Thinking out of the box: Tea, coffee and honey come to the boil for probiotic beverage innovation

By Guan Yu Lim

- Last updated on GMT

The global health and wellness trend continue to drive consumer preferences for products containing probiotics in APAC, but consumers are increasingly seeking innovative applications beyond supplements, dairy and fruit juices. ©Getty Images
The global health and wellness trend continue to drive consumer preferences for products containing probiotics in APAC, but consumers are increasingly seeking innovative applications beyond supplements, dairy and fruit juices. ©Getty Images

Related tags Probiotic Coffee Tea Honey Beverages functional beverage beverage

APAC’s probiotics sector is continuing to soar, but consumers are increasingly seeking applications beyond supplements and dairy, with honey, tea and coffee emerging as potential formats for innovation.

According to Ben Rohr, CEO at Meluka Australia, the probiotic market is a very large and growing market built on the increasing growing awareness on the benefits of gut health.

Meluka Australia produces raw honey as well as a liquid probiotic honey tonic.

The company is set to launch its probiotic honey tonic in Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and China within the next 12 months.

Rohr told NutraIngredients-Asia​ the company initially released a range of honey containing tea tree, which was known for its antimicrobial properties. “(We found) our consumers were purchasing our honey to assist with gut health so we immediately went into R&D with our honey and came up with the idea of producing a product focused on gut health​.”

The honey is combined with probiotics and fermented over three to four months.

The probiotic honey tonic was launched earlier this year, containing six probiotic strains​, and claim to support gut health across a wide range of potential deficiencies.

Rohr said the biggest challenge was the length of time required for fermentation. “It usually takes between three and four months for the honey to get to optimal fermentation so the R&D phase was much longer than we would normally like. This is why we only launched with one flavour (lemon) initially​.”

The company recommends consuming the honey tonic on its own, as a salad dressing, or mixed in drinks.

We suggest that you don’t add it to drinks that have boiling water, either wait for the drink to cool before adding the concentrate or just use warm water. Some of the good bacteria in our honey will start to degrade in temperatures greater than 40 degrees and will die in temperatures greater than 60 degrees​.”

Hot applications

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some companies innovating probiotics for use in hot beverages as consumer demand rises.

For instance, in India and Sri Lanka, there is a surge in demand for hot tea with immune health benefits.

According to experts at ingredient manufacturer Kerry Group, hot beverages pose a challenge for most probiotics which are usually vegetative cells (Lactobacillus​, Bifidobacterium)​ because the high temperature can degrade the viability of these organisms.

Simon Hague, Kerry’s lead of tea, coffee and cocoa said: “Using conventional probiotics in tea is not possible due to the addition of hot water in the cup along with the tea bag​.”

The firm says its Bacillus coagulans​ (commercial name: GanedenBC30​) can survive in high temperature applications as well as the low pH of stomach acid.

GanedenBC30​ is a spore-forming cell, which means it has a natural protective spore outer coat that provides additional stability.

The ability to form spores is strain-specific, and is a benefit to GanedenBC30​,” said Genny Tan, business development manager at Kerry.

In addition, the probiotic strain had been studied for its digestive, immune health and protein utilisation benefits.

The probiotic is available in powder format and is shelf-stable up to three years with no refrigeration required.

Recently, GanedenBC30​ was able to publish its probiotic claims​ in Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) Food Standards Code.

John Quilter, vice president and general manager for GanedenBC30​ said: “As in the rest of the world, demand for probiotic products in Australia has soared in recent years. The door is now open for manufacturers to use messaging highlighting the many benefits of GanedenBC30​.”

China firm ICS Biological Technology (Shanghai) is another company producing nutritional coffee​ containing a human probiotic strain (CT99) from Taiwan.

On the future of probiotic applications, Rohr is hopeful: “As consumers learn more about their gut health, I expect the market potential for new innovative products to grow significantly​.”

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