Probiotics supplier Chr. Hansen has developed a new, flexible formulation system for adding probiotics directly to finished products.
The technology uses Tetra Pak's aseptic dosing machine Flex Dos that allows the bacteria to be added to liquids just before they are filled into cartons.
The innovation is expected to significantly boost the market for probiotic beverages, which have so far been restricted by the delicate nature of the ingredient and concerns over contamination.
Probiotic bacteria must be live to exert their health benefits but they can be destroyed by a number of processing situations. In beverages for example, the heat treatment in a standard production run would kill the live bacteria.
Finnish dairy Valio has succeeded in creating a probiotic juice, its Gefilus brand, by improving the stability of its probiotic bacteria. The product now has the biggest share of the chilled drinks segment in Finland.
Chr Hansen's new technology removes all the obstacles presented by processing by bringing probiotics in at the final stage of the production process.
"The market is really growing for high-end chilled juices. We believe there is also a market out there for normal drinking milk at breakfast and yoghurt makers may be interested too with increasing use of pasteurisation," said Hans Christian Bejder, responsible for marketing probiotics at Chr Hansen.
He believes the 'Direct Liquid Inoculation' system will also appeal to food sectors outside the dairy industry that are wary of formulating with bacteria.
"The machine has a special chamber with a membrane system that keeps the bacteria in aseptic conditions. The company does not even have to see the bacteria as we provide them with a special package," he told NutraIngredients.com.
"Then a hose with a sterile needle at both ends feeds the bacteria into the finished product. You don't have to stop the production process to switch from the probiotic product to another, and you can have two products in the one machine," he added.
"We're not aware of any other system with this level of safety and flexibility," said Bejder.
Chr Hansen is predicting strong growth in demand for probiotic beverages as the drinks sector has traditionally been one of the most innovative in adding healthy ingredients.
The company has tested the stability of its cultures in the new system using orange juice that could be marketed with a maximum one month shelf-life in the chilled section.
The system has already been tested on an industrial scale and the first products using the technology are expected to launch before the end of 2005.
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