Probiotics culture developing beyond yoghurt

Maturing technologies are presenting exciting possibilities for popular functional probiotic ingredients to expand into foods and beverages, beyond their traditional yoghurt and yoghurt beverage platforms.

Finnish dairy Valio was the first to make the leap when it introduced its probiotic ingredient into juice with its successful Gefilus offering, which was made possible by improving the stability of its probiotic cultures.

Now major ingredients suppliers Chr Hansen and Arla as well as probiotics specialists like Sweden?s Medipharm have developed means of coating probiotic cultures that they say will allow the fragile bacteria to be incorporated into a wider range of beverages — and even food matrices — than is currently possible.

Most probiotic cultures can only survive in a chilled environment, but the new coating procedures promise to make them robust enough to withstand typical manufacturing processes such as heat treatment and freezing.

Medipharm says its ingredient is suitable for ice creams or cereals while Hansen has conducted tests showing its BB12 probiotic ingredient remains stable in orange juice. In a retail outlet chilled cabinet, it could have a one-month shelf life. Hansen has suggested milk products could also be a suitable platform and the company is conducting research to extend the coated BB12?s shelf life to three months.

Hansen employs TetraPak?s aseptic Direct Liquid Inoculation system that allows manufacturers to add the probiotic ingredient to finished products, thereby bypassing any need to radically alter their production processes or procure new equipment.

?We are holding discussions with some major beverage players and expect juice and/or milk products to be on the market before the end of the year,? Hansen spokesperson Ole Lindhardt told FF&N. ?Because the TetraPak filling technology is already in use by a lot of beverage companies, it allows producers to employ their existing manufacturing equipment. This way, products can be launched very quickly.?

Danish-based Arla, with Sensient Flavors, the Nordic division of Wisconsin-based supplier Sensient Technologies, has coated a Medipharm probiotic ingredient with a common fat. Results indicate it can retain stability in dry, room-temperature conditions for six months and has the taste of digestive biscuits (graham crackers).

Arla is discussing commercial possibilities with companies in the US and Europe and also expects a product on retail shelves by year?s end.

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