NUS food scientists partner local SME to develop made-in-Singapore eucheuma beverages and food products

 

18 March 2016

 

New seaweed-based bottled beverages with no added sugar, chemical additives and preservatives on sale by end March 2016

 

A team of food scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) is partnering local food manufacturer Y G C Group (S) Pte Ltd to develop a new range of beverages and food products based on eucheuma, a species of seaweed that is associated with various health benefits. The first commercial product – a eucheuma-based bottled drinks range that has no chemical additives, added sugar and preservatives – is expected to be available for sale online by end March 2016. 

Today, Y G C Group and the Food Science and Technology Programme under the NUS Faculty of Science deepened their collaboration by embarking on a joint initiative involving an investment of more than S$600,000 to conduct further studies on the properties of eucheuma, and to develop new eucheuma-based beverages and bakery products over the next four years.

Healthy eucheuma in a bottle

Eucheuma is a species of seaweed that is known to be low in calories and high in dietary fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals such as calcium and potassium. Scientific studies have shown that regular consumption of eucheuma helps improve bodily functions, including lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, preventing cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer and breast cancer, as well as promoting anti-ageing, brain development and tissue repair.

Mr GUN Kai Chong, Chief Executive Officer, Y G C Group (S) Pte Ltd, said, “Today’s consumers are paying great attention to their lifestyle choices, including what they consume. The idea of creating a unique eucheuma beverage was conceived to cater to health-conscious consumers, and we are delighted to be able to leverage on the NUS team’s expertise in the food science and technology to bring the idea to fruition.”

Led by Assistant Professor YANG Hongshun, the research team from the Food Science and Technology Programme at NUS combined traditional oriental dietary practices with modern food and nutrition knowledge to devise the right formula and mix of natural food ingredients to develop the new beverages. The novel eucheuma-based bottled drinks, which took more than one year to develop and comprises other ingredients such as bird’s nest, roselle and water chestnut, are available in six different recipes and flavours.

The science behind a tasty drink 

In creating the eucheuma-based bottled drinks, the NUS team paid special attention to ingredient selection, packaging design and technology optimisation to preserve the nutrients of the natural ingredients, and to make the drink taste home-brewed. 

This involved evaluating the physiochemical properties of potential ingredients and utilising natural sugars from ingredients such as honey, red dates, longan fruit and goji berries to sweeten the beverages without any artificial sweeteners. In addition, to ensure that no preservatives are required for the drink, the team also devised the right heat processing technology to prevent microbial degradation of the ingredients while preserving the nutrients.

Apart from the functional aspects of development, the team also had to “stabilise” the beverages – that is, to ensure that the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the drinks – so as to enhance their appeal to consumers. NUS food scientists came up with a novel method that makes use of natural food ingredients to interact with the ingredients in the beverages to stabilise them, without adding any artificial additives.

Asst Prof Yang said, “This collaboration is very exciting for us, both in research and education. Eucheuma is a natural food ingredient with properties of both seafood and vegetables. This project enables our team to apply our knowledge in eucheuma and strong expertise in food processing to create novel products that benefit consumers. This partnership also brings about meaningful opportunities for our students to apply their food science knowledge, gain insights into industry practices and be exposed to the entire value-chain of food and beverage development.”

Results of the initial market testing of the new eucheuma-based beverages have been positive. Y G C Group has also received requests to distribute the product in Singapore, as well as overseas such as mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea.

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