whether the animals were treated humanely and whether acid is used in the extraction process. The questionnaire is much more condensed now ”, he said.
Kanter said market research supports the idea that now is the time for such an effort.
“Research has shown that 94% of consumers say it’s important that brands try to be transparent, and 64% think it’s a brand’s responsibility to provide comprehensive product information. ” he said.
Leading vendor says transparency has always been part of the game
Karen Todd, RD, vice president of global brand marketing for Kyowa Hakko USA, which is a major supplier of amino acids, said her company has always supported transparency in sourcing.
“Kyowa Hakko was the first company to commercialize amino acids from fermentation over sixty years ago. We know the importance of transparency to help consumers better understand the origin and manufacturing methods used in finished products. We have found that our customers attach great importance to our Japanese quality, but also the origin of Kyowa Citrulline, Arginine and Glutamine which are made here in the USA. The use of Kyowa amino acids will contribute to truthful product labeling and will not mislead consumers about the origin and quality of the ingredients used in the product ”,Todd said.
Consultant thinks the time may have come
Consultant Robert Wildman, PhD, is a protein expert with a long history in product development in the field of sports nutrition. He is the former Scientific Director of Post Active Nutrition Brands, which includes Dymatize, Power Bar, Premier Protein, and Supreme Protein. Wildman said Aminofacts organizers may have caught a surge in the sports nutrition market at the right time.
“I think the time may have come. Five years ago, maybe not that much. This is the kind of communication that consumers increasingly expect, when five or ten years ago the market was driven by demand from bodybuilders who were looking for products full of long and crazy ingredient names.he said.