Belgians confirm prebiotic bread concept not half-baked

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Baking

Two Belgium companies – one a bran technology specialist, the other an ingredients supplier in the bakery and confectionery area – have linked to develop bread and pastry products with digestive health benefits.

Prebiotic baked products are not new but the two companies believe the technology in question will present an advantage as the prebiotic substances are activated during the baking process and don’t require additional fibres. This presents cost, formulation and gut health benefits.

Prebiotics are substances that promote the growth of healthy gut flora.

The two companies – Fugeia and Puratos – have long-standing research arrangements with the University of Leuven, where Fugeia co-founder Jan Delcour is a professor. Tate & Lyle invested €3.5m in Fugeia last year.

(Not quite) ready to go

Professor Delcour told Fugeia’s bran-based prebiotic technology was ready to go but clinical trials, product selection, formulation and marketing strategies were yet to be completed.

“Products could be on market in 12-18 months,”​ Professor Delcour said from the Leuven campus. “Puratos is one of the top players in the Belgian bakery market and we have linked with them in the past so we are familiar with their products and the way they work.”

“Regular bread products”​ would be the most likely product launches, and pastries are also being considered.

A lot of bread

“Belgians eat 150g of bread per day,”​ he added, “That is a lot of bread and it means bread is a medium that reaches a nice part of the population. If you can make it better via the introduction of an ingredient like this then there is great potential to do a lot of good.”

He said it was pleasing to see a technology developed at his university being so close to commercial reality. “This illustrates once more the value of integrating the full knowledge chain from basic over applied research to, finally, industrial applications that are beneficial to the consumer”.

In a statement, Fugeia co-founder and managing director, Willem Broekaert, said: “Puratos’ deep knowledge of the baking industry has been instrumental for guiding our product development efforts towards a market-compatible concept in a very short time frame.”

Puratos R&D director, Filip Arnaut, added: “We are highly motivated about the partnership with Fugeia. The technology has excellent potential to be applied successfully in Puratos’ products offered to both artisan and industrial bakers and patissiers. The collaboration fits well with our continuous efforts to develop innovative products, in particular products with a health bonus.”

Tate & Lyle Ventures

At the time T&L Ventures – T&L’s independent investment company – bought into Fugeia in May, managing partner, Simon Barnes said Fugeia's patented technologies and applications presented "genuine differentiation"​ in the prebiotics sector.

"The prebiotic ingredients market is dominated by inulin but Fugeia is working with natural wheat bran fibre which has a different set of functionality,"​ Barnes said. "Studies indicate it is more persistant in the distal colon which is very exciting as it addresses health concerns such as colon cancer."

"Fugeia will build a whole portfolio around wheat bran."

Fugeia’s technology aims to make bran more accessible to digestion by beneficial bacteria in the large intestine.

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