Clean water, clean label, clear benefits

Mazza Innovation’s PhytoClean Method is an Earth-friendly way to extract bioactives from plants using only water and produces clean, non-solvent-derived ingredients

Mazza Innovation (Mazza) is a Canadian company that is revolutionising the extraction of phytochemicals from plant sources using its proprietary subcritical water extraction technology: the PhytoClean Method. This technology modifies the polarity of water such that it behaves like an organic solvent in terms of its ability to dissolve valuable plant compounds without the numerous drawbacks associated with the use of traditional organic solvents.

Mazza specialises in extracting bioactive compounds, including polyphenols, alkaloids, glycosides and specialty carbohydrates that are of interest to the dietary supplement, food, beverage and personal care industries. Founder Dr Giuseppe (Joe) Mazza drives the company’s commitment to environmental integrity and its vision to produce the cleanest, greenest ingredients that benefit our health while preserving a healthy planet.

Participating at 2015 Engredea/Natural Products Expo West trade show in California, USA, Mazza launched its first ingredients: green tea, blueberry and cranberry extracts. Standardised to meet minimum bioactive ingredient concentrations and yet free from any carrier or trace solvent, the company’s clean ingredients were nominated as the Most Innovative Ingredient part of the 2015 Editors’ Choice Awards. Mazza has a robust development pipeline of new ingredients for introduction to customers and industry.

The PhytoClean Method

Unfortunately for natural products extraction, water is generally a poor solvent for the extraction of organic molecules from biomass. For an organic molecule to be dissolved by water, it must ‘compete’ with the hydrogen bonds that already exist between the water molecules. Hydrogen bonds are responsible for many of water’s unusual properties, including its relatively high surface tension and high boiling point, for example. As organic solvents don’t have this strong hydrogen bond problem, they are much more effective solvents.

The beauty of the Mazza technology is making water behave like an organic solvent with respect to the dissolution capacity of organic molecules. When water is heated, the kinetic energy of the heated water molecules begins to overcome the hydrogen bonds, freeing up the water molecules to bond with the organic compounds, which are the targets of the extraction. The key, however, is to maintain, with the use of pressure, the water in a liquid state even though it is above its atmospheric boiling point of 100°C.

The breakdown of the hydrogen bonds in liquid water continues as more heat is applied. It can be measured by a reduction in polarity. In atmospheric conditions, the polarity of water is 80. By increasing its temperature to above 100°C, the polarity can be reduced to approximately 25–35, which is equivalent to the polarities of ethanol and methanol, two extremely prevalent extraction solvents. Furthermore, by adjusting the temperature and therefore the polarity, it is possible to selectively target for extraction of certain compounds compared with others.

In essence, the Mazza technology makes water behave as if it were methanol or ethanol without any of the many negative downsides involved in their use. Moreover, as the biomass spends only minutes at elevated temperatures in a purged and closed system, heat-sensitive compounds can be successfully extracted.

The PhytoClean extractor produces an extract of approximately 1–3% solids in purified water. After extraction, an evaporator is used to remove most of the water. After that, Mazza uses a cutting-edge drying technology called refractance window drying, which is extremely gentle and preserves the extract’s bioactive contents. This technology removes the remaining moisture in the extract to produce a dry product, which can be ground to meet the customer’s needs.

Manufacturing facilities

Mazza recently announced the opening of its first large-scale commercial extraction processing facility to produce its PhytoClean Cranberry, Green Tea and Blueberry extracts as well as other clean label ingredients for its customers. The company’s PhytoClean laboratory and manufacturing operations in Vancouver (BC, Canada) include a 3500m2 facility with bench, pilot and production-scale extractors, a fully equipped laboratory for research, development and QA/QC, and 17 full-time employees (production, research, management).

The extractor can process 1000 kg (dry weight) per day of biomass with an acceptable input moisture: 0–90% and a minimum particle size of 1–3mm. It has a footprint of approximately 15m2, with five columns that operate sequentially or semi-continuously.

Compared with conventional techniques, the PhytoClean method eliminates the need for multiple certifications, uses a common material handling process, improves operator safety (no flammables involved), produces usable by-products with limited waste and is environmentally friendly (Figure 1).

The technological benefits of PhytoClean

The GMP-certified facility is fully compliant with the quality requirements of dietary supplements and natural health product manufacturers. As the PhytoClean method only uses water as its solvent, no costly solvent-handling environmental safety permits or explosion-proof equipment were needed in its construction, which translates into competitive pricing for its quality ingredients or contract manufacturing services offered to its customers.

'Opening and initiating large-scale production is an exciting and important milestone for Mazza as we enter commercial production of our advanced premium extracts for the customers who have placed orders,' said Benjamin Lightburn, President of Mazza Innovation: 'We now have significant processing capability to fulfil demand. Our extraction technology can be applied to source many different botanical ingredients with higher purity than is typically available.'

Commercial opportunities

Beyond commercialising its proprietary ingredients, Mazza is also seeking interesting projects for joint venture and collaboration with established market players. Mazza works with companies that have specific projects in mind for which they would like to develop solvent-free, standardised extracts to meet the growing demand for clean labels and truly pure products.

Existing technologies leave manufacturers with a choice. Organic solvent extraction will yield products containing solvent residues, sometimes of highly toxic solvents. Operating safely with organic solvents also requires complicated and expensive physical and regulatory infrastructure. If manufacturers require an ingredient without solvent residue, they must rely on low-performing water extraction or expensive and complicated supercritical carbon dioxide extraction. Mazza’s technology represents the solution to this dichotomy: a method to achieve the high extraction performance of industrial solvents without any of the inherent cost and clean label drawbacks found in health products being produced using these older solvent-based extraction technologies.

Looking ahead

Having recently signed an exclusive processing agreement with Naturex for its cranberry extract product, Benjamin Lightburn, President of Mazza Innovation, commented: 'Our business plan has always been prepared for a significant and rapid expansion. The partnership in cranberry with an industry leader like Naturex provides excellent confirmation of our premium-quality ingredients and advanced environment-friendly process. It also provides justification of our aggressive expansion plans and gives us an incentive to go to the market even more intensively with a variety of cost-effective, premium-quality botanical extracts beyond our first three products of cranberry, blueberry and green tea extracts. Mazza is now open for business and looking to discuss collaborations with customer partners in nutraceuticals, functional foods, supplements and personal care.'

Lightburn observed that there is ongoing concern in the global ingredients marketplace in terms of clean label, cost-effectiveness and quality assurance with traditional solvent-based extraction methods. 'As our PhytoClean extraction technology continues to displace these antiquated extraction technologies, we expect significant sales opportunities and growth in Asia and continued growth in Europe. We are confident the cost-benefit analysis of quality, environmental friendliness and price makes switching to our advanced extraction process a compelling business case for many companies which currently use extracted ingredients,' he said.

Beyond their first three products — cranberry, green tea and blueberry — the company has also tested more than 30 different potential botanical extraction ingredients and confirmed that the process is effective and commercially scalable in a wide variety of botanicals. Mazza also expects to see new opportunities in the personal care and beauty markets. Lightburn is confident that the company’s technology is well positioned to compete on the natural, clean-label field he believes will be the future of the industry.

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