Rice bran - the nutrient-dense outer layer of the brown rice kernel after the husk has been removed - was until recently regarded as a waste by-product of commercial rice-milling and used as low-grade animal feed.
However, now that techniques have been developed to stop it deteriorating after milling, it has recently become a source of high quality ingredients for the human nutrition market.
Fermented rice bran ingredients: Nutrient dense and economical
While there are already several players in the rice ingredients arena including Axiom, AIDP, and RiceBran Technologies - some of who focus just on rice bran and others on all parts of the rice kernel; Fayetteville, AR-based Nutraceutical Innovations reckons that its patent-pending technology will unlock new opportunities because it can produce high protein ingredients more cost effectively.
The firm, which uses technology licensed from the University of Arkansas, uses a proprietary fermentation process to release protein and fiber from the bran, said Kimberley Fuller, president and CEO of consultancy Discovery Associates, which is supporting Nutraceutical Innovations.
Rather than conducting a low temperature extraction of protein from whole grain rice, or using sprouted rice, Nutraceutical Innovations is using defatted rice bran, "which is a relatively low cost by product of rice milling", she said, noting that it was cheaper than pea protein.
"Ultimately, we will be able to offer our customers a lower-cost, higher nutrient-dense plant-based protein."
Asked how the products compared with those of rice bran specialist RiceBran technologies, she said: "While it looks like the protein content is similar between NutraBran and Proryza [RiceBran Tech's high protein ingredient], it is important to keep in mind that NutraBran Solubles and NutraBran Fiber have a plethora of additional nutrients including phenolics, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and folic acid. Additionally, our products are lower fat, and because we believe we have a process advantage, there is no additional cost for these additional nutrients."
More companies are looking to add fiber and protein to bars, smoothies, cereals…
Currently, Nutraceutical Innovations is producing two key products: NutraBran Solubles (a water soluble 25.6% protein by weight, 3.3% fiber fermented rice bran ingredient); and NutraBran Fiber (a 42% fiber and 13.2% protein fermented rice bran ingredient) from pilot-scale facilities.
However, it is now completing financing to fund the construction of industrial scale facilities following positive feedback from food and beverage companies, said Fuller.
“Both products have had really positive feedback from the market as more companies are looking to add fiber and protein to everything from bars, and smoothies to meats products,” she added.
Rice-based proteins are particularly attractive to food formulators - who are all on the hunt for new sources of plant-based protein right now - because they do not have the bitterness of some soy and pea proteins, they can be marketed as non-GMO, and they are hypoallergenic, she said.
As regards the commercialization plan, Nutraceutical Innovations is exploring partnerships with companies that could help bring the ingredients to a wider audience, she said.
NutraBran Solubles is water soluble, high in protein, and low in fat
NutraBran Solubles is high in protein (25% by weight), but has good water solubility. It is also high in potassium, calcium, folic acid, and inositol and is well-suited to energy drinks and fruit juices, smoothies, baked goods, meats, cereals and snacks.
NutraBran Fiber is high in fiber (42% by weight; a combination of insoluble and soluble fiber) and protein (13% by weight) and offers high levels of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. It is suitable for baked goods, cereals, smoothies, meats and snacks.
Both ingredients have a mild or bland flavor and are supplied as a light tan-colored powder.