Aussie start-up eyes fortified dairy and juice market with “innovative” encapsulation technology

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

New encapsulation technology ensures high levels probiotics and omega-3s in dairy and juices
New encapsulation technology ensures high levels probiotics and omega-3s in dairy and juices
Brisbane-based food technology start-up Progel has an encapsulation technology that will enable manufacturers to develop new ranges of innovative foods with higher levels of active, according to the CEO of the company.

The technology, developed in 2005 by Professor Bhesh Bhandari at the University of Queensland (UQ), can mask taste, control release and improve health benefits, the company said.

The alginate-derived microgel technology will enable probiotics and omega-3s to be delivered in a range of wet and dry foods and beverages such as milk, juice, smoothies, cheese, dips, dairy desserts, fruit snacks, sports drinks and weight control products, without affecting taste.

“Initially we are focused on probiotics and omega-3,”​ Cameron Turner, CEO of Progel said, however the technology can be used to deliver various functional food actives.

The company strategy will be to license the technology to large ingredients and food manufacturers with a strong presence in probiotics and omega-3 foods, Turner told FoodNavigator-Asia.

‘Innovative’ and ‘novel’

“We believe the technology is novel and inventive,”​ he said, and will enable food manufacturers to develop new ranges of innovative foods with higher levels of active and greater health benefits.

Alginate encapsulation has been known for decades, Turner noted, but difficulties in producing high volumes of small-sized encapsulation beads for a reasonable price has prevented the commercialisation.

“The Progel technology enables us to produce very small microgels at very large volumes for the first time. This means our technology can be used to encapsulate a large range of actives at only a marginal increase in the cost of the active,”​ he added.

In-vitro results show that probiotics encapsulated deliver a significantly higher amount of viable probiotics to the Gastrointestinal system without fermenting, Turner said, as it has a stronger resistance to pH levels that others on the market.

The microgels remain stable in wet and dry foods and beverages and only become released in the intestines where the high pH triggers the release of the active.

A bulk, yet lucrative market

The company noted that the global food encapsulation technology market is estimated to reach US22.7bn by 2014, at a CAGR of more than 7%.

The encapsulation technology will enable manufacturers to bring innovation to the bulk milk and juice category and thus capture a market share of these multi-billion dollar categories, Turner said.

A grant of A$250,000 has been given by the Australian government to “help Progel engage with food manufacturers to start to adopt the technology and develop new food products,”​ he said.

The technology has been patented in New Zealand and is awaiting patent protection elsewhere.

Progel is engaged in discussions with multinational food and ingredients companies in Australia and the globe, and is “hoping to identify licensees in the Asia Pacific region during 2012 and expect new Progel enabled products to be available in 2012,”​ Turner said.

"We certainly believe consumers in the Asia region will embrace products made using our technology. Certain parts of the Asia region, in-particular Japan and Korea are very strong markets for probiotics and Omega-3 foods," ​he concluded.

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