Developed by Unistraw, the internationally-patented concept will be used exclusively with Danisco’s Howaru probiotic ingredients.
Although formal launch is not expected until mid 2009, the Danish firm will next week introduce the straw to industry at the Supply Side West trade show in Las Vegas. The European introduction will occur at the start of November in Paris at Health Ingredients Europe.
According to the companies, the new delivery concept will open up market opportunities for long shelf-life beverage and milk products, thereby expanding the category beyond the traditional chilled applications.
It works by incorporating dry stable ‘Unibeads’ on filters at both ends of the straw. These beads are dissolved through liquid passing through the straw, delivering additional probiotics to a consumer along with the beverage inside the pack.
Unistraw says the system allows drinks makers to package beverages without the need for refrigeration for up to twelve months.
Unistraw has also teamed up with the packaging giant Tetra Pak to introduce the on-pack probiotic straw on its packages. As of the middle of next year, Tetra Pak said it can provide the probiotic delivering straws on the majority of its Tetra Brik Aseptic cartons.
Both Tetra Pak and Danisco will market the concept to their customers.
Tim York, managing director of Unistraw said: “We developed the new system based on increasing consumer demand for convenience, health and wellbeing, choice and taste, in a format that’s compatible with busy and increasingly mobile lifestyles.”
Probiotics, which are ‘healthy’ bacteria that improve the balance of intestinal microflora, have gained significant awareness in the global consumer markets, boosted by products such as Activia from Danone, and Yakult.
But an ongoing formulation challenge is the fact that these bacteria must remain live during their passing through the intestinal tract in order to exert their benefits. This has meant that probiotics have been largely restricted to chilled (usually dairy) applications with a short shelf life.
“The Howaru Straws are proving to be a convenient dry format, ideal for ensuring the delivery of a highly stable dose of probiotic live bacteria, without requiring chilled storage or distribution,” said Danisco BioActives president Saadane-Oaks.
Euromonitor has estimated that the global market for probiotic dairy drinks was worth $10.2bn in 2007.
This is led by sales in Asia and Europe, which hold 54 per cent and 30 per cent respectively of the overall market.
The North American market remains small, but is one of the fastest growing regions, as consumers start to warm to the concept of healthy bacteria. The market there is valued at around $310m, with a 14 per cent annual growth rate estimated for the next three years.
Overall, the market for probiotic beverages is expected to see double digit growth until 2010.