Leading KeyLeaf in a New Direction: An interview with KeyLeaf President and CEO Dale Kelly

On February 12, 2019, ingredient maker POS Bio Sciences announced it was pivoting away from applied contract R&D work to producing finished plant-derived ingredients under the new name, KeyLeaf.  KeyLeaf’s President and CEO Dale Kelly comments on the rebrand and the company’s new direction.

What prompted the company’s rebranding and shift in business model?

When we took the company private in 2013, we recognized that it would be very difficult to run a business doing contract R&D only, so we started down the road of creating our own ingredients based on what we learned over 40 years of R&D work.  We started to do internal R&D to develop other ingredients and we began to consider other businesses that we could spin out from the company.  We finally reached a point where we realized the need to rebrand and we renamed ourselves “KeyLeaf”.

Does the new company, KeyLeaf, still do contract R&D?

Yes, but we’re more selective now with whom we work.  In many cases, rather than trying to do all the manufacturing ourselves, we’re now partnering with R&D groups who are looking for someone to take their ingredients to a commercial level, which is our expertise.  Also, when we find companies that already have brands established where our ingredient works well, then we’ll obviously make the smart choice and partner with them. We are able to scale up from bench top to commercial production under one roof, that’s unique and rare in our industry.

What do you believe sets KeyLeaf apart from other ingredient manufacturers?

Because we’ve worked with plant materials from all over the world for nearly 5 decades and have amassed a huge database of plant-derived compounds, we often have some of the best ideas about how to take a particular ingredient from one plant and marry it with an ingredient from another plant to bring about a novel combined ingredient for use in a beverage or in an edible.  And thanks to our artificial intelligence machine learning program, “Big Data”, we can combine two plant ingredients in a computerized model that tells us exactly the kind of ingredient that will evolve, and we can accomplish this without spending the money and time to do development in the lab or in a pilot plant.  We feel that we are very unique in that respect.  There aren’t many companies around the world that have a database that’s as robust as ours.  The whole area of machine learning and artificial intelligence for ingredient development has come of age for us.

What kinds of new ingredients can we expect to see from KeyLeaf in the near term?

We have a number of ingredients in development at the moment.  One is an MCT hemp product that will be in a microencapsulated powder form, and there are applications in various industries for it.  We are in the market with our basic DHA and EPA oils and emulsions, and we’re currently building a product line that incorporates algal DHA with hemp-derived CBD.  I believe before 2019 ends we’ll be in the market with our first product combining those two ingredients.

Plant-based DHA algal oil made by your subsidiary, Algarithm, has quickly found its way into Ritual’s vegan Essentials for Women vitamin line and Virun’s O3 Omega Smoothie line.How do you account for the oil’s incredible acceptance by the natural food, beverage, and nutritional supplement industries?

Being in business for 40 years means we have a lot of very unique manufacturing knowhow.  The reason our ingredients stand out against our competitors’ is because we have developed tweaks for compounds like the omegas, where there is a concern about fishy aftertaste.  Our omegas have NO fishy aftertaste. Potential clients that comparison tested our algal oil to our competitors’ algal oil chose to become our clients in virtually every case.

Looking ahead 5 years from now, where do you see KeyLeaf as a player in the plant-based ingredient space?

KeyLeaf will continue to be an industry leader, as it has been for the past 4 decades, maintaining it’s dominance in the processing of plant-based proteins and oils while making ingredients for a healthier world.