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Companies line up chewable probiotics

By Sarah Hills , 22-Oct-2008

Probiotic chews are being rolled out by manufacturers looking for varied ways of encouraging consumers to introduce ‘friendly bacteria’ into their diet.

Flavours Inc has introduced a range of natural, oat-based soft chews, called NutraBitz, while Chr Hansen has extended its probiotics product portfolio with a chewable tablet dosage format.

NutraBitz uses a proprietary manufacturing process and contains both prebiotics and probiotics for private label applications.

The product is said to overcome the challenges associated with other commonly used probiotics, as it can withstand industrial food manufacturing, extreme temperatures, and product shelf life.

California-based Flavours Inc said it developed the chews because of the weight of medical research demonstrating the health benefits of probiotics, along with demand for probiotic alternatives to refrigerated yogurts, capsules and tablets.

It added that the chews offer the dietary supplement category a “fun way” to get probiotics into the daily diet.

Tara Foster, director of sales at Flavours Inc, a nutraceutical and functional food company, said: “Probiotics are one of the hottest market trends today, but right now consumers can't get them in delivery forms that make taking probiotics enjoyable. NutraBitz changes that.”

Meanwhile, the Danish biotech company Chr Hansen said its chewable tablets are intended for all age groups, but are particularly suitable for children.

Charlotte Beyerholm, marketing manager, Health & Nutrition Division at Chr Hansen, said: “Today’s consumers appreciate to be able to choose among a number of different dosage formats.

“This convenient way to easily consume the beneficial probiotic cultures is an exciting alternative to the traditional tablet or capsule.”

Manufacturing challenges

There is a growing interest in probiotics as consumers warm to the concept of ‘friendly’ bacteria. This is reflected by the market for probiotic drinks which in North America is valued at around $310m, with a 14 per cent annual growth rate estimated for the next three years, according to Euromonitor.

Probiotics, which are bacteria found in the gut, have been shown to improve the balance of intestinal microflora. However, these bacteria must remain live as they pass through the intestinal tract in order to exert their benefits, creating formulation challenges.

As a result, probiotics have been largely restricted to chilled (usually dairy) applications with a short shelf life.

NutraBitz uses GanedenBC30, a spore-forming probiotic bacterium, which means that inside the bacterial cell is a hardened structure, or spore. This protects the cell's genetic material from the heat and pressure of manufacturing processes and the challenges of shelf life, as well as the acid and bile it is exposed to during digestive transit.

Similarly the proprietary manufacturing process used to make NutraBitz is said to allow for complete dispersion of ingredients and prevents off-flavors. It also delivers a texture that is described as more like a granola bar than a traditional soft chew.

Each 5.5 gram NutraBitz chew is 15-20 calories and contains one billion CFU (colony forming units) of the GanedenBC30 strain of Bacillus coagulans probiotics.

They are available in 30, 60, and 90 count sizes, packaged in stand-up, gusseted, re-sealable pouches with sugar-free versions.

GanedenBC30 is among Ganeden Biotech’s portfolio of proprietary, patented probiotic technology and the ingredient and its related patents are available for license.

Other companies that are looking at alternative vehicles for the probiotics include Danisco which earlier this month introduced its Howaru probiotic straws.

Developed by Unistraw, the internationally-patented concept will be used exclusively with Danisco’s Howaru ingredients. Formal launch is not expected until mid 2009.

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