The food tech company, which specialises in nutrition and immunity, is developing smart carriers called vesicles. The smart carriers’ role is to optimise active ingredients’ taste and functional performance in food and beverage products.
“The inspiration behind Nulixir was to shape the future of intelligent food,” Jay Klosterman, chief commercial officer at Nulixir, told Fi Global. “Functional nutrition in today’s food, beverage and nutraceutical products is often expensive, limited to a narrow set of product applications, such as capsules or powders, tastes poorly and has a limited impact on our body.”
Despite these product limitations in the functional nutrition space, consumer demand in the segment is “soaring”, with six in 10 shoppers stating that health benefits influence their day-to-day purchase decisions.
Fostering favourable functionality
Nulixir states that functional ingredients often have four main drawbacks. Firstly, they taste poor, frequently having metallic, bitter and astringent profiles that cannot be successfully applied to everyday food and beverages.
Also, functional ingredients are insoluble in water, which limits their use in popular beverage applications. In addition, many of these ingredients are also sensitive to acid, oxygen, and light.
Finally, most functional ingredients are poorly absorbed into the body once consumed, limiting the impact consumers feel they are having, Klosterman says, which “cannot be “compensated by overdosing on these ingredients as it would negatively impact the taste and cost of the finished product”.
With its proprietary impact encapsulation and smart delivery platform, the startup aims to overcome pain points, neutralise taste, significantly reduce degradation, increase water dispersibility and substantially increase body bioavailability.
Smart carrier applications impact ingredient possibilities
Nulixir’s smart carriers are designed to increase the types of relevant applications for various functional ingredients, Klosterman says. For example, the technology can increase a product’s solubility that previously could not be dispersed in a beverage.
Additionally, the technology has the potential to create sufficient stability in an acid environment to enable use in a juice-based drink. The technology can increase vitamin stability and minimise degradation in dairy, juice, and beverage products during manufacturing, storage, and distribution, thus ensuring the majority of vitamin delivery occurs during consumption.
The brand’s technology also increases the types of functional ingredients used in the manufacturing process. “Today, bacopa, a powerful cognitive boosting adaptogen, is rarely used outside capsules due to its extreme bitterness,” says Klosterman.
Smart ingredient delivery
Smart carrier is Nulixir’s patented encapsulation technology. It releases active ingredients when and where in the body based on how the company designs these carriers. Controlling the time and location of release enables the delivery of a better-tasting and more functional nutrition system to the body, Klosterman says.
Over the past four years, Nulixir has researched how to translate this technology into food and beverage, making it both label friendly by using only Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved ingredients and being cost-effective.
To date, Nulixir has a portfolio of over 35 patents, covering the structure of particles, manufacturing process, target active ingredients that it can encapsulate and the functionalities and capabilities provided by these smart carriers, including release kinetics, targeted release and results from in-vivo and in-vitro trials.
Using patented and customisable vesicle structures in food production protects a functional ingredient through the manufacturing and shelf-life production process and presents new opportunities for functional ingredient release profiles and applications in food, beverage and nutraceutical products. Vesicle structure development strives to solve food and beverage issues, such as low bioavailability, slow onset, product stability, shelf-life longevity and unpleasant flavours that emerge during the manufacturing process.
“The functional ingredients encapsulated in the Nulixir impact technology can be released once exposed to either select pH ranges or specific enzymes,” says Klosterman. Triggers, including pH ranges and specific enzymes, can be tailored to different parts of the digestive tract or organs of the body. For example, suppose an ingredient needs to be delivered to the lower digestive tract; in that case, the pH trigger can be built so that the encapsulation remains intact until encountering the pH conditions of the lower digestive system.
Solve vast food-based issues
Nulixir hopes its next generation of release capabilities will enable new possibilities in nutrition. “Nulixir’s vesicle structures first encase functional ingredients in a food-grade shell that separates the active from the surrounding media,” says Klosterman.
Using the Nulixir impact technology, functional ingredients are fully encased in a food-grade, often natural, shell. Encasing functional ingredients protects the active ingredient from sources of oxidation, acid degradation and light by creating a physical barrier between the active and the potential degradative sources. Additionally, this barrier prevents the functional active from interacting with taste receptors, thereby neutralising the taste.
On the surface of this food-grade shell, Nulixir incorporates specialised functional groups. Incorporating these functional groups increases the solubility of hydrophobic ingredients in aqueous solutions, such as ready-to-drink beverages. The functional groups also act as “switches” to “open” and release the active ingredients when and where in the body we want, subsequently increasing bioavailability, Klosterman adds.
“Collectively, the impact technology platform patented by Nulixir can address the challenges of taste, stability and shelf-life, bioavailability, and slow onset, enhancing today’s functional ingredients and supporting a healthier tomorrow,” says Klosterman.
Currently, Nulixir works with large internationals that recognise “innovation in nutrition is critical for market growth but lack the technological advancement to solve limitations in using functional ingredients”.
It collaborates with business-to-business (B2B) ingredient suppliers looking to take their branded ingredients to additional markets and applications through taste, solubility, stability and bioavailability improvement. Further, it works with brand owners of consumer packaged goods (CPG) who want to incorporate the technology to create highly experiential functional products with appealing taste profiles.
In 2023, Nulixir will focus on growth and hopes to further ingrain its technology in the nootropics, adaptogens, CBD, vitamins and sports nutrition markets.