January 16/Brisbane, Queensland/University of Queensland -- Researchers at The University of Queensland (UQ) have developed the world's first non-fermented, multi-strain probiotic milk and juice, which aims to offer more health benefits from consuming fortified juice, milk and other calcium-rich dairy products.

UQ's main commercialization company, UniQuest, has formed Progel Pty Ltd to commercialize the novel food processing technique invented by Professor Bhesh Bhandari from UQ's School of Agriculture and Food Sciences.

With a $250,000 Commercialisation Australia grant, Progel is developing a range of new functional milk and juice products with levels of probiotics and omega-3 not currently available in milk and juice products. The innovative technology uses only safe food ingredients including alginate, commonly used in ice cream. Alginate is derived from seaweed and is sustainably harvested.

“Adding probiotics to commonly consumed products like milk and juice can improve gut health and digestion, and help lessen the effects of lactose-intolerance for milk consumers. However, these products with probiotics tend to go sour within days,” explained Bhandari.

“Meanwhile, residual smell and taste are common in food products fortified with fish-based omega-3 oils, even though existing products only have small amounts and therefore fewer health benefits.

“Products made possible by the Progel technology will bring the many health benefits of probiotics and omega-3 to consumers who do not regularly consume dairy products. Progel ingredients also include calcium, giving juices many of the benefits of dairy products, such as yoghurt.

“The key advantage of Progel ingredients is that they don't affect the quality, taste or smell of the milk, and products containing the Progel encapsulation technology can offer sufficient levels of active nutrients to provide a beneficial source of probiotics and omega-3 to consumers,” Bhandari said.

UniQuest managing director, David Henderson, said the Commercialisation Australia grant will help Progel develop new prototype functional food products in partnership with food and ingredient manufacturers, who will be evaluating the technology for commercial viability.

“Milk is a major source of nutrition for many world populations. With the opportunity to develop into a successful product range, the Progel technology could become another ‘world-first' from an Australian university research and industry partnership, impacting positively on communities world-wide, as well as boosting local and international dairy food markets,” Henderson said.

 From the January 18, 2012, Prepared Foods' Daily News.