FrieslandCampina launches first-ever lactose-encapsulated DHA and ARA formula ingredients

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT

DHA has been a firm favorite in China and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region for some time thanks to its benefits to brain and visual function. Photo: FrieslandCampina Ingredients
DHA has been a firm favorite in China and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region for some time thanks to its benefits to brain and visual function. Photo: FrieslandCampina Ingredients

Related tags Fatty acids Nutrition plant-based Frieslandcampina

The new algae and fungi oil-based infant milk formula ingredients also tick a long list of requirements, from clean-label to high oil loads. DairyReporter speaks exclusively to the company's Marischa Nikkels to find out more . . .

FrieslandCampina Ingredients has extended its range of Vana-Sana products with three new additions – two docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) products based on algae oil, plus an ingredient with arachidonic acid (ARA) derived from fungi oil. The product names are Vana-Sana DHA algae 20L, Vana-Sana ARA 20L and Vana-Sana DHA algae 11N.

The new releases tick a number of boxes, including high oil content – from seven to 20% - as well as ARA and DHA derived from different sources including protein-free varieties for plant-based applications. The clean-label trend has also been addressed through the removal of dipotassium phosphate, a buffering agent, and silicon dioxide, a flow agent.

The company says its DHA and ARA-containing oil products from plant sources ‘outperformed competitive ingredients with respect to encapsulated quality, dispersibility and stability - despite their high oil load’.

What’s more, these are the first DHA and ARA ingredients with a lactose-based encapsulation – a commercial first that offers significant advantages to glucose-encapsulated alternatives, as we learn later.

The importance of DHA and ARA

DHA and ARA are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs). These acids are mostly derived through placental transfer and are present in breast milk - but synthesis is limited in infants, meaning dietary intake is considered essential. DHA and ARA are mostly known for their role in brain development and in the case of DHA, for visual function.

The two LCPUFAs are also thought to improve immunity, reduce respiratory illnesses and minimize the risk of common allergies in infants and young children.

“Immune health and cognitive development are two of the topics most of the minds of parents today,”​ Marischa Nikkels, marketing manager, early life nutrition, FrieslandCampina Ingredients told DairyReporter. “In a recent survey, 59% of parents questioned globally with an infant aged under one year claimed to be anxious about their child’s immune health and 54% of parents said that they are concerned about their infant’s cognitive development.”

“While these ingredients are becoming more popular all over the world, DHA has been a firm favorite in China and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region for some time thanks to its benefits to brain and visual function,”​ she added. “The body of science highlighting the advantages of ARA, and in most cases, the additional benefits of consuming both in the right ratio, also explains why parents and healthcare professionals are increasingly seeking infant milk formula that includes them.”

Lactose-based micro-encapsulation

The primary new additions to the range, Vana-Sana DHA algae 20L and Vana-Sana ARA 20L, feature high oil loads of 20g DHA and 20g ARA respectively per 100g of powder – almost double the typical concentrations of comparable ingredients, the company claims.

“It’s the micro-encapsulation technology that enables such high oil loads,”​ explained Nikkels. “The benefits of that include responding to the growing demand for LCPUFAs but also improved production efficiency for the formulator. Less micro-encapsulated DHA and ARA ingredient volumes are required, which lowers cost in use, too.”

Micro-encapsulation effectively wraps droplets of oil in a powder matrix, we were told. This turns an oily, liquid ingredient that’s difficult to handle and prone to damage from environmental conditions into a dry, powder one that’s more stable and easier to process. There are no off-tastes or bad odors either, making it appealing from a consumer standpoint.

“The quality of both the oil and the matrix components such as carbohydrates are protected because the drying process is extremely gentle,”​ added Nikkels. “The use of lactose instead of glucose does not impact sugar levels - it’s a positive development as lactose is already present in the infant milk formula.”

The presence of glucose can also present a hurdle to compliance with local legislation, as it’s often regarded as added sugar content. The lactose in FrieslandCampina’s ingredients has been supplied by the co-op’s own member farmers.

But this type of micro-encapsulation is known to be difficult to produce, hence the lack of its commercial availability until now – what has the company done differently to achieve this breakthrough? “Our pilot plant [in Meppel, the Netherlands] and scale-up capability played a very important role in the development of these new ingredients, as did our drying technology,”​ said Nikkels. “That’s the factor that enabled the use of lactose as a next development in our portfolio, as it delivers efficient encapsulation, by keeping conditions mild and the process short to preserve the quality of the DHA and ARA.”

Clean label considerations

All three products benefit from cleaner labels – a conscious decision addressing a growing trend for more sustainably-sourced ingredients. “The additives haven’t been replaced with anything else – we’ve simply adjusted the proportions of other ingredients within the matrix to offer a more natural product profile,”​ explained Nikkels. “As a result, our micro-encapsulated LCPUFA oils can be added at higher doses and are compliant with all current legislation - EU, Codex and GB.

“Our determination to nourish a better planet (as well as a healthier global population) is demonstrated by product advancements like today’s and the introduction of a carbon-neutral base powder, for example. We know how important these trends are, and how they’re prioritised by people considering choices for their babies as well as themselves,”​ she concluded.

The three new additions make FrieslandCampina Ingredients’ portfolio of micro-encapsulated LCPUFAs for infant milk formula the widest on the market, totalling 12 different options. 

*Source: Innova Market Insights & RFC, Global consumer study Early Life Nutrition, 2020 / selection parents with children aged 0-1 year

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