Formerly known as UniQuest, food technology startup Progel’s alginate encapsulation technology was developed by Professor Bhesh Bhandari at The University of Queenland’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences.
And the firm has now been awarded an AUS $250,000 (€202,000) grant from Commercialisation Australian to bring products to market.
Progel hopes to corner a share of the global food encapsulation technology market, which it predicts will be worth $22.7bn (€17.77bn) by 2014, with a 7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
Bhandari said: “The key advantage of Progel ingredients is that they don’t affect the quality, texture, taste or smell of the product, and products containing Progel encapsulated actives may provide sufficient levels of active nutrients to provide a beneficial source of probiotics and omega-3 to consumers.”
International partners sought
Since the firm’s probiotic and omega-3 juice products also included calcium, they offered many of the health benefits of calcium, probiotics and omega-3 to consumers who did not regularly eat milk, yogurt or oily fish, Bhandari said.
Progel said its eponymous technology – using a low-cost, bulk micro-gel encapsulation method that could be applied to a number of systems based on fast cross-linking reactions of polymers – employed food ingredients such as seaweed derivative alginate, and the company said it wished to partner with international and native food and ingredient manufacturers.
Such partnerships will explore the commercial viability of Progel’s encapsulation technology, and co-develop new products with probiotics and omega-3s not currently available in milk and juice products.
Bhandari said that Omega-3 and probiotics had been selected to test the technology, as they had widely accepted health benefits and strong consumer awareness, but were only available in a small number of foods or supplements.
He said: “Adding probiotics to manufactured dairy and juice products can improve digestion and general gut health, and boost the immune system. However, such products are not currently possible, as milk and juice products with probiotics go sour within days.
“And even though existing food products fortified with fish-based omega-3 oils only have small amounts added, a residual smell and taste is common,” Bhandari added.
Cameron Turner, CEO, Progel, said that innovative dairy products could help industry partners establish a unique point of difference, and give primary producers an opportunity to regain brand market share and profitability.
“Innovative products represent a new opportunity for price premiums, and Progel’s products will help improve the bottom line for future-focused milk and juice companies, as well as their associated dairy farmers and fruit growers,” Turner added.