Maxx Performance has put the focus on bakery to deliver microencapsulated caffeine, with products aimed at improving memory and performance but without impacting taste or flavour.
The four-year-old company, which is based in Chester, New York, works with manufacturers to find microencapsulation solutions to processing problems.
After announcing the development of a proprietary way to encapsulate caffeine for foods using vegetable-derived lipids last year, the company has worked in collaboration with bakery experts on prototypes to show its potential in bakery products.
It showcased a range of brownies, donuts and a cinnamon raison bread in New Orleans last month, where the annual IFT trade show was taking place.
Small amounts of caffeine have been researched for its potential in making people feel more alert, which makes it an appealing ingredient for the energy products sector. However traditionally the main delivery format has been in beverages such as coffee, which have a strong bitter taste that some consumers find objectionable.
Thus, new technologies that make it applicable for different foodstuffs are likely to present new opportunities to manufacturers.
The potential is indicated by the US market for energy beverages, which alone was valued at €3.7bn in 2006 by Packaged Facts. The market researcher predicts it will grow to €6.3bn by 2011.
Dr Winston Samuels, president and CEO of Maxx Performance, told NutraIngredients-USA.com that caffeine dosage is usually a rather haphazard affair, with much overage. But encapsulation allows for the manufacturer to include precise amounts of caffeine - a safeguard that could quell concerns about the dangers of excess consumption.
A typical cup of coffee contains 50mg of caffeine, and caffeine capsules between 100 and 200mg each.
However some products high in caffeine - such as Enviga, the beverage launched by Coca Cola and Nestle last year with calorie-burning claims and 100mg of caffeine per 12 ounce can - have been held up by pressure grounds as examples of why caffeine regulations require tightening.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has been requesting, as a starting point, mandatory caffeine labelling and more responsible marketing of such products.
The FDA has brought the caffeine issue to the discussion table but as yet no regulatory commitment has been made.
The encapsulation material is designed to withstand the rigours of processing, such as cooking temperatures and the mixing of the dough, which causes the particles in the mixture to rub together.
Samuels explained that most bakery products are cooked at a temperature of between 325 and 260 degrees Fahrenheit, but the internal temperature peaks at 200 degrees for 10 minutes.
"The encapusulated part has no time to melt down and expose the inner core," he said.
In addition, the encapsulation is designed with the human eating and digestive process in mind - that is, chewing activity, and pH conditions and enzyme activity in the gut.
While the vegetable-derived lipid system is used for foods, other materials are used for beverages, said Samuels.
Other caffeine encapsulators
Other ventures in the US have also targeted baked goods as carriers for caffeine, in a bid to extend the energy products market into new formats.
For instance, in early 2007 a Colorado-based firm called Encaff Products also announced the development of caffeine-based donuts, which founder Dr Robert Bohannon said could lead to a new category of baked energy foods.
He told NutraIngredients-USA.com that early experiments yielded a bad-tasting product, but in collaboration with food industry experts he eventually came up with a patent-pending microencapsulation process that allows the inclusion of very small caffeine particles.
Details of the encapsulation material and process used by Bohannon are not available.