Biopolymers developed to extend probiotic shelf life
allow probiotics to be used in more foods than is
Australian venture capitalists BioPacificVentures yesterday announced it was investing in EnCoate, a biopolymer company jointly owned by New Zealand firms AgResearch and Balance Agri-Nutrients. EnCoate is developing a family of biopolymers to stabilise probiotic microbes so that they can survive for long periods without refrigeration. The aim is to develop biopolymers that can extend the shelf life of foods to up to two years at room temperature and humidity. EnCoate claims to have developed a technology that can stabilise the microbes so that they can be used to enhance foods such as breakfast cereals, infant milk-powders and dog-biscuits. The edible biopolymers can be added to the foods containing the probiotic ingredients. Priobiotics are microbes that provide health benefits to consumers, but current technology limits the use to dairy products as refrigeration is required. BioPacificVentures is funded by local and international investors with Nestlé, the world's biggest food company, the largest investor. Bridgit Hawkins, acting chief executive officer of EnCoate, said the purchase opens a potentially huge global market for probiotic ingredients. "The market for EnCoate's probiotic ingredients will be global manufacturers and marketers of non-chilled foods that are seeking to differentiate their products in the perceptions of health-conscious consumers," she said. The probiotic ingredient market is worth over $600m annually, and is growing at a rate of between 10 and 20 per annum, Hawkins said. Ian Boddy, general manager of commercial services at AgResearch said the technology, when applied to probiotic ingredients, could double the market by enabling manufacturers to extend the probiotics category from refrigerated foods to non-refrigerated products. "What's more, EnCoate has potential beyond extending the shelf life of probiotics, with the core technology behind EnCoate being the biopolymer, which has applications in agricultural biology, food, seed coatings, and vaccines," he said. Andrew Kelly, executive director of BioPacificVentures, said the $6.3m investment and experience would drive the technology into numerous global markets. "Probiotics, the 'healthy' bacteria, is one such market," he said. "Offering much more than capital, we believe our multinational food industry experience will be very beneficial to the company." BioPacificVentures is one of Australasia's largest life science venture capital funds.