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Unlocking the BENEO-Institute: Where Nutrition Science, Communication and Regulatory Affairs come together.

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The BENEO-Institute is a key asset in our company to connect nutrition and health. But what does it stand for, how do the experts work together, and which milestones have been reached in recent years? To find answers to those questions, I spoke to five experts at the BENEO-Institute.

First, Dr Stephan Theis, Head of Nutrition Science and Communication, and Dr Alexander Schoch, Head of Regulatory Affairs, provide an overview of the BENEO-Institute’s role, its origins and an outlook into its future.

The BENEO-Institute was founded 15 years ago – why?

Dr Alexander Schoch: At BENEO, our goal is to work together to contribute to better nutrition and health. In 2009, our product range included functional ingredients made from chicory root, beet sugar and rice that offer nutritional and technical benefits. Chicory root fibre (Orafti® Inulin and Oligofructose), Isomalt and Palatinose™ are backed by strong scientific data, supporting their physiological benefits for health and prevention-oriented diets. The development of the BENEO-Institute is based on the understanding that a combination of sound science, safe use and a legislative basis is required to market new, health promoting ingredients to consumers. Our expertise in this field is an asset. We therefore decided to give this expertise a name: the BENEO-Institute, allowing us to serve as a uniquely reliable partner for our customers.

How would you describe the BENEO-Institute?

Dr Stephan Theis: The BENEO-Institute is a global network of experts that provides BENEO’s customers and partners with direct access to the combined scientific and legislative expertise of BENEO. It consists of three dedicated teams for Nutrition Science, Nutrition Communication and Regulatory Affairs. The global teams work together, and that is a true strength because our collective knowledge is the prerequisite for the necessary approvals to market our products – and ultimately for trustworthy customer relationships.

However, our expertise extends far beyond these teams thanks to a global network of scientists and regulatory experts that we have grown since the early 1980s. Being part of the Südzucker Group, we can also rely on the expertise of our colleagues at the Südzucker Central Department Research, Development & Services (CRDS).

When you look back: What were some of the most important milestones in recent years?

Dr Alexander Schoch: The successful submission of application dossiers and their subsequent approval by the relevant authorities is always an important milestone. This also applies to the use of our ingredients in the food, feed and pharmaceutical industry because global regulatory requirements have become increasingly strict in these areas in recent years. Every approval opens new possibilities for marketing and strengthens BENEO’s reputation in these market segments. Taking the food area there are many examples such as the digestive health claim for inulin in Europe, the confirmation of the dietary fibre status for our chicory root fibres in the US or the establishment of several national standards relevant for BENEO ingredients in China. Another example is the approval of a prebiotic claim in Indonesia, making our chicory root fibres the first and only ingredients that the national authorities recognize as prebiotic.

Dr Stephan Theis: In line with customers’ needs our current research focuses on emerging science areas such as mood and well-being, immune health and personalized nutrition. Plus, to further increase awareness of BENEO and our ingredients, we are creating a comprehensive range of further training courses. Accredited webinars for nutritionists and dieticians are a proven tool. Together with experts from our network, we have developed webinars on topics such as ‘Healthy Ageing’ and ‘Prebiotics and the Microbiome.’ In total, more than 30,000 dieticians and nutritionists have used these webinars to learn more about the subjects covered.

Why will the BENEO-Institute’s work remain relevant in the future?

Dr Stephan Theis: Because the global population is getting older, and healthy ageing is therefore extremely important. Nutrition plays a key role in this, and with our ingredients, we can help to improve people’s health – from the womb well into old age. To meet consumer demands, the food industry needs to offer healthy products. Since the legislative environment is evolving, the expertise of the BENEO-Institute is required. Our collective knowledge and our experience help to ensure and expand marketing opportunities for ingredients with additional health benefits.

Three voices from the BENEO-Institute

To dive even deeper into the work of the BENEO-Institute, I spoke to colleagues from its Nutrition Science, Nutrition Communication and Regulatory Affairs team. They share insights into their daily work, ways of collaborating and what they appreciate about their job.

