Bio-K Plus International is a family-run biotech company based in the Cité de la Biotech in Laval, Québec. It specializes in the research, manufacturing and marketing of Bio-K+® probiotic.
Over its 20-year history, the company grew from 10 employees to over a hundred, and expanded its business from Québec-based natural food stores to an international network of natural food outlets, pharmacies, grocery stores and hospitals. By continuously pursuing research, the company successfully optimized its products’ quality and effectiveness, making a genuine difference in people’s lives. It owes its success to a product with amazing results in the fight against intestinal and infectious diseases.
The year it all began. Dr. François-Marie Luquet, a microbiologist trained at Institut Pasteur, isolates human bacteria lactic cultures strains, with remarkable properties that show significant therapeutic effects.
Two men meet and a great idea is born. At a dairy conference in Copenhagen, Mr. Claude Chevalier, President of the Dairy Bureau of Canada, and Dr. François-Marie Luquet discuss the microbiologist’s research. The young Québec entrepreneur has a dream: would it be possible to combine pharmaceutical science’s resources and the food industry’s ideals?
Ten years have passed and Mr. Chevalier still wonders how to use these tiny bacteria with promising potential to benefit people. At last, his idea takes shape. With the support of his wife, Ms. Monique Roy and Dr. Luquet, he launches his project and begins to research how to market the discovery. In collaboration with Agriculture Canada’s Food Research and Development Centre in Saint-Hyacinthe and Université Laval, a team of scientists works to develop a complex manufacturing process combining dairy and pharmaceutical technologies to create a product featuring the famous bacteria with therapeutic properties. Their goal: develop a nutritious and healthy product that is clinically proven to improve people’s lives.
Québec company Bio-K Plus International is founded and opens for business in downtown Montréal’s Sun Life building. Research continues at Université Laval. Product samples are produced and taste tests conducted. As time goes by and the research progresses, the product takes shape and the Bio-K+ formula is patented. This formula is comprised of three human strains that have shown tremendous potential when combined; they work together! These strains are: Lactobacillus acidophilus CL1285®, Lactobacillus casei LBC80R® and Lactobacillus rhamnosus CLR2®. This formula is then certified by the Institut Pasteur in France, and Institut Armand-Frappier in Québec.
Family, unity and cooperation; children Isabèle and François-Pierre Chevalier join the team. Still students at the time, they lend a hand to their parents on evenings and weekends so that their project can take flight. Their passion drives a new generation and Bio-K+® becomes a family tradition! Bio-K Plus International now has a team working on product research and manufacturing in the CQIB’s (Centre québécois d’innovation en biotechnologie) offices.
Bio-K+ CL1285® Original is created. This fermented milk-based product is fat free, contains no added sugar and features a minimum concentration of 50 billion probiotic bacteria upon consumption. At the time, it is the only 100% probiotic product fermented in its small container and designed for inclusion in one’s diet, and remains so to this day. Upon launching, this product is only sold in natural food stores in the Montréal region and its surrounding areas. However, its popularity grows quickly and distribution expands across Québec. This represents a considerable work and education for a single representative, Ms. Roy takes on several public relations and human resources tasks to spread awareness of the company’s values!
The company takes part in an increasing number of events to build its reputation at the national and international level. Bio-K+® is a big hit and begins distributing its product the other Canadian provinces and the United States, still in natural food outlets. Bio-K+® gains a reputation as a unique product that really improves people’s health. The countless testimonials supporting its benefits are enough to know the future looks bright. Bio-K+ earns its first Gold Medal at the Alive Awards – the first of many!
The new millennium brings new offices! The time has come to unite both teams (offices downtown and at the CQIB) into a single big family with the construction of the Bio-K Plus International building in the Science and High Tech Park in Laval, Québec (now named Cité de la Biotech). By consolidating its activities, the company can conduct all of its operations under one roof. The company’s core priority is quality control. Indeed, standardized manufacturing processes that comply with the pharmaceutical industry’s good manufacturing practices ensures strict quality control, enabling the company to provide consumers with a high-quality product at all times.
Want to know more? Here’s a quick look at how your Bio-K+® products are made!
A new twist on the original product: the Fruity Fermented Milk (vanilla and pineapple) features a new taste to satisfy consumers’ taste buds.
The company expands by opening an office in Toronto to better serve this region. Bio-K+® becomes increasingly popular outside its native province.
Québec undergoes a major health crisis as illness caused by C. difficile leads to several deaths. The Chevalier family springs into action, as it believes its product boasts unique and effective properties that can save lives. It’s now time to prove it. In September 2003, the company takes part in its first clinical study at Montréal’s Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital to assess Bio-K+®’s effectiveness in reducing diarrhea caused by antibiotics and C. difficile. In support of the company and its initiative, Bio-K+’s first scientific committee, headed by Dr. Pavel Hamet, is created. Its mission consists in tabling recommendations with regard to topics, protocols and conclusions drawn from scientific studies.
