orinna Bellizzi: Pioneering Sustainable Nutrition with Algae Innovation

Exploring Sustainable Nutraceuticals with Corinna Bellizzi from Orlo Nutrition

Episode Overview

Episode Topic: In this episode of NutraPreneur, we welcome Corina Bellizzi, the Head of Sales and Marketing at Orlo Nutrition. The focus is on Orlo’s groundbreaking approach to cultivating healthier, more sustainable nourishment from algae and on the innovative world of sustainable nutrition. The episode explores the evolution of the nutraceutical industry, particularly in the realm of Omega-3 supplements, and how Orlo is pioneering a shift towards plant-based solutions for optimal health.

Lessons You’ll Learn: Listeners are treated to valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities within the natural products industry, drawing from Corina’s extensive experience, including her time at Nordic Naturals. The episode sheds light on the decision-making process behind extracting active Omega-3s from microalgae, emphasizing Orlo’s commitment to sustainability. Furthermore, Corina shares her expertise in customer-centric approaches to product development, providing key lessons for up-and-coming brands in the nutraceutical space.

About Our Guest: Corina Bellizzi, the Head of Sales and Marketing at Orlo Nutrition, brings over 20 years of experience in the natural products industry. Her journey includes working on formulation, direct-to-consumer strategies, and collaborations with retailers. Corina is a strong advocate for ethical and substantiated brands, emphasizing the importance of aligning with an ethical core. Her shift from fish oil to sustainable solutions reflects her dedication to addressing environmental concerns and creating products that stand on a foundation of transparency and substance.
Topics Covered: The podcast covers a range of topics, starting with Corina’s experiences shaping Orlo Nutrition’s success. It navigates through the challenges and collaborative approaches in product development, leading to the decision to extract Omega-3s from microalgae. The conversation deepens into Orlo’s patented growth environment for microalgae, highlighting its role in regenerative and carbon-negative nutrition. Corina also shares insights into Orlo’s utilization of human and artificial intelligence in innovation. The episode concludes with a glimpse into the future of the nutraceutical industry, emphasizing the need for sustainable solutions and Orlo Nutrition’s plans for continued global impact and innovation.

Our Guest: Corinna Bellizzi’s Sustainable Vision.

Corinna Bellizzi, MBA, is a trailblazing executive in the natural products industry with a remarkable journey marked by her commitment to sustainability and health. A seasoned professional, Corinna played a pivotal role in the exponential growth of Nordic Naturals, steering it from less than $1 million to over $100 million in annual sales during her tenure. In 2016, fueled by her passion for both human health and environmental well-being, she shifted her focus from fish-sourced Omegas to algae. This transition culminated in the launch of Orlo Nutrition, a groundbreaking brand featuring the world’s first carbon-negative Omega-3s.

Corinna’s dedication extends beyond business success; she is also an activist and host of the podcasts “Care More Be Better” and “Nutrition Without Compromise.” Through these platforms, she delves into social and ecological issues, advocating for a better world. Drawing from her rich background in anthropology, Corinna brings a unique perspective to her work, emphasizing the evolutionary importance of Omega-3s and the need for balance in our modern diets. Her expertise in essential fatty acids positions her as a bridge between researchers, medical professionals, and the general public, fostering a deeper understanding of the profound impact of nutrition on our well-being.

A defining moment in Corinna’s life occurred during her early career at Draco Natural Products, where mentorship and opportunities from Jennifer Higgins, Director of Sales, shaped her trajectory. Guided by principles like “stick-to-it-ive-ness,” adaptability, and meticulous note-taking, Corinna’s journey reflects her unwavering commitment to building a better future. Despite setbacks, such as the tragic loss of a close friend in 2012, she emerged stronger, emphasizing the transformative power of holistic well-being, including physical fitness, nutrition, and emotional resilience.

Corinna’s mantra, “You just go and you make it,” encapsulates her approach to challenges, blending resilience with a touch of humor and acceptance. Her current mission revolves around correcting global Omega-3 deficiency, promoting balanced health, and advocating for localized, sustainable nutrition as a pathway to uplift communities worldwide

Episode Transcript:

Corina Bellizzi: I essentially got to the point where I no longer believed the message that I was asked to share with the world, that we could have sustainable fishing. We’ve just gotten to a point where the technology is such that you don’t need to go there, and if truly everyone on the planet were to start taking an Omega-3 and get an EPA and DHA for daily optimal health, there wouldn’t be enough fish in the sea. So that argument to me is just done. So really going to algae and going to sustainable solutions that can truly be regenerative, that have elements of circularity baked into how they do business, and that are ultimately seeking to become a carbon negative solution, I think is really where we need to be.

