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BioNeutra: Bridging Science and Health for a Better Future

Dr. Jianhua Zhu | Founder & CEO | BioNeutra North America Inc.
Dr. Jianhua Zhu | Founder & CEO | BioNeutra North America Inc.

Canada’s biotech sector thrives at the intersection of science and technology, where innovations tackle diseases in a dynamic landscape. Among the standout companies in this thriving industry, BioNeutra North America Inc. distinguishes itself with its innovative offerings. As an agri-biotechnology manufacturer, it specializes in patented technology, producing natural fiber sweeteners and food ingredients.

Founded in 2003 by Jianhua Zhu, a seasoned expert in starch and carbohydrate chemistry, BioNeutra benefits from his extensive scientific and technical knowledge. Prior to BioNeutra, Mr. Zhu held positions as a professor at the University of Alberta and as a Senior Scientist at Edmonton Biotech.

At the heart of BioNeutra’s offerings is VitaFiber® IMO, an advanced functional food and beverage ingredient derived from natural agricultural products. Recognized as safe by the U.S. FDA, approved as a novel fiber by Health Canada, and acknowledged as a novel food ingredient by the European Food Safety Authority, VitaFiber® IMO offers a natural, low-calorie alternative to sugar, doubling as a source of dietary fiber and prebiotics for digestive health.

Inspired by a family legacy in public health, Mr. Zhu’s dedication to improving well-being led him on a path to develop health-enhancing ingredients.

Insights Care interacted with Mr. Zhu to uncover intriguing details about BioNeutra and his contributions to the organization’s growth and development.

Give a brief overview of your organization. What are its mission and vision statements?

BioNeutra Global Corporation (TSX.V: BGA), based in Edmonton, Alberta, is a publicly traded health & nutrition ingredients and agriculture value-added company. The Company is listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange (the “CSE”) under the symbol “BGA”.

Through its wholly owned subsidiaries, BioNeutra North America Inc. and BioNeutra International Limited, the Company is in the business of research and development, production and commercialization of ingredients for nutraceutical, functional and mainstream foods and beverages. BioNeutra’s current focus involves developing and manufacturing a line of natural products targeting the multi-billion-dollar mainstream and functional food ingredients markets.

What are some of the unique aspects that set your organization apart from other biotech companies?

BioNeutra was the first company in North America to develop and manufacture isomalto-oligosaccharides (IMO). BioNeutra also was the first company to obtain regulatory approval for its IMO as a novel fiber in Canada, GRAS ingredient in the US and novel food in Europe.  As a lead innovator in IMO’s, BioNeutra was able to establish both the North American and European markets for this product. VitaFiber® is known around the world as the premier, specialized IMO that is backed by multiple scientific studies – and we continue to conduct new research into this product.

Our manufacturing plant is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that has the capacity to process up to 200MT of starch/month. Other unique aspects that set BioNeutra apart from its competitors include certifications of its manufacturing plant: we are certified as Halal, Kosher, non-GMO, and organic and hold quality assurance FSSC 22000 certifications. Additional differentiators include the availability of corn, tapioca and pea based IMOs. BioNeutra is the only company in the world that produces isomalto-oligosaccharides using pea starch.

What role is your organization playing in shaping Canada’s biotech landscape?

BioNeutra developed a unique patented process that uses locally sourced starch and converts it into isomalto-oligosaccharides. IMO consist of a mixture of non-digestible oligosaccharides of DP between 2-7. Several experimental and clinical studies have demonstrated that IMO mixtures are not completely digested by gut enzymes are exhibit prebiotic properties2-4. IMOs are used in the food industry as high fiber and low-calorie syrup that provides several health benefits including prebiotic effects. Using a natural enzymatic process, we transform starch molecules from these crops into the value-added functional health molecules of IMO. The company uses pea starch to make VitaFiber IMO. Peas are one of the only plants that add nitrogen back into soil and therefore are considered a more sustainable crop. We are beginning to see that locally produced pea IMO – and particularly organic pea IMO – is being very well received in the North American market.

How does the company stay updated with the latest biotechnological advancements?

The company’s scientific team consists of 6 Ph.D.’s, and are experts in nutrition, biochemistry, and food science. The team remains updated with the latest biotechnological advancements by performing regular literature searches, attending conferences and networking with experts in the field. BioNeutra has also collaborated with several university professors to perform studies to determine mechanisms of action and enhancements of its products2-5. The collaboration also helps the team to stay updated with the latest research carried out in the relevant areas.

What are some of the most significant challenges that your organization has faced and what strategies have helped in navigating them?

Although IMO are considered a dietary fiber in Canada, they are only recognized as a GRAS ingredient in the US. BioNeutra submitted two petitions to the US-FDA to consider IMO as a dietary fiber, both were rejected. The rejection affected the company’s revenues. The company has now started R&D work to develop other high fiber syrups that could be considered dietary fiber globally including the US.

The functional food and beverage industry is characterized by competition and ongoing product development in all its phases. VitaFiber competes with numerous other products within similar food and beverage ingredient products. Competitive factors in the manufacturing and sale of functional food and beverage product ingredients include price, methods of production, and the ability to deliver products to the market. BioNeutra needs to ensure that its products remain competitive in the marketplace, otherwise the company’s future growth can be negatively impacted.

What advice would you give to budding professionals who wish to venture into this dynamic industry?

Consumers are becoming increasingly health conscious and seek foods that are enriched with bioactive ingredients that are beneficial to human health. Cost also plays an important factor in their food selection. Therefore, professionals who want to venture in the industry of functional foods and beverages, must ensure that their products are innovative, provide health benefits, meet regulatory requirements and are affordable to today’s consumers.

What vision do you hold for the future of your organization in the coming years?

Our vision is to make BioNeutra the world leader in the production of innovative and high-quality nutritional ingredients for the continuously evolving food and beverage, nutraceutical, and functional food industry. Since the world of fibre demand is growing, we are seeing a upswing in this industry, and particularly as a food, nutritional supplement company to help people, reduce sugar content in production facilities of consumer products, as well as growing the fibre component in foods that we need in our bodies. Market demand around the world is echoing these thoughts, and we are positioning ourselves to be a world leader in this field.



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