Based on its proprietary micro-encapsulation technology, Austria-based GAT Food Essentials (GAT) is powering up for a functional future, and reaching out to the world to ensure that its potential is realised.
"Our CTO and I have just returned from a two-and-a-half-week trip to Latin America, Mexico, Bogota and Medelin (Columbia), Caracas (Venezuela), Lima (Peru), Buenos Aires and Santa Fe (Argentina), Montevideo (Uruguay), and Sao Paulo (Brazil)," says GAT's chief marketing officer, Stefan Thueringer. "Travels like this can only be done if you are passionate and motivated … ."
Underlying Thueringer's passion is GAT's unique 'wowCAPS' micro-encapsulation technology, designed to protect and stabilize sensitive functional-foods ingredients, such as PUFAs (omega 3s), antioxidants, and minerals. The microl-encapsulated ingredients can be incorporated into a variety of food and beverage applications, including highly complex applications such as shelf-stable products. Working with GAT's wowCAPS technology soulution requires minimal R&D efforts or changes to already optimised production processes, thus providing a simple way of differentiating, and adding value to, foods and beverages though the combination of innovative technology and essential ingredients.
The 'wow' part of the name refers to 'water in oil in water,' which Thueringer explains this way: "it is a continuous, multiple micro-encapsulation process formed by in-situ polymerization. The phases are surrounded by a shell of cross-linked polymers, providing active ingredient stability during processing and the entire shelf life of the application, releasing the active ingredient only at pH below 3.6 after consumption of the product."
That's a mouthful, but what it means, he says, is that almost any active ingredient can be incorporated in either the inner-water phase or in the oil phase, or both. A good example of how this works was demonstrated in a 2005 red wine-polyphenols research project that GAT co-ordinated for 16 partner institutions from the European Union. The project yielded GAT's main product, PARADOX PLY, which incorporates both the extracts from grape skins (in the inner-water phase) and the oil of grape seeds (in the oil phase), thereby maximizing the loading of the bioactive ingredient.
The bottom line: "the technology successfully prevents ingredients from oxidation and degradation and possesses taste- and smell-masking characteristics, so it has minimal impact on the sensorial characteristics of the final food or beverage product," Thueringer says. "Ingredients thus encapsulated easily withstand most commonly applied production parameters, including pasteurization and homogenization, as well as baking and drying processes."
The vision for GAT Food Essentials had its beginning in 1999, with the formation of GAT Microencapsulation AG, which focused on addressing the issues of stabilization and targeted/timed release of active ingredients for the agro-chemistry industry. "The underlying issues are the same as we are facing in the functional-foods and beverage industry," Thueringer says, "so within a few years we realized the potential for other industries, such as functional foods, cosmetics or household."
In 2004, GAT Food Essentials was born. "We were about 15 people, with maybe 12 of them in R&D. We had our office outside of Ebenfurth (Austria) and a distribution partner in Spain. Now we are about 50 people (still about half of them in R&D); a Latin America headquarters in Miami, Florida; a Brazil office in Porto Alegre; and sales offices and distribution partners for Europe and Australia/New Zealand."
The company has a select number of ingredients partners, including Denomega Nutritional Oils, for products in the standard product portfolio, and co-operates with a number of industrial partners in particular for co-development projects, Thueringer says.
GAT has no intention of resting on its laurels, but is actively pursuing extending its current or extended technology, Thueringer says. "Nearly every multinational or regionally leading company is engaging in research related to micro-encapsulation of eg probiotics for functional-foods applications. We're in an ideal position to help them. Furthermore, we're doing long-term development towards nanotechnology, a highly interesting and big-potential topic, possibly enabling the incorporation of oil-based products in clear (water/water+) beverages, and completely eliminating taste and odour perception of any ingredient incorporated.
As for the future, Thueringer is enthusiastic. "Any company that can offer simple solutions for any range of applications, including multiple options on how to incorporate them during processing, will have great potential in an already highly attractive market."