Chondroitin-containing supplement products are in the top five best-selling dietary supplements, with annual sales of about $1 billion, and all chondroitin sold in the US is from overseas. The US is estimated to have imported about 3,500 metric tons of chondroitin in 2012, and about 3,000 in 2011.
Chondroitin sulfate is extracted from animal cartilage. In dietary supplements the compound is often formulated in combination with glucosamine.
Speaking with NutraIngredients-USA at the recent SupplySide West show in Las Vegas, Weiguo Zhang, President and COO of Synutra Ingredients, said that the company is now the largest chondroitin supplier to the US market in terms of volume and value.
“Our key customers are the largest and the best, with mainstream brand owners in glucosamine and chondroitin suppliers switching to us.”
The company has grown from being the fifth largest chondroitin supplier less than 12 months ago to number one.
“Branding certainly helps our customers to be comfortable with the materials. Other industry players will hopefully want to emulate our approach.”
The company launched its branded materials, Chondro Gold and Chondro Cal, at the SupplySide Marketplace Show in NYC earlier this year. The ingredients are described as ‘adulterant-free branded chondroitin products with guaranteed source traceability’.
Adulteration has long been an issue in the chondroitin supply chain, and Synutra says it is trying to make the industry aware of simple methods to test for adulterants.
The company has applied validated and published electrophoresis methods to test for adulteration, and, despite the fact that these are monographed methodologies, nobody is using them, said Zhang. “This is leaving a hole in the supply chain to apply these methods.”
This new application is the subject of some new publications from the company that are being prepared for publication in “good journals” he said.
So, why is there such a low level of uptake? “The problem is that people don’t know how to use it. The method is so simple. It does need focused training, but it is a very easy method.”
“The industry is so used to using HPLC that a simple electrophoresis method is not being adopted,” he added.
Electrophoresis is a method that uses an electric field to separate substances – the substances move by different amounts when in a colloidal suspension.
“If you neglect it, it will die out,” warned Zhang. “The method works perfectly in this situation and in this material.”
The company has used this method to identify a new adulterant in chondroitin that it is calling Zero One. The commonly used chondroitin assay procedure is called cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) titrimetry, and all of the adulterants used, like chondroitin, titrate with CPC to produce assay readings as chondroitin at levels equal to or much higher than chondroitin itself.
Zhang said that their data indicates that Zero One is such a potent adulterant that it appears in CPC as chondroitin at 235% assay value. It also has a melting point of 278 degrees Centigrade
The company is still working on characterizing this mysterious adulterant, and preliminary NMR studies have shown that it is not organic. “Electrophoresis will be able to tell you if you have adulterated material or not.”
The company has engaged in quite a bit of dialogue with the FDA, said Zhang, and Synutra is keeping the Agency updated on its progress.