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Developing microencapsulation technology

The key stages of developing the Riddet Institute’s microencapsulation technology, which allows manufacturers to add fish oil to foods, are described here.

Identifying the opportunity

Researchers at Riddet Institute were aware of the benefits of omega-3 and the increasing consumer demand for health-enhancing functional foods. Omega-3 enriched food is a rapidly growing functional food category, but no one previously had found a way of adding significant amounts to food without it oxidising and affecting the taste. The Riddet Institute saw a real commercial opportunity for a technology that would allow them to add larger quantities of omega-3 to food.

Prior knowledge applied to problem

Researchers at the Riddet Institute already had a lot of scientific knowledge and understanding that would help them solve the problem. They had existing knowledge about modifying protein structures that could be applied to microencapsulation technology.

Prototypes test the technology

After developing the microencapsulation technology, they needed to test it. Food technologists at the Riddet Institute made prototypes to test the technology worked and to gauge consumer interest and acceptance. They also marketed it to food manufacturers to get interest from the food industry and find a company to manufacture the emulsion.

Forming a joint venture

They formed a joint venture company, called Speirs Nutritionals Limited, involving Speirs Group Ltd, Massey University and the Bio Commerce Centre in Palmerston North. Speirs built a manufacturing plant in Marton where they make, market and distribute the emulsion.

Forming a company was important to take the technology to market because it needed people with a range of expertise. The Riddet Institute has the knowledge and capability, while the other partners have expertise in manufacturing and marketing. Together, they have exclusive rights to the intellectual property that is patented to protect it from being copied.

Marketing the technology

Speirs Nutritionals Ltd manufactures the emulsion, a white liquid, and markets it to food industries in New Zealand and overseas. Food industries that buy the emulsion make the decision about what foods they will add it to according to their consumer market.

On-going research and development

The Riddet Institute is continuing to develop new food prototypes with the emulsion added. This helps with marketing by demonstrating new possibilities to food industries and proving the effectiveness of the technology. They have added it successfully to muffins and bread, flavoured milk, yoghurt and ice cream.

Get information sheet: Prototypes of functional foods

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