ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thai beverage producer turns to nano
Anan Chaikitwattana, Tipco Biotech's project manager for research and development, believes nanotechnology in food products is the coming wave. The Tipco Foods subsidiary is now using it to develop herbal beverage 'shots' that taste good and have export potential.
Nanofoods are foods that have been altered at the molecular level by nanotechnology to enhance certain properties. For example, by hiding water inside oil droplets, taste can be enhanced, making diet foods seem like a full-calorie product.
Beverage "shots" with botanical extracts currently under development by Tipco Biotech consist of substances extracted from four plants: curcuma, mangosteen, chili and roselle.
"Herbal beverage shots usually have problems, such as bad taste and unstable colour. I think [nanotechnology] is necessary for the herbal industry to solve these issues," Mr. Anan said. Functional food makes up around 5-10 percent of Tipco's total products but is set to increase in the future.
The 13.94-million-baht project is the first nanofood venture to be supported by the government's National Innovation Agency (NIA), which has contributed to the development of pilot machinery for the production of nano-particles.
The current phase is expected to be finished by the third quarter, and the company will export the shots to Asean to exploit the 600-million-consumer market as the Asean Economic Community takes shape in 2015.
NIA director Supachai Lorlowhakarn said the trend in Thailand was to utilise nanotechnology to merge the food and medicine industries.
"It's unavoidable that meals will some day be like taking medicine," he said. People aged 60-90 now have higher purchasing power and will be the target group in Thailand for the shots, said Dr Supachai.
Clean and green industries are the NIA's two long-term strategies. "By clean industry, we're talking not only about clean energy, but also a safety process that avoids contamination," he said.
The drive will include food safety total solution businesses, under which Thailand would certify safety procedures, much like ISO designations.
Dr. Supachai believes Thailand has a bright future in the nanofood industry but must develop "nutraceutical" foods with food and medical sectors involved, and this requires nanotechnology.
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