One of NC State’s five strategic research focus areas is to drive food, water and energy solutions to enable sustainable consumption and conservation of resources for a growing local and global population.
Only one in 10 U.S. adults meets the federal fruit or vegetable recommendations, missing out on essential vitamins, minerals and fiber, according to a recent study by the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
NC State spinout SinnoVita, in partnership with Glean, a health food manufacturer founded by an NC State alumnus, has released a new product line into the market called Goodness Gummies. According to the package, these protein-packed gummies provide five grams of protein per serving, more than double the amount previously possible, using regionally sourced fruits and vegetables. SinnoVita and Glean’s shared mission delivers healthy and fresh foods — made directly from fruits and vegetables — to more people around the world.
While SinnoVita, a subsidiary of SinnovaTek, started in 2016, their journey began before that with the research of NC State professor and director of the Plants for Human Health Institute, Dr. Mary Ann Lila, Ph.D.
Lila’s research started out as a way to modify proteins that trigger food allergens and essentially make the protein hypoallergenic. Michael Druga, SinnovaTek CEO, Amanda Vargochik, SinnovaTek VP of Innovation, and NC State professor Josip Simunovic, Ph.D. recognized the vast potential of this science and began collaborating with Lila to explore the other uses of this technology. “It’s been wonderful to partner with SinnoVita and SinnovaTek to get this product to market,” Lila says.
SinnovaTek is a certified B-Corporation — businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
During the early days of development, NC State’s Office of Research Commercialization worked closely with the team to help solidify intellectual property (IP) protection around the novel and sustainable food-processing technologies. Today, NC State has filed several patents related to the food-processing technologies licensed exclusively to SinnovaTek and SinnoVita for global use — including Vitero™ Protein PolyPhenols functional ingredient technology.
Goodness Gummies are made with Vitero™ Protein PolyPhenols ingredient technology, which was developed at NC State. This manufacturing method creates a bioactive-fortified protein ingredient that improves health and nutrition. Vitero uses plant bioactive compounds to naturally bind to animal- or plant-based proteins to form functional complexes. This technology allows for a concentrated dose of health-promoting compounds.
About 150,000 tons of food are tossed out in U.S. households each day — nearly one pound of food per person, per day — the equivalent of about a third of the daily calories each American consumes. And fruits and vegetables accounted for 39 percent of food waste last year, according to the Public Library of Science.
This technology has a unique opportunity to counter issues regarding food waste. SinnoVita utilizes leftover bioactive-rich plant pomace — the pulp that remains after fruits have been crushed to extract their juice — in the creation of this product. This can result in a 45-percent reduction of the fruits and vegetables that are currently wasted.
“We believe that this project is just the beginning, and know that our joint efforts will impact people from all walks of life. We want consumers to enjoy our Goodness Gummies, knowing that every gummy provides a home for excess produce — and that every purchase helps to feed someone in need through pound-for-pound donation by Glean,” Glean Co-Founder Will Kornegay says.
The Office of Research Commercialization worked with SinnoVita to protect the IP and to identify funding opportunities available through NC State’s network. The NC State ecosystem was instrumental in SinnovaTek’s founding, under the leadership of the company’s CEO Michael Druga and expertise of NC State alumna Amanda Vargochik, VP of Innovation, and included two scientific co-founders from NC State: Lila, who is a renowned David H. Murdock Distinguished Professor in Food Bioprocessing and Nutrition Science, and Dr. Josip Simunovic, research associate professor in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences.
SinnovaTek employs NC State graduates, its technology uses other NC State IP and the company partners with NC State-affiliated organizations around the region. “We are lucky to be a part of this vast ecosystem of NC State professionals and innovators,” Druga says.
“I love that there is a really strong NC State footprint in SinnovaTek. Of the nine employees in this company, five are NC State graduates or faculty. Plus, our technology is combined with other NC State IP. SinnovaTek creativity puts these technologies together and makes them much more powerful than any one of these technologies by themselves,” Lila says.
NC State Research Commercialization Director of Licensing Kultaran Chohan, Ph.D. closely worked with NC State researchers and SinnoVita to secure foundational patents. “Kultaran and the Research Commercialization team are very good to work with. They are flexible, knowledgeable and always make time to sit down and brainstorm on paths to market and how they can help us be successful — because our success is their success,“ Druga adds.
“The core team from SinnovaTek were one of the first National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps teams to enroll in the NC State I-Corps Site training. This, plus many other resources, programs, services and ecosystem connections are how NC State’s Office of Research Commercialization supports getting game-changing technologies like this to the market; we are so excited about the company’s success and look forward to a long-term relationship, as they continue to innovate,” says Wade Fulghum, Office of Research Commercialization interim executive director.
This product innovation promotes worldwide health and wellness through the development and commercialization of novel and sustainable food processing technologies. Learn more about Goodness Gummies at LiveGlean.com.