After all, probiotics, the catch-all term for beneficial bacteria that inhabit the gut and other regions of the human organism (skin and mucous membranes being a couple of others), are supplied in inactive form and need moisture and a substrate to feed upon in order to germinate. It would seem at first glance that a cup of hot tea or coffee combined with spoonful of sugar would quickly create a medicinal brew that would go down anything but easily. Who would want to drink a cuppa that was actively foaming before their eyes?
Meeting the temperature and moisture challenge
And indeed that is the challenge for many probiotics in these matricies. Trying not to kill the organisms yet keeping them from replicating before they reach the gut is the trick. At the Expo West trade show in March a Bulgarian company was test marketing an instant coffee containing a Bulgaricus strain that called for adding water not exceeding 70 degress Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit, or scalding temperature, but a ways away from boiling). It seemed an awkward fit, considering that instant coffee is about mindless convenience, not fussy preparation.
The key for Ganeden’s success is its particular strain of Bacillus coagulans, branded as Ganeden BC30. The organism forms a hardy spore in its inactive form, and needs a hefty nudge in the form of temperature and metabolic substrate in order to germinate. But it can stand exposure to higher temperatures for short periods of time without losing viability.
“It needs to be at 30 degrees Celsius with moisture and food for an extended period of time in order to germinate. In the lab, to save time, we hold it at 70 C for an hour to get germination. It wouldn’t germinate in your coffee cup unless you left the cup for a long time and kept the liquid hot,” Mike Bush, Ganeden's senior vice president told FoodNavigator-USA.
The first hot beverage to incorporate the ingredient was Bigelow’s Lemon Ginger Herbal Tea Plus Probiotics SKU. It was an opportunity the company was eager to seize, said Cindy Bigelow, CEO of the tea company.
“We identified the opportunity to be the first hot beverage to offer probiotics in new Food and Beverage categories based on consumer desire for probiotics” Bigelow said.
“From a development standpoint, it required the use of advanced technology to ensure that the probiotic strains would survive the hot tea application,” she said. “With Ganeden’s ingredient, almost 80% of the microorganisms make it into your intestine alive so you’re getting about 300 million microorganisms in every cup.”
Since the Bigelow launch, Ganeden has placed its ingredients in other hot beverages, including Republic of Tea offerings and a K-cup coffee product, Bush said.
“It’s a pretty easy process,” Bush said. “The organism in its spore form just flows right out of the tea bag and into the tea, depending on the mesh size, which is something we look at,” he said.
Other suppliers, notably Sabinsa Corp. and Nebraska Cultures, offer their own Bacillus cogaulans ingredients. But Ganeden has protected its foothold in the field with patent a patent issued in April of this year covering the application of the organism in hot beverages and foods.
“The patent itself covers coffee, tea and hot cereal with any Bacillus coagulans in the US. We have gone ahead and spent the money on safety data and clinical data (GanedenBC30 was self-affirmed GRAS in 2012) and on the IP,” Bush said.
“We are working diligently in the fucntional food space on new applications. We just had a patent issued in Japan that covers functional food applications. In particular as it relates to IP we think we have some good fences around the area,” he said.