The German company is on a quest to make bovine colostrum – a highly sought-after ingredient in the nutraceutical industry thanks to its immunity-boosting properties – a product that’s equally appealing to the average shopper. While there are plenty of reasons for health-conscious consumers to be interested in colostrum, the taste of the gold-colored liquid isn’t for everyone. “The problem with colostrum is that it has a really cheesy, almost whey-like taste,” explained Martin Thiems, marketing and distribution manager for Colostrum BioTec. “My wife for example cannot take the liquid – she prefers capsules. But the liquid product has a different impact.”
‘Different’ here means high concentrations of immunoglobulin G. The company’s liquid product brand, armacura, is a 6ml daily shot with a concentration of at least 200mg immunoglobulin G as well as lactoferrin. It has 40 times more immunoglobulin G than a comparable quantity of breast milk and is lactose- and gluten-free. Moreover, the 6ml shot packs more than 400 substances that are rich in amino acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and natural growth factors. “But to get this 6ml bottle, you have to get the raw material, de-fat it, de-casinate it; you have to work with cultures and then you have to rate it to make sure you haven’t impacted it in some way,” Thiems said.
The liquid concentrate consists solely of bovine colostrum, which is obtained from regulated livestock during the first 24 hours after calving, we were told. “But the new-born calves always come first - we just get the leftovers,” clarified Thiems.
“What makes colostrum so special is that it’s not a typical raw material where you could call someone up and order it,” he added. “You have to build up your own supply chain. What we have in Germany, Austria, Czech Republic is over 1,400 farmers who supply us, though in our contracts, there are no requirements around quantities or otherwise. When the farmers are interested in delivering, they can deliver what they can or if they can’t because they need it for the calves, they can keep it.”
These farms range from ‘very small to very big eastern German farms,’ a mix of conventional and organic farm, all of which have to be German-standard quality milk producers. “When we attract a new supplier, we check their quality management, carry out audits, look at animal welfare. So we are not just buying colostrum from anyone – we are running our own collection system with our own collectors and drivers. We have extremely high standards because we have to make sure the colostrum is usable for humans and for animals.”
Thiems admitted, however, that the company’s ‘German-produced and German-tested’ products can be expensive in what is already a lucrative market. “The way we approach the market is with the idea to make a very safe, secure, product,” he said. “In a world where food scandals can have a huge impact on manufacturers, we have FSSC 22000 certification, organic certification.” FCCS is an internationally-accepted certification scheme based on a combination of ISO 22000 sector-specific prerequisite program and FSSC additional requirements. “We are also registered as ‘food’ business, so we can provide products that can be used by the whole family. Our products are 100% natural and have no sterilization, so we market them as natural alternatives’.”
Asked if his company can use any health claims based specifically on the properties of colostrum in Germany, Thiems said there were none yet, but that the company is part of ZIM, Germany’s largest innovation program for small and medium-sized enterprises, under which Colostrum BioTec will try ‘to invent a product in order to obtain a health claim’.
‘We have to educate the consumer’
All this R&D work comes at a cost; and while Thiems doesn’t think that colostrum will go down in pricing any time soon, this may be the right time to explain to consumers why colostrum is so special. “We have to educate the consumer what colostrum is,” he said. “In Europe especially, it’s still pretty unknown. In Asia, meanwhile, it’s a different story – if you go to China, Malaysia or Korea, people know what colostrum is, and even have applications for infants, which at the moment is still unthinkable for Europe.”
In the meantime, the company is focusing on making new colostrum-based products – flavored colostrum and liquid lactoferrin. “We are a pure colostrum company, but we are always looking at ways to expand,” adding that demand from the Asian market means there’s an incentive to shake things up. “We sell globally; our core market is Europe, but with all the things we do at the moment, Asia is catching up.” This is why the company is offering flavored powdered colostrum stick, with strawberry flavor, as part of its LacVital range. “Lactoferrin, sterile and filtrated, is red and completely tasteless, and we thought we wanted to give it a flavor and chose strawberry,” he explained.
“We hope in the next five years we can get the consumer educated and that we can work on the research side, too. It’s really important for us to highlight that these are natural ingredients that are good for health,” concluded Thiems.