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Supply Spotlight: Nebraska Cultures

The probiotics market is growing, and innovators such as Nebraska Cultures are working to stay ahead of the curve.

Americans are buying more probiotics than ever, partly because they are also increasingly buying into the idea of healthy digestion as the foundation for overall wellness. Still, confusion lingers about which bacteria strains are most effective as well as how well bacteria survive over time on store shelves—or during their transit of the gut.

Nebraska Cultures has been making probiotic raw materials on a commercial scale since 1981. Founder Dr. Khem Shahani was a renowned early probiotics researcher at the University of Nebraska. There, he isolated and studied a relatively hardy, fast-growing strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus that he named DDS-1, after the university’s Department of Dairy Science. Today, Nebraska Cultures is the only manufacturer of the DDS-1 strain using Dr. Shahani’s proprietary methods.

“We’re always trying to improve stability through our manufacturing techniques,” says Michael Shahani, the founder’s son and chief operations officer. For instance, after freeze-drying the concentrated cultures, technicians add a proprietary, protective stabilizer that contains antioxidant herbs, vitamins and amino acids. A recent human clinical study at the University of Nebraska found that DDS-1 persists in the body for up to two weeks. “That’s better than most probiotics,” Shahani says, “and certainly long enough to have good effects, like creating B vitamins and enzymes and inhibiting pathological bacteria.”

Other initial research indicates DDS-1 may play a protective role when it comes to warding off bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infections in women, and it may also support healthy cholesterol levels, Shahani says. 

Stability concerns are a non-issue for the company’s newest product, ProDURA Bacillus coagulans – the latest entrant to the spore-forming probiotics category that includes Sabinsa and Ganeden. A spore-forming bacterium that’s protected by an outer coating until it reaches the large intestine, ProDURA has no loss of potency at room temperature for three years and can withstand heat up to 200˚C, making it very attractive for food and beverage applications. “You can put it in an instant beverage mix and it will stay alive better in a non-refrigerated, dry state. But you can also put it in hot cocoa and it’s fine,” he says. Ditto for food bars, instant meals, liquids, softgels and gummies.

Nebraska Cultures is pursuing GRAS status for ProDURA and expects FDA approval by midyear. Also on the horizon: breaking into the Canadian market, more ProDURA stability studies and a DDS-1 study on individuals with lactose intolerance, says Shahani.

Nebraska Cultures’ commitment to research and high-quality standards are part of the tradition started 40 years ago by Dr. Shahani. Today, Nebraska Cultures works hard to be a good partner, Shahani says. “Our customer appreciates that we can help them with custom blending, we can help them with research, we’re flexible in terms of what they need.”

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