A Natural Dairy Thickener with Probiotic Potential

A Natural Dairy Thickener with Probiotic Potential

By Jue Jin

After decades of research, a natural polymer called Ropy 352 has been commercialized by Oregon State University (OSU) as a new type of advanced food thickener for dairy starter cultures. This patented polymer is produced by non-disease causing bacteria and can rapidly thicken dairy products with the benefits of adding probiotic characteristics.

Besides the health benefit, this polymer is also capable of influencing key consumer factors like texture and taste as well as sweetness and consistency of dairy products. The application of this thickener can fit for a wide range of dairy product categories including skim milk, cream cheese, yogurt and sour cream. It has been estimated that about $120 billion is spent annually in the U.S. on probiotic products, which emphasizes the value of the health benefits added by Ropy 352. The potential global market for such a food thickener may approach approximately $7 billion.

Studies on Ropy 352 first started in the early 1990’s when a microbiologist at OSU discovered a brand-new, never-before reported grouping of genes for a unique milk thickener in a bacterium. This bacterium provides health benefits to humans without causing any sickness. The fermentation of sugar in the milk by Ropy 352 produces a substance that can result in a “smooth, thick, creamy property”, which is unique due to the fact that there are very few bacteria capable of producing functional polymers that can be applied to the food industry. The understanding of how and why non-disease causing bacteria produce polymers has also been broadened in basic research by Dr. Jane Trempy at OSU.

A similar polymer, xanthan gum, has been generally recognized as safe by the FDA and been applied in a wide variety of food products. However, some studies show that xanthan gum can cause digestive issues. Therefore, if the function of Ropy 352 is comparable enough to xanthan gum, its impact on the food industry could be well beyond dairy products. Further applications have been suggested in the area of pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, cosmetics and personal care products.





Image courtesy of pixabay.com.


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