Before we dive in, can you please shortly introduce yourselves?

Dr Maria Pudenz: My name is Dr. Maria Pudenz, I work as Manager Nutrition Science in Offstein, Germany and I have been with BENEO since 2016.

Theresa Bagus: I am Theresa Bagus, working as Manager Nutrition Communication in Offstein, Germany. I have been with BENEO for 10 years already and started my current role as a subject matter expert focusing on chicory root fibre 6 years ago.

Caroline Bustandi: My name is Caroline Bustandi and as of May 2023 I am the Head of Regulatory Affairs for the Asia Pacific region and based in Singapore. I joined BENEO in 2012 right after obtaining my degree.

I am curious to learn more about your roles at the BENEO-Institute. What are the main elements of your job and some of your typical tasks?

Dr Maria Pudenz: Currently I am responsible for the study management of an ongoing clinical trial with BENEO’s chicory root fibres. In this intervention study, we are investigating how a diet rich in our prebiotics affects the overall health of young children. Our goal is to find out how this diet strengthens their immune system and whether this leads to fewer sick days, absence from daycare and ultimately, fewer days of absence from work for their parents. With this study, we want to demonstrate science-backed benefits in the area of immune health that our customers might eventually use for claims on their products.

In a typical working week, I am in close contact with our cooperation partners from the university hospital, who carry out the practical work with the young children and their parents. My tasks include monitoring the progress of the study, reviewing the data obtained, compiling statistics if necessary, writing reports and internal documentation, e.g., towards the Nutrition Communication team, so it can make the results of our studies accessible for our sales and marketing colleagues.

Another responsibility in the Nutrition Science team is to summarize our study results in scientific papers and publish them in peer-reviewed journals or present them at conferences. This way, we want to ensure that BENEO is recognized in the scientific community. With BENEO being part of the Südzucker Group, I am also involved in cross-functional projects concerning Innovation and New Business Development approaches on Group-level. Here, I provide nutritional expertise to evaluate new products and startups that might be of value for the Group.

Theresa Bagus: As a subject matter expert in the Nutrition Communication team, I am a direct interface between science and communication. This requires a deep understanding of the research and the ability to translate it into easier words – also for those without a nutritional background. Our goal is to explain the benefits of our ingredients, considering the needs of the target audience in the right format. In my role, I am mainly responsible for creating science-based communication materials such as white papers, presentations or memos around BENEO’s prebiotic chicory root fibres to inform and educate colleagues, customers, health care professionals and food authorities around the world. I also enjoy getting creative with illustrations, posters, videos, and exploring other tools to enhance our communications and engage our audiences more effectively. When working on these topics, I like the mix of focused time for myself and the exchange in meetings to benefit from the team’s expertise.

Caroline Bustandi: In my role, I ensure that the regulatory work which opens new business opportunities for the Asia Pacific region progresses according to the timeline. This includes both short-term tasks like answering customer questions and long-term projects such as new claim applications or new ingredient approvals. In my team, we monitor the regulatory developments, develop memos with regulatory information for customers, as well as files for submission to the Authorities.

Asia Pacific is a diverse and dynamic region and includes many countries. As most of them have their individual regulations, it is key for the Regulatory Affairs team to monitor and keep up with the national legislations. This complex regulatory landscape also means that new BENEO product launches require numerous different ingredient regulatory evaluations or approvals and many different claims approaches to cover the entire region. To use our resources wisely, prioritization is key and a continuous exercise in my team.

Three teams, namely Nutrition Science, Nutrition Communication and Regulatory Affairs , work within the BENEO-Institute

It has already become clear that the work of the three teams within the BENEO-Institute is closely linked to each other. What are some specific touching points in your work?

