Improve your health and lifestyle with ProGel

16 Oct 2008

Food and drinks will soon be even healthier and better tasting, with new University of Queensland technology allowing manufacturers to incorporate healthy ingredients like fish oil, vitamins and probiotics into foods without affecting their flavour.

Behind this innovation is ProGel, a finalist of UQ Business School's $100 000 business plan competition, Enterprize.

The new technology developed by UQ's Associate Professor Bhesh Bhandari, allows sensitive or bitter food ingredients to be placed into food products such as beverages, fruit snacks and dairy products. This is made possible through ProGel's unique low cost microencapsulation process that masks flavours and protect probiotics from stomach acids during the digestion process. This will enable the creation of new, healthier food products and improve the effectiveness of existing foods like probiotic yoghurts.

"The microcapsules are so small and are tasteless they aren't noticed by the consumer, which means we can create more healthy products with ingredients such as fish oil and bitter vitamins and still retain the original taste and texture of the food or beverage," said ProGel representative, Cameron Turner.

ProGel also has a clear edge over other similar technologies, particularly in the price-sensitive food industry.

"Compared to existing technologies, we are able to offer a solution which will result in foods with improved health benefits without significantly increasing the price" said Mr Turner, Manager of Innovation and Commercial Development for UQ's Faculty of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences.

The technology has also been used to form microcapsules with a range of drugs including insulin, ibuprofen, lysozyme and gentamicin. The application of the ProGel technology could therefore lead to the creation of new pharmaceutical products, such as children's liquid pain relief or cold and flue elixirs without the need for artificial flavours and sweeteners. It may also be possible to reduce the problem of nausea and stomach ulcers occasionally resulting from long term use of some pharmaceutics.

While currently focusing on using the technology for the administration of functional foods and supplements, the possibilities for using the process for pharmaceutics is extensive and these avenues are being explored with UQ's commercialisation company, UniQuest.

ProGel is currently one of seven finalists in the UQ Business School Enterprize Competition and is in the running to receive $100,000 towards taking this product to market.

The company will showcase the new technology to the public at Enterprize Pitch Day on Thursday October 16.

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