Bethany Jolley: Welcome to Neutra Preneur, The Neutral Industry Podcast. I’m your host, food scientist, and nutraceuticals consultant Bethany Jolley. Each episode will be exploring what it takes to thrive in the nutraceutical industry. From conversations with successful nutraceutical entrepreneurs to venture capitalists to tech executives whose innovations are reshaping the nutraceuticals industry, we explore the innovations and trends that are shaping the next generation of nutraceutical businesses. Welcome to Neutra Preneur. Today we’re honored to have Corina Bellizzi, the head of sales and Marketing at Orlo Nutrition, a trailblazer in cultivating healthier, more sustainable nourishment from algae. Welcome, Corina. It’s so great to have you today.

Corina Bellizzi: Oh, it’s great to be here, Bethany. Thank you.

Bethany Jolley: So how have your experiences shaped your approach to driving success at Orlo Nutrition?

Corina Bellizzi: Well, I’ve been in the natural channel for more than 20 years now, and I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen a lot of brands come forward and approach the sales machine with a lot of spin and without a lot of substance, and that’s something that I’ve tended to stray from a bit and really work to create brands that are coming from a truly ethical center and core that are not necessarily working to just create, spin and sell a bunch of products without actually having the substance behind them. That means that you have to really think creatively on your feet. How do you go ahead and communicate all of the great, tangible things, about your particular brand to a consumer audience, and a way that will compel them and still be really truthful and substantial?

Bethany Jolley: Yeah, absolutely. And as a customer champion, how do you collaboratively approach challenges and product development at Orlo?

Corina Bellizzi: Well, again, when you’ve been in this world for some time, I’ve worked on the formulation side. I’ve worked on the direct-to-consumer side and also with retailers. There are so many stakeholders involved, so I tend to work with a set of people that I’ve to trust over the years to say, “Look, here’s a product I’m looking to bring to market. What are your thoughts? What are the points that you think really stand out and then work to build the architecture of the brand around those points.” So that you’re sure that when you come to market, there’s a little less guesswork involved. Generally speaking, when you’re looking at the Omega-3 space in particular, the individuals who are seeking to find these products are already trying to optimize their health. They might be battling health challenges with heart disease, or with brain issues that could be somewhat rooted in their genetic perspectives or family patterns. So they understand already that they could be doing a little bit better. But it’s hard to get enough of this key nutrient. And so providing a solution for that set of individuals that aren’t going to have the negative effects of lesser quality products out there, like fishy burps or perhaps less sustainable measures that you’re answering those questions out the gates, that you’re helping to dispel their worries and ultimately provide products that they can learn to know and trust with time.

Bethany Jolley: Yes, absolutely. Most consumers are familiar with Omega-3, but Orlo is doing things a bit differently. So what led to the decision to extract active Omega-3 from microalgae? Aligning with Orlo sustainability commitment.

Corina Bellizzi: This is something that is still becoming common knowledge. The Omega-3 EPA and DHA that are so known from fish oil actually originate in algae in the first place. But of course, microalgae isn’t something that is traditionally been on our plate or something that we could even really harness for its EPA and DHA. So people instead have gone to fish. So as we see with climate change and rising ocean temperatures and with problems of overfishing or even pirate fishing in different areas around the globe, people are starting to be ready and open to working with an algae that is both more sustainable and also can provide an Omega-3 that is more active. To your point, when that’s more bioactive is a polar lipid. In this case, we’ve gotten to a point where technology and in growing conditions and in being able to truly leverage what technology and AI can provide to a spot in time where we’re able to harness algae’s full potential, grow in exponential conditions, use only green energy to grow our algae in a controlled indoor environment so that we can optimize the conditions. And so ultimately, the algae can continue to thrive with minimal inputs and actually produce something that uses only 1% of the resources that algae grown in open ponds might. Or that can replace the nutrition power of something like beef using, again, 99% less water or land resources. This guy is really the limit in a way, as we develop new technologies and get to a space in time where we have learned from the algae itself to extract the power of what was the world’s first life really on this planet.

Bethany Jolley: Definitely sounds like this is a game-changing ingredient and the technology that you’re using, it’s just so interesting. Can you explain? I know a lot of it is probably proprietary, but a bit more of the patented growth environment for the. Microalgae and its role in becoming a regenerative source of nutrition with a carbon-negative impact.