Theresa Bagus: I work closely with my Nutrition Science colleagues to build a strong scientific foundation for the communication of the health benefits of BENEO’s prebiotic chicory root fibres. We never run out of scientific questions to discuss and new ideas to explore. It is not just a one-way communication of the benefits of our functional ingredients to the outside world. The regional experts in the Nutrition Communication team are the face to our customers in the regions, supporting sales. We are always keen to learn about and address the different challenges and needs of markets around the world and how we can best support our sales colleagues from the nutritional perspective. I also work closely with Regulatory Affairs colleagues on claims and approvals where science and proving benefits is key. Meeting regulatory requirements can be challenging but strengthens our collective problem-solving skills.

Caroline Bustandi: Indeed, the three teams within the BENEO-Institute closely collaborate when developing a dossier, e.g. for claims submissions. Bringing our expertise together allows us to provide the required scientific substantiation to support the requested claim.
The Regulatory Affairs and Nutrition Communication colleagues also do joint customer visits from time to time. This enables food and drink manufacturers who work with our ingredients to not only understand the science behind BENEO’s products and their nutritional or health benefits, but also learn about opportunities for on-pack communication such as claims.

Can you share a personal highlight or milestone from your time working at BENEO?

Dr Maria Pudenz: One of the most valuable experiences for personal development at BENEO was participating in the Südzucker Group-wide Catalyst program. As part of this initiative, employees from different roles, locations and levels are trained to become agile coaches and facilitators. The skills and methods I learned have greatly influenced my work at the BENEO-Institute in several ways. For example, the training has enabled me to navigate transformation and change, as well as to implement agile methodologies. We have set up a completely new meeting structure in the Nutrition Science Team which enables us to communicate more effectively, both internally and with our colleagues in Nutrition Communication and Regulatory Affairs.

Theresa Bagus: There is not one particular milestone, but the sum of all of them over the years. Projects and initiatives that span the entire “value chain” are true highlights for me. This starts with the strong scientific evidence of our functional ingredients including the huge amount of research initiated by BENEO, continues with communicating the science in different ways, which then pays off in interesting customer projects, highly valued sessions at conferences or trade fairs, and successful legislative projects.

Caroline Bustandi: One of the most memorable milestones throughout my Regulatory Affairs career at BENEO was when we received the approval of a prebiotic claim for our chicory root fibres in Indonesia several years ago. When I joined the company in 2012, this was the most important project I worked on. The approval came after long and arduous team efforts and brought a deep sense of achievement. It was extra special because Indonesia is my home country. For me, every single claim approval provides the potential to increase the number of healthier food options and to bring a positive impact to public health in that country. In my current role as Head of Regulatory Affairs for the Asia Pacific region, the special highlights that motivate me are the progress, growth, and development of my team members.

What do you like most about your job at BENEO and about being part of the BENEO-Institute?

Dr Maria Pudenz: What I really appreciate is the opportunity to be part of a cross-functional network of experts and to work closely with project partners from different disciplines and regions of the world. I also enjoy being involved in a diverse set of tasks and responsibilities. I can collaborate with my co-workers at the BENEO-Institute and with my colleagues at group level within Südzucker. We share ideas and resources and can thus benefit from all the individual strengths and talents we collectively have.

Theresa Bagus: It’s a privilege to work for a company that values science so highly. I appreciate that my work is so varied and never boring because we must be at the cutting edge of science and nutrition trends. The high level of expertise and commitment throughout the BENEO-Institute is really impressive and I am proud to be a part of it. I also like the good team spirit to drive projects forward and that there is always a sparring partner available when needed.

Caroline Bustandi: What I like most about my role at BENEO is the diversity in my daily tasks and the opportunities for endless problem-solving. I feel especially excited when venturing into new grounds that have yet to be explored. That is because I enjoy digging deep into the details until I find a solution. And the sense of accomplishment after solving a complex issue really energizes me.

In my view, the BENEO-Institute is a unique asset to the company that sets it apart from other ingredient manufacturers. Its deep and rich expertise is something that does not come overnight but is developed over a long period of time. Working with the different experts within the BENEO-Institute has inspired me to continue growing and building my expertise further.

Thanks to all of the colleagues who granted us a look behind the scenes of the BENEO-Institute. For more information about the BENEO-Institute’s work and the science behind our ingredients, check out our website.


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