- Olam Food Ingredients has partnered with biosciences data firm Brightseed to explore which of its U.S. garlic and global black pepper varieties contain the highest levels of bioactive phytochemicals and connect them to specific health benefits. Ofi will conduct the research from its ingredient excellence centers in Fresno, California, and Vietnam.
- Brightseed will use its Forager artificial intelligence platform, which maps and predicts the health impact of plant-based compounds, to identify molecular structures and novel compounds in the spices and determine how regions, cultivars, growing conditions and processing methods affect the potency and expression of the bioactives.
- The partnership builds on Brightseed's application of AI to reveal the health benefits of food ingredients, including its ongoing work with CPGs such as Ocean Spray and Danone.
Spices, often used more for the flavors they bring to food than their health benefits, offer a new proving ground for Brightseed's AI technology.
There is much for Ofi and Brightseed to explore. For example, the companies point to piperine, a bioactive and antioxidant in black pepper that has the potential to inhibit tumor growth and improve the bioavailability of certain therapeutic drugs. Research has also examined its anti-inflammatory effects — helpful in treating conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease — its ability to reduce insulin resistance and even treat depression.
"Ofi has a strong black pepper footprint which provides Forager with access to a range of cultivars with a view to developing a robust comparative model of bioactive potency and density," said Sofia Elizondo, co-founder and COO of Brightseed, in a statement. Ofi has pepper estates in Vietnam and Brazil. "Brightseed is seeking to build the data and validation that food and health industries need to establish a foundation on the true value of plants for human health optimization."
Garlic, which Ofi grows in the United States, has long been valued for its potential to prevent and treat diseases. Current medical research is focused on compounds in the plant that can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, prevent tumors, inhibit the growth of microbes and improve high blood glucose levels.
"Spices are largely valued for flavor but should also be explored for health applications," said Greg Estep, managing director and CEO of Ofi's spices business. "These data insights will help us unlock the health potential and differentiation in our spice supply and fuel future innovation."
While Brightseed maps the health potential of spices, it is also applying its Forager AI platform to profile the bioactive compounds in different cranberry varietals for Ocean Spray, and how various growing conditions can affect their concentration and expression in the fruit.
And in 2020, Brightseed partnered with Danone SA to examine the bioactives in the food giant's raw plant sources. They have since expanded their relationship to explore the potential of common crops and lesser known plants, as Danone seeks to speed up its development of plant-based products.