Corina Bellizzi: Well, if you look or our parent company’s website, which is simply Vaxart Life, you can see behind the scenes a peek behind the curtain of what it takes to grow algae. In this way, we have a large photobioreactor at our aquaculture plant house, which is based in Iceland, and co-located next to one of the world’s largest geothermal plants. So we’re using exclusively green energy. They actually have waste stream CO2 that comes from harnessing the power of our Earth. And so we actually take their CO2 and we feed it to the algae. The fact that it doesn’t have to travel to get there means that we’re not incurring other emissions along the way, and we are using pure Icelandic water, and it is essentially in a closed system. And this means that within the photobioreactor itself, you have the brackish water that’s required to grow the algae. You have the pure energy lights that are needed to grow the algae. We feed the algae, the micronutrients it needs to thrive. Co2 and then the light, which is a blend of blue and red light. This ultimately ends up looking like this beautiful bright fuchsia color. So it’s quite amazing to see that in action. And if you go to Vox’s website or our website or low nutrition comm, you can actually see examples of this. There’s even a video walkthrough here and there where BBC is actually taking a tour through the plant and showing people up close and personal with this looks, sounds, and even tastes like.

Bethany Jolley: That’s really fascinating and just helping protect the planet while also providing a high-quality ingredient that’s beneficial to so many people. It’s really great work that you’re doing.

Corina Bellizzi: It’s been what I consider to be the crowning cap of my accomplishments over the years. I took a step away from fish oil back in 2011 to really try and refocus my energy around more sustainable solutions because I essentially got to the point where I no longer believed the message that I was asked to share with the world that we could have sustainable fishing. We’ve just gotten to a point where the technology is such that you don’t need to go there, and if truly everyone on the planet were to start taking an Omega-3 and get an EPA and DHA for daily optimal health, there wouldn’t be enough fish in the sea. So that argument to me is just done. So really going to algae and going to sustainable solutions that can truly be regenerative, that have elements of circularity baked into how they do business and that are ultimately seeking to become a carbon negative solution, I think is really where we need to be. Now, we have the ability at VAX to actually sell carbon credits. So, this means that we can truly state that we are a carbon-negative brand, that oral nutrition.

Bethany Jolley: This episode is brought to you by neutralpayments.com. If your business needs credit card processing, it fully integrates with most major neutral software platforms, offers the lowest industry prices, and has built-in features like recurring billing, $0 trials, and chargeback prevention. Visit us at neutralpayments.com for a free online quote. How does Orlo Nutrition leverage human and artificial intelligence and its innovation process?

Corina Bellizzi: We are really more gifted in that some of the scientists we work with are, for instance, one of our co-founders, Doctor Isaac Berzin. He’s our chief technology officer. He’s an MIT schooled scholar and has actually worked on projects to grow algae in space. So we’re literally using space-age technology. Interestingly, Iceland has really become a hotbed for sustainable technologies. And so a lot of scientists have their cap leaning in that direction, and they’re headed to Iceland for a lot of different reasons. So it ends up being a center where there’s just simply a lot of scientific talent as well.

Bethany Jolley: That’s great. It’s always nice to have those people on your team. So what impact do you envision Orlo nutrition’s, algae-based nutrition having on the broader nutraceutical industry?

Corina Bellizzi: Well, we’re really just getting started in the Omega-3 space. We’ve been on the market for about 18 months at the time that we’re recording this. So really, that’s fledgling in the world of the Omega-3 space. But at this point in time, our Omega-3 is already doing quite well in the marketplace. We’re essentially offering a new campaign to our customer base as well, where we’re offering to prove that this product can be better absorbed than others on the market by giving them an Omega-3 index test at the time they start supplementing, and then again after four months of supplementation. Because we have such faith in the fact that our product is three times better absorbed, we also are bridging into the world of spirulina and with our Icelandic Ultra spirulina. This spirulina, unlike other spirulina in the marketplace, actually produces vitamin B12, and it’s the most bioavailable form. 90% plus of it is in the methylcobalamin form, whereas spirulina grown in open ponds actually produces less than 50% of that particular form. So we see that by optimizing growing conditions of not just our Omega-3 strain, but also other strains of algae, we can get more bioactive impact from the nutrients that we seek to grow. And the new year of 2024 will be releasing several products in the ultra spirulina space with our Icelandic Ultra spirulina. And so it’s really just the beginning. So Omega-3 was step one. Our spirulina is step two, and we have plans to create higher potencies down the road and more exciting products.

