Aussie probiotic start-up PERKii harbours global market-leading ambitions

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

PERKii Probiotic Water was developed with the company's patented ProGel technology.
PERKii Probiotic Water was developed with the company's patented ProGel technology.

Related tags Probiotic

Australian start-up PERKii Probiotics is banking on its sole product to serve as a platform for expansion, and so far, its plan seems to be working.

Originating from the University of Queensland, the company released PERKii Probiotic Water, the "world's first fruit-flavoured probiotic water-based drink"​, which is purported to contain 1 billion micro-encapsulated LCasei431​ probiotics and only 26 calories.

The lactose-free bottled beverage was developed with the company's patented ProGel technology, which was invented at the university in 2009 and is said to improve probiotic stability at a low cost, through encapsulation in tiny beads called Microgels.

This process ensures the probiotics can survive for four months, and be effective even in a high-pH environment like the gut.

Attracting attention

The product, which is currently available in Australia in five different flavours, has led to PERKii being accepted into the Lion Unleashed programme, run by renowned F&B firm Lion.

This makes PERKii one of the 10 start-ups and scale-ups participating in the accelerator programme, placing it among the few companies chosen from over 300 other applicants in Australia and New Zealand; it is also the only product-based business in the programme.

PERKii CEO Matthew Kowal told NutraIngredients-Asia​: "PERKii sees the Lion programme as a great platform to showcase and ultimately expand the use of the patented technology that underpins our current product."

Mutual benefits

Launched in June this year, Lion Unleashed is a 12-week accelerator programme designed in partnership with Australian corporate accelerator specialist Slingshot.

It will see Lion's leading brands helping to mentor F&B entrepreneurs and start-ups, in part to serve the company's innovation agenda.

According to a press release from Lion, the participating companies will "exchange equity for up to $50,000 from the Slingshot Investment Fund and receive additional benefits such as access to software and co-working space, valued at over $500,000 from the likes of AWS, IBM, Xerox and WeWork'​.

Encapsulation expansion

Kowal said, "Lion, being the leading dairy business in Australia and New Zealand, has the ability to best harness this technology in a variety of our tested NPD products and the distribution network to deliver them to the customer and consumer.

"By working with a business of Lion's experience, we are hoping to expand our range of encapsulated probiotic products available for the consumer, and in important categories such as dairy and non-dairy."

He added that PERKii sees this as the first step to introducing its technology to the global market, and is considering other partners "of similar stature"​ in Asia and North America.

He also revealed that there are plans to establish PERKii and its ProGel technology as a "leading probiotic solution in the Australian and New Zealand markets"​, before distributing the technology — or licensed local equivalents — in three key geographical areas: Asia, North America and Europe.

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