Hofseth BioCare eying global surge for unique salmon-derived ingredients

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Hofseth BioCare uses off-cuts from salmon sustainably farmed in the pristine waters of Norwegian fjords.   Image © cookelma / Getty Images
Hofseth BioCare uses off-cuts from salmon sustainably farmed in the pristine waters of Norwegian fjords. Image © cookelma / Getty Images

Related tags Salmon salmon oil bioactive peptides peptides protein hydrolysate Upcycling Heart health Bone health anemia cardiovascular health

With its first purchase order from Nestlé-owned Garden of Life in hand, Norwegian biotech company Hofseth BioCare (HBC) is gearing up for significant growth in North America with new products, exciting science, and unique claims.

After a decade of work honing its proprietary processes and building the clinical substantiation for its ingredient portfolio, HBC is targeting significant market success with its solutions for a range of health end-points, including iron status, weight management, inflammation, bone and joint health, and heart health.

The portfolio is focused on three distinct ingredients: ProGo (bioactive peptides); OmeGo (salmon oil); and CalGo (collagenic hydroxyapatite calcium).

The order from Garden of Life for ProGo was announced last week​, with the Nestlé-owned brand planning to launch new ProGo consumer protein products online and in the North American markets later this year. 

Roger Hofseth, Chief Executive of Hofseth Biocare ASA, said, “to be acknowledged by one of the best and premium consumer product brands in North America is a wonderful endorsement for HBC.”

Boosting ferritin levels

All of the ingredients are produced by upcycling the cast-offs from their parent company’s salmon business: Hofseth International is a major player in the global salmon business and the largest exporter of Norwegian salmon to the US.

Bomi Framroze, HBC’s Chief Scientific Officer, told NutraIngredients-USA: “The way we’ve approached our R&D is to say, ‘we know all the components are present, let’s figure out what they do, without even identifying the components’. So, we took the oil and hydrolysate and fed them to healthy animals and we looked at gross physiological effects and gene regulation. When we gave the salmon oil to dogs, we saw certain inflammatory biomarkers go down. When we gave the salmon protein, we saw changes in ferritin immediately, and very visibly.

“Our research since then has been to drill down in to the effects.”

The salmon protein hydrolysate is, according to HBC, the first and only non-iron containing product in the US market to “support healthy levels of ferritin and hemoglobin levels”​, one of six structure function claims acknowledged by the FDA last year. The others are: “helps maintain iron-rich blood”, “promotes energy utilization”, “supports red blood cell production”, “supports gastrointestinal and immune system health” and “assists in iron absorption from your daily diet”.

HBC scientists initially thought the ferritin effects were an iron uptake increase, but in actual fact it was not this, Framroze told us.

The protein hydrolysate upregulates a gene called FTH1, and this work helped the company achieve a label claim from Health Canada around ferritin and hemoglobin. The ingredient also upregulates HMOX1, a gene that encodes heme oxygenase (HO), an enzyme system important for cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health.

The iron-boosting activity was reported in a 2015 paper in the Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences​, which compared ferritin and hemoglobin levels following consumption of salmon protein hydrolysate tablets or whey protein hydrolysate powder in 48 iron-deficient adults.

Sixteens grams per day of ProGo led to an increase in hemoglobin levels of 14% after six weeks, compared to only 2% in the whey group. In addition, ferritin levels increased by 140% in the ProGo group, but increased by less than 20% in the whey group

The Garden of Life deal

Garden of Life’s VP R&D and Regulatory, Jeff Brams, says “After a temporary Covid-19 delay in 2020, we are moving swiftly ahead with the long-awaited salmon protein launch. Our collaboration with Hofseth Biocare has enabled us to create a line of novel proteins that will be on trend, meet consumer’s taste preferences, deliver high quality nutrition, and fulfil our brand promise of sustainability.”

And the benefits do no stop with the iron-increases, with a 2016 paper in the Journal of Obesity & Weight Loss Therapy​ reporting that six weeks of consuming 16 grams per day of ProGo led to 5.9% decreases in Body Mass Index in overweight and obese adult.

Additional data published in Nutrition and Food Technology​ showing fast leucine increases after ProGo consumption indicate that the ingredient that the ingredient may offer muscle growth, sports nutrition, and perhaps even anti-sarcopenic effects in addition to the weight management potential.

Pharmaceutical end-points are also being explored for HBC’s peptide fractions: A research agreement has been signed with Professor Karl Sylvester at Stanford University School of Medicine for pre-clinical and clinical research on necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and ulcerative colitis.

The oil

The protein hydrolysate is produced using proprietary enzyme processes, which also yields the oil. “To get to the oil, the lipid from any structure, you have to do something to the “sponge” that’s holding the oil. If you think of the protein in the body as a sponge, it has the oil in it,” ​explained Framroze. “We use enzymes to disintegrate the sponge and liberate the oil. The result is the protein hydrolysate and the freed oil.

“The whole magic is in disintegrating it without creating the bitterness in the hydrolysate as well as keeping the oil as untouched as possible.”

For the oil, there is no fractionation or concentrating of the EPA and DHA omega-3s as may be performed in the production of other fish oils.

“What we knew was that we had all the fatty acids present, not just from the filet but from the whole fish, we also had all the natural antioxidants like astaxanthin, zeaxanthin (at lower concentrations), and other antioxidants present naturally, and we also knew we likely had lipoproteins and other small molecules,” ​said Framroze.

The product is positioned for heart, cognitive, eye and joint health, with data from HBC studies showing that the oil may reduce levels serum levels of oxLDL-GP, an independent biomarker of cardiovascular risk, which the company linked to its anti-oxidation effects, and not from the EPA and DHA fractions.

And because it’s 99.9% triglyceride it has a four-year shelf life, added Framroze

CalGo – Collagenic hydroxyapatite calcium

HBC has also found a use for fish bones, which they turn into CalGo, a microcrystalline hydroxyapatite form of calcium. The ingredient also contains phosphorus and collagen.

The combination of calcium and collagen means the product will be of interest to products positioned for bone and joint health. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Food Science​ found that the salmon bone calcium increased femur dimension and mineral density in lab rats significantly more than other forms of calcium, including calcium carbonate and calcium gluconate.

Dr. Erland Hermansen, HBC’s Medical Director of Clinical Development, told us that the company also has “strong indications that you can increase BMD in osteopenic women”​ with CalGo.

Dr. Hermansen is leading the clinical research of the ingredients, and is extending the potential of these ingredients into the pharmaceutical/ medical sphere, with clinical trials starting this summer with people with osteoarthritis and another with people with osteoporosis.

For the oil, preclinical tests support its potential in eosinophil-driven diseases, such as steroid-resistant asthma, and the company announced an accelerated COVID-19 Phase 2 clinical study of OmeGo in acute lung problems.


With science, supply, and claims in hand, distribution to key markets was finalized last year, with HBC announcing a deal with IMCD for the distribution in 16 countries, including the USA and Canada​, and DKSH for distribution in China, India, Japan and Korea​.

The company is also exploring some own label product lines, and already offers the Brilliant Salmon Oil brand for pets in the US: The product launched in the USA last year through CostCo.

In addition, HBC announced a collaboration with Tenet​ in the fourth quarter of 2020 to build a consumer brand for its line of salmon-based products under HBC's own brand.

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