Bethany Jolley: Very exciting news. And how do you see the future of the nutraceutical industry evolving, especially with a focus on sustainable solutions like at Orlo?

Corina Bellizzi: Well, I have to tell you, I’m on probably some of the same email lists that you are. I recently was asked to review, let’s say, mealworms as a protein and nutrition source through nutraingredients.com and I have that recording on my desktop to listen to later today. I do think that there are some interesting innovations in these. More let’s call them insect-based nutrition, but I don’t see them catching on. And I feel like we’ve been there with crickets already flashing in the pan. Some idea that we might actually see a lot of protein products in the marketplace with crickets. I just don’t think the consumer mind is there. I think we really need to be looking at nutrition solutions that are both vegetarian and humane where possible, and that will continue to see innovations on fronts like with algae or as you saw a few years ago, it seemed like there was simply this coconut craze. I feel like we’re there right now with algae and algae nutrition solutions, so I think we should just keep our thinking caps on and keep moving in the direction of more sustainable solutions and doing less of these kinds of experiments. I don’t want to be judgy about it, but it seems like it’s a little bit far out for what the consumer will really accept or want at this particular phase.

Bethany Jolley: Absolutely. I understand these companies wanting to be innovative and bringing something new to the table, but I think you’re right. I think they need to understand what do the consumers truly want? What are they looking for?

Corina Bellizzi: Yeah, there’s also been this big movement in the world of vegan food solutions to provide things that look, taste, or feel like their animal-based counterparts. I think in part to win more people over to a plant-based lifestyle, like even seeing, I don’t know what you really want to call them, but fake sushi, plant-based sushi, or an egg that looks like an egg, but it’s not an egg. It’s actually made from tapioca and some other interesting ingredients. So I think we’ll continue to see more of that. But what we see is coming more mainstream are less the impossible burgers and more nutrition solutions that deliver what people want, which is great taste, ease of use, and nutritional impact. And I think that we can get there with, Orlo I know that we can get there with Orlo and the things that we’re doing at that’s a technologies are quite interesting.

Bethany Jolley: Yes, absolutely.

Bethany Jolley: And you have so much experience and the nutraceutical industry and with Omega-3. And so what advice would you give to up-and-coming brands that are trying to look for ingredients for their products? And if they want to add an Omega-3 ingredient into their products?

Corina Bellizzi: Well, I don’t want to sound like the Elon Musks of the world who think that like, for instance, if you’re driving a gas car, you’re killing the planet. But I feel like we are headed in a direction where there really isn’t a need to go to fish anymore for this ingredient. There are plenty of raw material manufacturers out in the world that produce DHA strains from algae sources. You can get an Omega-3 from algae quite. I won’t say it’s easy to do so responsibly, and without the use of things like toxic solvents, many manufacturers will actually use things like hexane that aren’t the environment at Orlo we only have to use alcohol and water. So that makes it a cutting-edge technology, not only from its environmental responsibility but also from the residual solvents that it could leave behind. But there are simply more solutions that are vegan and plant-based available. I’ve even seen AHI flowers, for example, so people can go to innovations that are plant-sourced without taking from the environment in a way that can damage it with time. So that’s really where I would lean anybody who’s interested in the Omega-3 space. At the present time, we aren’t actually selling our ingredients of Omega-3 to the marketplace as a whole. So the only way to get all that incredible technology and produced by Vaxa is through the Aurello brand and the Omega-3 space specifically.

Bethany Jolley: Great. Can you share any insights into Aldo Nutrition’s future plans, aligning with the company’s commitment to global impact and innovation?

Corina Bellizzi: I would just say we’re going to stay focused on what we do best, which is really bioactive nutrition, trying to create nutrition solutions that are more bioavailable and can have a more positive impact without taking from the environment in a way that would harm it.

Bethany Jolley: Well, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you and learning more about Orlo Nutrition and its technology. And as we wrap up this insightful conversation, our gratitude goes to Corina for sharing her experiences and shedding light on Orlo Nutrition’s pioneering efforts in sustainable and carbon-negative nutrition. For more information on Aldo Nutrition and its innovative products, we encourage you to explore the provided links. Stay tuned for more thought-provoking discussions on Nutra Preneur, and don’t forget to engage with us on social media. Until next time, stay informed and inspired in the realm of nutraceutical innovations. Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Nutra Preneur. If you enjoy the show, please subscribe. And better yet, leave us a review as it really helps us grow the show.