Vitamin D3 maker looks for its place in the sun

PT Jyothi Datta | Updated on March 29, 2019

Sun ‘n’shine Operating in the business-to-business segment, Fermenta sells its Vitamin D3 to other food, pharma and nutrition companies

Fermenta Biotech says plans are brewing to expand its nutritional ingredients basket

“We should be the oldest company in Vitamin D3, in active production, on this planet,” says Prashant Nagre, without a shadow of doubt.

Nagre is Chief Executive, Fermenta Biotech Ltd, a subsidiary of DIL or Duphar-Interfran Ltd, as it was earlier known. A company with a legacy of 60-odd years and a journey dotted with alliances and intuitive tech transfers that gave it an edge, DIL now stands poised for a merger of Fermenta with itself.

The decision reflects the company’s aim to paint a wider canvas in health by expanding its nutritional ingredients basket to include anti-oxidants, next-gen “smart” minerals and pre and pro-biotics, for example.

Explaining the long run with Vitamin D3 , Nagre says other multinational companies in this segment had gone through iterations, name changes and so on. But DIL had a continuous stint, he says, of the company that also gave the local market brands like Crocin and Lacto Calamine. These have since gone on to a new life under present owners GlaxoSmithKline and Piramal Enterprises, respectively.

Operating in the business-to-business segment, Fermenta sells its Vitamin D3 to other food, pharmaceutical and nutrition companies that use it in their products sold across markets. Canadian companies in the infant nutrition space and players in the Scandinavian milk sector, for instance, use Fermenta’s Vitamin D3, he says, adding that selling into regulated markets requires quality products, compliant with international regulatory standards, and a well-oiled distribution machinery.

“We are part of large milk fortification programmes in the world, as we have (the) approvals .... in North America you can fortify milk with Fermenta’s D3,” he says, explaining what emboldened them to up their game to other nutritional ingredients.

Beyond bone health

Recalling the rise and rise of Vitamin D3’s importance in daily life, he says it grew as scientific knowledge emerged on benefits beyond it being good for the bones. Revelations on the high prevalence of Vitamin D3 deficiency even in sunny countries were shocking, because a few minutes’ exposure to the sun can give you natural Vitamin D3 for many days, he says.

With growing awareness, the cost of diagnostic tests to check for D3 came down and more information emerged that showed that D3 deficiency had linkages to chronic conditions like cardio-vascular ailments, diabetes, mental health and infertility.

Looking to tap into opportunities including nutraceuticals, premixed formulations that can be used by food or pharma companies or Government initiatives, Fermenta seeks to build its portfolio with vitamins and minerals that are smart and stable, water-soluble, causing less stomach irritation, with their metallic taste masked, and capable of being better absorbed into blood, Nagre says.

“Innovation is a beautiful thing as it does not depend on the size of a company but the thought,” he says. With two production facilities in Kullu (Himachal Pradesh) and Dahej (Gujarat), Fermenta in January acquired land in Sayakha (Ankleshwar, Gujarat) to support its expansion into minerals like iron, calcium, zinc and manganese.

Nagre’s plan is for a World Health Organization-compliant production facility for minerals in the country, for example, so the formulation can be used by Governments to include in their food programmes that target health issues in the local population.

Much lies ahead for this Vitamin D3 maker.

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Published on March 29, 2019
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