This year brings recognition for all the hard work done so far. The study yields conclusive results and the news is spread in the media through several press conferences. In 2003-2004, when over 1,000 deaths and 7,000 infected patients are linked to C. difficile, people learn that a natural product could help save lives. As a result, the company’s backlog of orders fills up fast and Bio-K+® makes a grand market entrance in its first pharmacy chain, Jean Coutu. Moreover, hospitals begin using this product. In February 2004, Québec’s Pierre-Le Gardeur Hospital, under the supervision of infectious disease specialist Dr. Pierre-Jean Maziade, adds Bio-K+® to its care protocol, and prescribing it to all adult patients taking a course of antibiotics. Today, over 40,000 patients has been prescribed Bio-K+® without any major side effects reported, and the hospital boasts one of the lowest Clostridium difficile infection rates in Canada (in similar hospital settings). Several other hospital would soon use Pierre-Le Gardeur’s model and add Bio-K+® to their care protocol. Lastly, 2004 saw the launch of the Fermented Soy product, designed for people allergic to dairy products. During the year, the company also expands considerably in the U.S. with a new office in California.
A new alternative to the ready-to-drink products is launched: Bio-Kaps®, feature 15 or 30 billions probiotic bacteria in capsule form.
The first published clinical study (conducted in 2003-2004) shows the product’s effectiveness in reducing diarrhea linked to antibiotics and the potential of reducing diarrhea linked to Clostridium difficile (Beausoleil et al.). Bio-K+®’s reputation grows, as the product is introduced in pharmacy chains across Québec, as well as grocery stores nationwide. The company begins to outgrow its own offices! The new Bio-K+® Strawberry Fermented Milk product is also launched.
As the science behind Bio-K+® has always been at the heart of the company, its research team, headed by Dr. Mathieu Millette, acquires its own research lab. The Bio-K+® 50 billion capsules are also launched to offer a product with bacteria concentrations on par with the fresh drinkable line.
Two major clinical studies show the product’s effectiveness in reducing diarrhea linked to antibiotics and Clostridium difficile (Psaradellis et al. and Gao et al.). Only two Bio-K+® 50 billion capsules are needed to reduce the frequency of diarrhea linked to antibiotics by 65%, and diarrhea linked to Clostridium difficile by 95%. These incredible results speak for themselves. Bio-K+® is named the #1 recommended probiotic by doctors across Canada. The company’s manufacturing plant is certified gluten-free and Fermented Rice Probiotic, Bio-K+®’s first organic product, is launched.
Bio-K+® revamps its brand image with a new, more streamlined look that better highlights the brand, still boasting the same unique, patented formula. The capsule-based product line is expanded to include concentrations of 12.5, 25 and 50 billion probiotic bacteria, which still features targeted release technology, an enterosoluble coating that ensures the bacteria will survive the journey to the intestines.
Isabèle et François-Pierre become Co-Presidents of Bio-K+. After fifteen years spent holding various positions within the company, they are ready to take on the mantle of leadership. This transition goes smoothly, as the values and interests remain the same from one generation to the next. Today, both are shrewd leaders with a firm handle on the issues, mindful of their staff and ready to face new challenges. This year also brings further growth to Bio-K+®, now recognized by Health Canada to reduce the risk of diarrhea linked to antibiotics. The company offers its products in pharmacies across the nation and ends the year on a high note with the launch of the Bio-K+® Travel Protection product, which is a resounding success.
The company kicks off the year with a victory on January 16, when Health Canada approves the exclusive and patented Bio-K+® probiotic formula to help reduce the risk of Clostridium difficile infections among hospitalized and long-term care patients. This is a world first, as no other product has yet been awarded this claim. Based on strong clinical data published in the most prestigious medical journals, such as the American Journal of Gastroenterology, this approval confirms that Bio-K+® is a safe product whose effectiveness has been both scientifically and legally proven. A cohort study is also published, which demonstrated Bio-K+®’s effectiveness in preventing Clostridium difficile infections (Maziade et al.). More proof! Meanwhile, the company keeps growing its market share, with Bio-K® products now sold in California pharmacies.
Bio-K+® C. difficile is launched in Québec. Bio-K+ is named the #1 recommended brand by pharmacists in Canada. We are particularly proud of this recognition, as it is the result of considerable amounts of studies, work and training. Bio-K+® is now sold in a few California-based grocery chains, including Whole Foods.
Despite the company’s considerable growth, its core values remain the same, as does its mission: offer a quality product with unique properties that improves health and whose benefits have been clinically proven. Research continues and Bio-K+ has only just begun to tap into its potential. There are still many paths to explore, opportunities to seize and doors to open. For instance, management is currently considering expanding into the European market.
TO BE CONTINUED...
One team, one family; unity is the company’s true strength. Discover Bio-K Plus International’s management team.