Fonterra wants to ‘play more boldly’ in the nutrition science space, launches new venture arm

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT

Getty/Meeko Media
Getty/Meeko Media

Related tags Probiotics next gen probiotic microbiome Nutrition microbiome-gut-brain axis

The newly-formed nutrition science venture arm will enable the co-op to explore fresh value streams – and it’s already made its first investment.

The business, provisionally named Nutrition Science Solutions (NSS), will be tasked with incubating, scaling and investing in ventures operating in the area of nutrition science. The newly-formed corporate ventures arm will be a standalone entity within Fonterra, with its own board and CEO, but will have access to Fonterra’s dairy science and innovation expertise, ‘combined with the agility of a startup’.

“NSS will seek out, partner with and invest in global start-ups who will benefit from access to Fonterra’s dairy science expertise and understanding of the global market, while Fonterra will benefit from access to emerging technologies, advancements in science, and novel channels to market,” commented Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell. “The business will incubate and scale a portfolio of disruptive ventures by developing solutions that combine science, nutrition and technology to make a real impact on human health.”

He added that the new corporate venture arm is part of Fonterra’s focus on nutrition science solutions as an area with growth potential, as outlined in the co-op’s long-term strategy. ““Nutrition science is a segment of the global health and wellness category that goes beyond everyday lifestyle and wellness products. Given our expertise in dairy science, we committed to exploring the potential for Fonterra to play more boldly in this space,” Hurrell explained.

The co-operative has already made a $10m investment through the new corporate venture arm in San Francisco-based growth-stage company Pendulum Therapeutics. The biotech startup specializes in so-called medical probiotics and is led by microbiome scientist Colleen Cutcliffe, a scientist with a PhD in Biochemistry and Microbiology from Johns Hopkins University. Cutliffe said the company develops products that ‘merge the power and efficacy of a pharmaceutical with the safety and accessibility of a probiotic’. The company has identified next-generation probiotics and developed probiotic blends that optimize metabolism and improves gut health. Pendulum has also attracted Hollywood actress Halle Berry, who joined the team as an investor and chief communications officer.

According to Euromonitor, the global human microbiome market is expected to be a $9.1bn industry by 2026. According to research by ADM and FMCG Gurus, more than 58% of global consumers are aware of the potential benefits that bacteria of the digestive tract may have on aspects of health and well-being, while 53% of consumers state they are paying more attention to the impact of their food, beverage and supplement choices on their well-being. Consumer interest in immune health is also strengthening, with research showing that 75% of global consumers stating they would put in more efforts to stay healthier, while 66% look for supplements formulated to support immune function.

Elsewhere in the industry, Danone North America is using its annual fellowship grant to sponsor research into the gut microbiota, including gut-on-a-chip project that is tipped to break new ground in the field of next-gen probiotics. Miguel Freitas PhD, vice-president of health and scientific affairs at Danone North America, told DairyReporter that the company’s focus is to ensure ‘our products are comprised of ingredients that offer proven benefits, such as inclusion of certain probiotics, so it is very important to us to stay at the forefront of research’, adding that there is a market niche when it comes to ‘approaches designed to prevent the disruption of the symbiosis between humans and its microbial symbionts in healthy individuals’.

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