Filling the gap: Kiwi scientist outlines global plans for novel nutritional snack bar for children and teenagers
The AMIGO Bar, touted as New Zealand’s “first five star-rated supplementary food bar” for children and teenagers aged four to 14, contains essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals to support physical growth and brain development.
A decade of development
Over the last 10 years, Avery and his research team have been working on the development of the AMIGO Bar.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, he said: "The AMIGO Bar is registered as a supplementary food. Previously, the only other supplementary food for children in New Zealand was infant formula, but we saw a gap in the market for children and teenagers between four and 14 years old.
He added that the intention behind the bar was to provide a snack that could fulfil the nutritional needs and support the cognitive development of that particular demographic without sacrificing taste, and that every ingredient in the bar has a functional benefit
The ingredients include fibre from chicory root extract, as well as inulin to protect against bad bacteria. It also uses a sweetening ingredient derived from sugar beet, which previous research has found to not only have probiotic activity to promote good gut bacteria, but also to be ‘tooth-friendly’.
"We've done a lot of work in Asia, looking at malnutrition in children. We experimented with using hydrolysed chicken protein, such as that in Brands Essence of Chicken, and developed some novel nutritional products using hydrolysed chicken protein,” Avery said.
“We then used purified kiwifruit enzymes to help digest the protein. With our proprietary technology, we also managed to control the length of the amino acid chains of the peptides present in the products.
“From there, we decided to roll out similar research in New Zealand, but we knew it would be much harder to get people here to take a nutritional snack bar, for instance, based on chicken protein."
After conducting more research, Avery and his team found they could manufacture amino acid formulations from bio-fermentation, and achieve the same amino acid profile present in the chicken protein products they had developed earlier.
Children being seen and heard
Avery has made it a point to obtain constant feedback from children and teenagers within the AMIGO Bar’s target demographic at every stage of development, from taste to even naming the product.
He said: "We want to go global with the product, and we have to conduct in-depth market analysis before we even finish it. So we're testing it on kids and experimenting with about 100 flavours to decide which ones they like best.
"Even the name AMIGO was chosen from about 50 possible names that we trialled in Asia and South America, and it was the name the kids liked best."
Within Asia, Avery is interested in Singapore, Malaysia, China and Japan, and has plans to develop more functional food products for children.
He is also open to collaborations with commercial partners, so long as a percentage of the profits go to social enterprises.
In New Zealand itself, he has, together with the Ted Manson Foundation, established the AMIGO Bar School programme. Through the programme, students will receive free samples alongside an AMIGO Bar School pack containing educational material on nutrition.
The AMIGO Bar and AMIGO Bar School programme will be rolled out at the end of June, at the cost of a mere dollar a day. According to Avery, it has already received overwhelming requests from schools in the country.
Profits from sales of the AMIGO Bar in supermarkets and other stores will support the self-sustainability efforts of the Medicine Mondiale Foundation, which was founded by Avery and specialises in developing and commercialising affordable healthcare products and technologies.