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Functional food: Free From Food expo spotlights natural gut health and sports nutrition

2023-11-28 Food Ingredients First

Tag: functional food


23 Nov 2023 --- Healthy, clean label, plant-based and natural were the key themes at this year’s Free From Food fair in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with many exhibitors presenting their solutions to make food healthier. 

On the show floor, Food Ingredients First meets up with Döhler, THT and Mellifera to discuss their gut health and natural energy solutions.


Ingredient supplier Döhler is increasingly focusing on its business unit health, especially “natural superheroes,” says Christine von Brunn, product manager of health at the company. 

“It’s all about natural pheto-actives coming from nature, having superpowers, caring for others. We also promote some concepts next to the ingredients supporting different health functionalities.”

She asserts that the demand for naturalness and healthy, clean label products continues to grow. 

“Nature is our best supplier,” stresses Von Brunn. “This is the motto for everything from our products, whether natural flavors, natural sweetening solutions, or natural superheroes. We can also do the combinations in ready concepts like our functional gummies wher we incorporate our sweetening solutions with the botanicals — the natural superheroes — in a convenient form.” 

Natural gut health 
In its health business unit, Döhler focuses on five key functionalities: immunity, energy, gut health, relaxation and mental health. At the show, the company featured a new concept for gut health: probiotic cultures in a fruit granulate format. 

“Mostly, we are used to consuming probiotics either in dairy concepts or as a supplement,” notes Von Brunn. “We are combining probiotic cultures with fruit in a completely new way, with an exciting taste.” 

“You can consume them as a snack or add them in a trail mix or to your salad, muesli bowl or in a cereal bar. We also have prebiotic GutHealthHeroes so that we can have a symbiotic concept wher, for example, we combine a prebiotic topinambur as a fiber source together with these probiotic fruit granules to support gut health, a trending functionality in the market.”

Döhler’s prebiotic topinambur is an organic juice powder derived from the Jerusalem artichoke, enriched through lactic acid fermentation. The tuber contains several natural nutrients, of which inulin is well-known. 

Probiotic chia seeds  
Belgium biotech producer of probiotics, THT, showcased a new concept at the show: superfoods coated with biotics. The company notes that by adding probiotics to chia seeds, which are gluten-free and dairy-free, it offers a new source of probiotics supplement-rich foods that easily fit into people’s diets. 

Constance Clarisse, sales and marketing manager at THT, explains that the chia seeds are sourced from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and treated in Belgium. 

The company has created two types of coated chia seeds: a standard and a non-hydrophilic version. “Normally, when you put chia seeds in a liquid, they become a gel. With these specific thermic treatments, the roasted seeds will lose those properties,” she details. 

Clarisse explains that both chia seeds are coated with a blend of bacteria designed for gut health. The mix comprises four live cultures: L. casei, L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus GG and Bf. animalis ssp lactis. A serving size — one tablespoon — of chia seeds contains one billion probiotics.

She adds that chia seeds contain 36 g of fibers per 100 g of seeds: “It’s the perfect prebiotic.” 

THT aims to bring the products to the market in 2024. 

Honey for athletes 
Mellifera from Bulgaria developed a sports nutrition product based on honey: organic honey energy gel. 

“The initial idea was to create a healthier alternative to sports nutrition and energy gels,” highlights Biljana Lowndes-Nikolova, the company’s founder and CEO. “It was initially created for athletes, but now different people who need energy also take it. We started working with university students studying for their exams.”

She sees that energy gels are becoming increasingly popular among athletes, but many of these are based on maltodextrin, which is highly processed. Moreover, to get the correct glucose-to-fructose ratio, companies add fructose. 

“Honey is a natural combination of glucose and fructose,” Lowndes-Nikolova continues. “It is a natural carbohydrate; it has a lower glycemic index and can be a remedy after endurance training.” 

The base of the energy gel is honey, making up 90% of the finished product. All ingredients are organic certified, including spirulina, cocoa, freeze-dried, and powdered fruits. The gels are available in seven flavors and do not include artificial flavors or colors. 

Lowndes-Nikolova underscores that the gels are certified by Informed Sport, which tests “each batch for substances which are banned in sports, in accordance with the World Anti Doping Agency.” 


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