6 Dec 2008

Healthy bacteria Sale in Supermarkets

A company in Mayfield Heights is marketing a probiotic that might help the health trend already accepted in Europe and Asia catch on in America.

It's selling its healthy bacteria as a food ingredient -- one that unlike most other probiotics remains effective even when it's baked, boiled, frozen or squeezed.

The company, Ganeden Biotech, has teamed with two dozen food companies since January to incorporate its probiotic in everything from muffins to health bars to energy drinks -- even ice cream.

Main Street Gourmet in Akron recently began adding GanedenBC30 to the raisin bran muffins in its Isabella's Healthy Bakery line under the label Activate: Probiotic Enriched Muffins.

You can't buy these muffins in Ohio yet. But foods with the GanedenBC30 logo could start hitting the shelves of local grocery and drug stores by early next year.

Probiotics are live microorganisms containing bacteria or yeasts that can make people who take them healthier. Foods like yogurt naturally contain probiotics. Some believers say probiotics improve their digestion, boost their immunity and even enable them to digest dairy foods.

The number of new products containing probiotics has doubled since 2003, according to a database kept by NutraIngredients-USA.com.

The top categories for probiotics are yogurt, yogurt drinks, milk, baby food, supplement tablets and cheese, according to Nielsen LabelTrends, which keeps track of manufacturer labeling practices.

The trouble is, probiotics must be delivered to the gut alive to have a positive effect. Including probiotics in moist, refrigerated foods like yogurt is easy.

But processing the healthy bacteria for use in vitamin tablets, or baking or boiling it in food, often kills it. So do digestive acids in the stomach.

That's where Ganeden may have a leg up on many of its competitors. The company's patented strain of Bacillus Coagulans -- GanedenBC30 -- generally survives processing and digestion, and is stable in items on store shelves for up to two years.

So instead of drinking a few ounces of probiotic-rich Yakult dairy beverage every morning like Japanese people do, Americans soon may be able to get their daily dose of probiotics in breakfast cereal.

Ganeden has made dietary supplements with its probiotic -- discovered by Sean Farmer, a California microbiologist -- under the Digestive Advantage brand for nearly a decade. Farmer is Ganeden's founder and chief science officer.

These supplements come in the form of capsules aimed at helping people who have digestive ailments such as Crohn's disease or lactose intolerance, said Andrew Lefkowitz, the company's chief executive and president.

The Ganeden supplements "work wonderfully well with balancing the gut," said Dr. Terence Isakov, a family practice doctor in Lyndhurst.

Isakov, who has a financial interest in Ganeden, said probiotics have been found to help other inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.

"I think people are starting to look at probiotics in an entirely new light," Isakov said.

Ganeden, which means "Garden of Eden" in Hebrew, has spent millions of dollars testing its probiotic for safety and efficacy, said Michael Bush, who runs his company's food ingredient business as vice president of business development.

Figuring out when in the recipe to add the tasteless probiotic was the biggest challenge for Main Street Gourmet, said Harvey Nelson, co-chief executive.

It's too soon to say whether adding the Ganeden probiotic to its muffins will boost sales. However, food distributors "are calling us instead of us calling them," which is an indication of unusual demand, said Steve Marks, co-CEO.

Jack Kelly, president of PC Brands in Solana Beach, Calif., is adding Ganeden's probiotic to its Pop Culture health bars. GanedenBC30's proven survivability through the manufacturing process and stable shelf life made it an attractive addition.

"We believe in the use of probiotics in a more convenient form for most consumers," Kelly said. "Refrigerating is limiting for an energy bar."


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