Better delivering neutraceuticals and nutrients through food

School of Agriculture and Food Sciences researchers have invented a novel way to protect and deliver food bioactives and other functional nutrients, and potentially pharmaceuticals. The technology, ProGel, allows these additives to survive the acidic stomach stage of digestion and be absorbed in the intestine. Micron-sized gel particles – derived from brown seaweed – trap active compounds, helping them survive the storm of the human digestive system and deliver in the targeted location. ProGel has been taken to market by two successful start-up ventures, including makers of the probiotic drink PERKii.

Consumers can purchase probiotic products that help balance gut bacteria and bring health benefits, from boosting immune responses to assisting with certain digestive issues and potentially also improving mental health. For food manufacturers, the technology offers a higher potency, a longer product shelf-life, and scalability for encapsulating good-for-gut bacteria and other functional nutrients. Probiotics can now be added easily and affordably to food, without lactose or residual tastes and textures.

ProGel initially focused on encapsulating probiotics, a $50 billion global market. Its potential was recognised with a $250,000 grant from Commercialisation Australia, which funded further technology refinement and product testing, followed by $4 million of investment in PERKii, including $1.53 million from the Queensland Business Development Fund.