International manager Johan Quintens said the alginate-based technology, called IntelCaps, completely “closed the strains from the outside world” so that they became resistant to the effects of heat, oxygen and water.
The process was developed in conjunction with a German lab, BRACE, that possessed the microencapsulation technology which the two firms modified over a year’s working together with the lactobacillus rhamnosis strain.
The result, said Quintens, is a technology and platform that can be applied to any probiotic strain, be they Vésale Pharma’s or those of other probiotic suppliers. For its own strains, per kilo costs would be lie somewhere in the vicinity of €800-€1200/kg compared to €500/kg as a ballpark figure for its classic strains.
“So there is a premium but when you consider that some strains can sell at up to €3000/kg then the cost is reasonable given the platform potential,” he said.
The company has organised presentation days for the technology in European and US destinations in the coming months and has attracted the interest of Danisco-Dupont, Christian Hansen, Fine Foods and Enestia. It said it hoped to capture a two per cent share of the non-food probiotic market by 2016, equivalent to €68m.
“We think this technology opens a new world to formulators,” Quintens said. “Take vitamin C. It is basically poisonous to probiotics at higher concentrations but this technology makes it possible to achieve such blends.”
The secret to the technology, he said is the “smallsphere” micro technology that employs molecules of between 0.6 and 1 micro metres, dimensions approaching nano levels.
“The probiotics are in the beadlets so that offers production savings as well as they are easier to handle,” Quintens said.
Traditionally probiotics have existed in lyophilised probiotics in powder form which are not suitable for tablets, chewable tablets that may come in the form of vitamin and mineral blends.
The company has global ambitions for the product, and is especially keen to work with private label manufacturers, Quintens said, noting non-dairy and cereal probiotic products sold €3.4bn globally.
In all categories, the Belgium market alone grew 40 per cent in 2009 and 20 per cent in 2010, despite the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) ruling against probiotic health claim submissions to date.
Of the process the company said: “The microcapsules also resist low pH levels, making it possible for them to pass through the stomach without opening and deliver the viable probiotics directly to the intestine, which is the target organ.”