The Southern California-based company said it has devised a process whereby oil-soluble ingredients, such as mango and rosemary oils, are soluble in water with enhanced stability and bioavailability. Blue California claims its micro-encapsulation method produces water-soluble ingredients that do not require emulsifying agents that can cause cloudiness once a product is in a solution.
The technique is significant because the micro-encapsulated essential oils are rendered soluble in water and as such can be used as natural flavors, preservatives and antioxidants in functional beverages and cosmetic products.
Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts which can have both functional and preserving uses.
"Our technological breakthrough allows us to encapsulate these essential oils and maintain the flavor in liquids," said Blue California executive vice president Cecilia McCollum. "This offers an incredible opportunity for beverages, offering virtually a flavor "explosion" with every drink, as well as offering the known health benefits of natural antioxidants to a variety of commercial products in different industries."
The company says that because no emulsifiers are used in its proprietary process, it can ensure a product will stay in a solution. Emulsions are unstable and have to be shaken, stirred, or homogenized to form, but may eventually revert to an oil state in water.
Beverages are regarded by many as one of the fastest growing and attractive sectors of the functional foods market, which was estimated by Datamonitor to have been worth around $19bn in 2004. To be applicable to beverages and tap this potential, solubility is seen as a major bonus for any ingredient. For instance, Irish biotech Alltracel announced this month that it has found away to make its cellulose fiber-derived bioactive soluble, a breakthrough that is expected to give impetus to negotiations with major food companies.
Moreover, the trend towards natural ingredients and the healthy halo that they wear means that formulators are interested in natural alternatives to synthetic flavorings and preservatives, which allow for 'clean labels'.
Blue California manufactures purified botanical extracts and specialty ingredients using raw materials from around the world. The company promotes its micro-encapsulation technology for taste and odor masking, flavor retention, chemical stability, avoiding colors rubbing off on machinery, and enhancing bioavailability.