PACran, the whole-cranberry powder used in a number of branded and private-label supplements that are aimed at promoting urinary tract health, is seeking to grow the body of literature that supports its effectiveness at preventing urinary-tract infections and prostate health.
Owned by Sagamore, Mass.-based Decas Botanical Synergies (which recently was acquired by Naturex), PACran was launched in 2006 as a full spectrum cranberry ingredient derived from a unique formulation of the entire fruit. “Typically, [supplements] are juice-based,” said Daniel Souza, senior director of sales and marketing for Decas. “You’re getting just a fraction of the cranberry. We use the skin, the seeds and the flesh at the optimal ratio. We kind of recreated the cranberry from scratch.”
While PACran’s marketing strategy has long focused on moving cranberry’s health benefits beyond “old wives’ tale” status through clinical trials to compare PACran’s effects both to those of placebos and more widely used, juice-based cranberry supplements, much of the research has focused on the supplement’s potential to prevent urinary tract infections (UTI) in women. In all, PACran has been subjected to seven clinical trials. Two of those have been published and the rest are proprietary, Souza said.
The results of the studies have suggested that PACran’s claims have merit. A 2009 study by a Rutgers University researcher compared the potential of a 500mg capsule of PACran to prevent UTI by testing its anti-adhesion properties—the mechanism that prevents infection- causing bacteria from attaching to the intestinal walls—to those of 10 ounces of a cranberry cocktail that contained 27 percent cranberry juice. It concluded that the two had similar anti-adhesion properties. Another study found that women who consumed PACran had a significantly reduced rate of recurring infections when compared to women who had been given a placebo.
Now, two more studies are in the works that could provide evidence that PACran supports prostate health in men, Souza said. He expects to have results available by autumn of 2013. A previous study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2010 indicated that male subjects with high prostate- specific antigen levels improved on a number of different prostate health markers after six months of regularly consuming PACran. Another study of PACran’s effect on female UTI is also in progress.
While scientific evidence of PACran’s effectiveness could draw more buyers in the U.S., where cranberry has long been consumed for its health benefits, it is critical to gaining customers in Europe and Asia, where the benefits are not well-known.
“Cranberry has always been well- known in the U.S. for promoting urinary tract health, but we found that really isn’t true in India or Australia, where there isn’t that ‘old wives’ tale’ tradition,” Souza said. “The only way we could prove it was to conduct clinical trials. It’s costly and time-consuming, but it’s a worthy investment.”
Another element of PACran’s strategy involves gaining official endorsements from government health agencies of the product’s benefits, Souza said, something that would not be possible without supporting scientific research. In 2009, PACran was the first cranberry supplement to obtain approval from the Korean Food and Drug Administration for its claim to support urinary health. PACran is currently seeking a similar approval from the European Food Safety Authority.
“We’re finding that [the government certifications] are helping to build awareness,” Souza said. “That way, it’s not just us making the claims; it’s a government-sanctioned body. That’s really the reason we invest.”
The September 2012 purchase of Decas by France-based Naturex came a year after Naturex acquired Burgundy Botanical Extracts, which also marketed cranberry and other extracts aimed at preventing UTI. In October, Nexira, another French company, announced that it had acquired Tournay Biotechnologies and its flagship Exocyan cranberry extract. Souza doesn’t anticipate making major changes to PACran’s strategy in light of those consolidations, he said.
“We’ve always been focused on delivering a healthy dose of cranberry,” Souza said. “That’s why we developed the science. If someone is looking to add a cranberry ingredient, we’ll show them we have the superior product.”