The technology, applied to the company’s signature nutraDRIED fruit products, means the fruit pieces could potentially be incorporated into a dried cereal and enable lactose-intolerant individuals to enjoy a bowl with regular milk without discomfort and without having to take a separate enzyme pill, the company said. But that’s not all the technology is good for, said EnWave chairman and co-CEO Tim Durance.
The company’s ability to infuse functional ingredients rests on its proprietary drying technology, which includes both process and equipment, Durance told NutraIngredients-USA.
“It’s basically a rapid, low-temperature dehydration. The principles are similar to freeze drying where you use a vacuum to lower the sublimation point of water.
The difference is that we use microwaves to transfer the energy across that vacuum so that we get a very rapid dehydration. The temperature is determined by the pressure you use,” Durance said.
The technology, which offers cost and functional benefits over traditional freeze drying, could be used to infuse functional ingredients such as vitamins and other nutritional compounds into real fruit pieces that could then compete with the more common fruit-flavored chews, Durance said.
“We’ve known for some time that we were able to dehydrate enzymes and retain activity. There are lots of things that we can dehydrate and retain activity,” he said.
The fruit pieces are soaked in the solution containing the target compounds, whether they are enzymes, probiotics, vitamins or what have you. Then EnWave’s technology removes the water without damaging the molecules, whether they are native to the fruit material, such as sensitive anthocyanins, or contained in the functional ingredient broth.
“You need to look at it case by case, but we’ve shown that with various antioxidants, with various vitamins, with other nutritional compounds and even with (the functional constituents of) medicinal herbs,” Durance said.
“Basically we dry things without them getting hot,” he said.
Durance said the company has commercial-scale equipment that can dry material at the rate of hundreds of pounds an hour, so it could be applied to high-throughput operations such as nutritional bar manufacture.
Interest from industry
The company licensed its REV technology to Milne Fruit Products Inc in 2011, its first major US customer, to support a launch of healthy berry snacks and powders across most major markets in North America, and expanded that collaboration recently. In addition, the company says it has entered into a wide range of research and collaboration agreements with an expanding list of multinational companies, including Nestlé, Kellogg's, Grupo Bimbo, Grimmway Farms, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Hormel, Bonduelle, Cherry Central, Sun-Maid Growers, Gay Lea and Merck.
EnWave currently has six REV platforms. Two of these target the food industry for the drying of fruits, vegetables, meat, herbs and seafood quickly and inexpensively while maintaining high levels of nutrition, taste, texture and color. Another platform targets powder drying applications such as for bulk dehydration of food cultures, probiotics and fine biochemicals such as enzymes. Other platforms target the drying of pastes and gels and well as new methods to stabilize and dehydrate biopharmaceuticals such as vaccines and antibodies.