Sunsweet, which is best known for its dried prunes and other fruits, has recently expanded its portfolio to include snacks and beverages, said CreAgri president Dr Roberto Crea.
“They have excellent capabilities in formulating and bottling beverages, as well as the expertise needed to distribute, sell and market with excellence.”
Sunsweet Growers chief operating officer Dane Lance added: "We think being part of the effort to unleash the power of the olive complements wonderfully what we've been doing for so long with the power of the prune."
The new beverages - set to launch in the next 18 months - will be “the first to offer the added power of natural inflammation-quenching to the traditional benefits provided by today's functional drinks rich in antioxidants and nutritional ingredients," claimed Dr Crea.
Heat-stable, cost effective
Hidrox, which comes in powder or liquid form and is rich in free-radical-busting polyphenol hydroxytyrosol, is well-suited to food and beverage applications as it is heat stable.
It is also cost effective as it does not need to be used in large amounts.
A lot of the buzz around hydroxytyrosol has focused on cardiovascular health following the publication of a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) supporting claims about olive polyphenols for reducing oxidized LDL cholesterol, an emerging risk factor for atherosclerosis.
There is also a growing number of clinical studies showing olive polyphenols as effective against everything from UVB-induced DNA damage to platelet aggregation in the blood - plus several studies proving its anti-microbial and antioxidant effect in foods.
Targeting chronic inflammation
However, their ability to tackle the low-grade inflammation believed to be at the root of scores of chronic diseases is equally exciting, said CreAgri director of communications Paolo Pontoniere, who spoke to us earlier this year after striking a deal with multi-level-marketing firm Cosway to use Hidrox in a new line of dietary supplements.
“There is a lot of interest in joint health, cardiovascular health and skin health, but I think that inflammation is a very big opportunity. We are all walking around with low level inflammation and we know that Hidrox can stop the cytokine cascade.”
CreAgri, which has built up a large body of clinical research around Hidrox in recent years covering everything from cardiovascular to skin health benefits, is pursuing a two-pronged commercial strategy for the ingredient, he said.
“First, we sell it as an ingredient to the supplements sector and we’re talking to manufacturers of foods, beverages and skincare products. We are also talking with some big producers of fresh cut salads, meats and leafy greens about using Hidrox as a natural anti-microbial.
“Second, we're developing our own finished products containing Hidrox. We already have our own Olivenol Plus supplement brand and we are now working on beverages and other products. We are particularly interested in energy type drinks for mental alertness.”
He added: "Companies operating in fields as varied as cosmetics, botanicals and food safety are looking to Hidrox as a powerful source of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant , and anti-microbial activity.
"We have a number of deals under way, and we should have some exciting announcements by the end of the year."
Hidrox is produced from olive juice, which used to be thrown away as waste in the olive oil production process, until Dr Crea discovered it was laced with hydroxytyrosol and he was "throwing away liquid gold", said Pontoniere.
Click here to read more about Hidrox.