Survive the journey: PERKii sees steady sales of probiotic drinks made with exclusive encapsulation technology
The company manufactures still and sparkling probiotic drinks, made with an exclusive encapsulation technology which allow probiotics to survive the harsh stomach acid conditions in order to reach the gut.
Although founded in 2015, PERKii only started entering major retailers such as Woolworths in the last three years, and has seen consistent growth.
Last year amid the pandemic, sales grew 50%, and the year before, it was at similar levels.
“In Australia, we have been fortunate the supermarkets business where the majority of our sales are has not been impacted by the lockdown measures,” said PERKii’s CEO Anthony Davie.
He told NutraIngredients-Asia the growth in sales was likely attributed to growing consumer awareness of the benefits of probiotics, as well as their knowledge on probiotics.
“An interesting thing that we've seen over the last 12 to 18 months is the increasing consumer interest in probiotics and its health benefits whether its immunity or digestion.
“Furthermore, research shows over half of the consumers that consume probiotics are aware of the challenge with probiotics, which is surviving the journey through the stomach to get to the gut.”
Science of encapsulation
PERKii has exclusive use of Progel’s encapsulation technology, which was first developed at the University of Queensland, Australia and subsequently commercialised by Progel. The technology can also encapsulate other compounds such as omega-3 fatty acids.
It revolves around an alginate microgel which is derived from brown seaweed. Probiotics are encapsulated in this layer of microgel which is designed to resist harsh acidic conditions in the stomach, yet dissolve in higher pH environment in the gut.
Tests have shown that probiotics encapsulated in this manner can survive the acidic environment of the stomach up to 10,000 times more than the same probiotic that is not encapsulated.
Currently, PERKii makes and sells two type of drinks, a still beverage containing juice, and a sparkling beverage made with flavoured carbonated water.
Typically, probiotics use a dairy-based carrier, but PERKii offers a non-dairy option.
“This is a good point of difference versus the traditional ways of consuming probiotics through yogurts and dairy products or through fermented products such as kombucha,” Davie said.
A study conducted last year suggest orange juice as a probiotic carrier due to its high amount of sugars which act as an energy source, its relatively low pH making it a suitable environmental medium, and its high antioxidant content helping prolong shelf life.
Juices also have relatively shorter transmit time through the gastrointestinal tract, which can greatly reduce the adverse effects of gastric environment on probiotics. The study was conducted on the lactobacillus sanfranciscensis strain.
Probiotic and health
For PERKii, its beverages are formulated with two different probiotic strains.
The still line adds lactobacillus casei, in which clinical studies have shown its ability to support immune function.
The sparkling line adds bifidobacterium, which was found to support bowel and immune function
“From a consumer perspective, both strains of probiotics have similar probiotic benefits around immunity and digestion,” Davie added.
“We're working on new product development and different strains of probiotics to encapsulate, matching it with the right carriers so that we can continue to extend the product range.”
The sparkling range was newly launched in 2021.
“The still drink lends itself to more of a morning to sort of lunchtime consumption occasion, while the sparkling products are more mid-afternoon and early evening. The sparkling products are also appealing to the kombucha drinker who are looking for a sparkling mouthfeel.”
Recently, the company explored a larger pack size, expanding from its usual single serving size of 350mL to 1L.
“We were testing if people were ready to move on from drinking the ready-to-go, smaller pack size, and if there was any opportunity for a larger pack size in the future.”
PERKii hopes to take its finished products globally, and is working out the details.
“We are in active conversations now about exporting our finished products into some of the South East Asian markets that we can reach with a cold sea freight,” Davie said.
Because PERKii’s beverages require a cold chain, the company is also eyeing the possibility of exporting the encapsulated probiotic as an ingredient instead.
“For it to be cost effective for consumers in export markets, we would need to find partners to bottle locally. So, we would be able to provide them with the encapsulated probiotics to add into their finished drinks.”