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    Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries
    The Honourable Mark Furner

    New Queensland sugarcane product a healthy alternative

    Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries
    The Honourable Mark Furner

    Friday, May 03, 2019

    New Queensland sugarcane product a healthy alternative

    Food and beverage companies are encouraged to register their interest in the opportunity to develop a new sugarcane-based product that has almost no calories.

    The product, known as PlantZap, is a sugarcane extract developed locally by scientists at the Queensland Government’s Health and Food Sciences Precinct.

    Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said PlantZap could significantly reduce the calorie content of soft drinks, energy drinks, juice, dairy foods and other food products while increasing sugar mill output.

    “With the focus on health and nutrition, adding PlantZap to foods and beverages provides sweetness without the extra calories, making it an ideal additive for a huge range of foods,” he said.

    “Imagine how appealing that would be for food manufacturers and consumers.”

    Mr Furner said the next step is finding a commercial developer to take the product forward.

    “We’ve released an EOI to identify companies with the ability to commercialise the technology, either within Australia or globally,” Mr Furner said.

    “This could be of interest to sugar mills, food and beverage companies, or food additive suppliers.

    “We are looking for a company that would initially invest in a pilot plant co-located with a sugar mill to produce small commercial quantities of PlantZap for consumer trials.

    “PlantZap is a natural plant-based product, rich in potassium and low in calories that can be safely added to any food or beverage, delivering on low or zero sugar marketing.

    “The market for such a product is enormous. However, as always, the challenge is to find the right commercial partner.”

    PlantZap EOI information is available at www.hpw.qld.gov.au/qtenders/ 

    The closing date to respond to the EOI is 31 May 2019.

    ENDS

    Media contact:        Ron Goodman          0427 781 920

     

    PlantZap background information:

     

    Why is the Department releasing an EOI?

    The Department initially licenced the technology to another proponent which was unsuccessful in sourcing investment.

     

    What does the liquid look like?

    It is a clear, slightly yellow filtered extract.

     

    What does it taste like?

    PlantZap® by itselfhas a pleasant, natural taste.  It can be consumed straight but is best formulated into a drink with flavours.  Fruit juice tastes are composed of fruit aroma and a balance of sweet, sour and salty tastes.

    PlantZap®  has been processed to remove most of the sugar from sugar cane juice.  This leaves the salty note of juice which you do not normally perceive but it provides body and satisfaction to the overall taste.  PlantZap® can therefore be reformulated into drinks with low sugar.  

     

    What are the health benefits?

    PlantZap® has the electrolytes of juice but without the high level of sugars.  This provides a naturally healthy way to hydrate getting essential potassium and some magnesium without the calories found in juices.

     

    How does it compare to other 'health drinks' already on the market?

    PlantZap®has a number of advantages over current market-leading drink products, including being derived from a natural source, high in potassium but low in sodium and much lower in calories.  It is therefore expected to be an attractive proposition for drink manufacturers to use to make drinks that taste well balanced and not just a mixture of sugar, acids and flavours.

    PlantZap’s® nutritional profile is similar to that of coconut water, which is the fastest growing emerging beverage in the market today with global retail sales in excess of $1 billion USD.  Unlike coconut water, which faces a number of hurdles including a coconut taste, supply issues and price, PlantZap® has virtually unlimited supply, and is therefore likely to remain price stable for the industry and consumer.

     

    Is it a health drink or a sports drink?

    PlantZap® can be included as a natural source of electrolytes in both existing sports and health drinks.  It is lower in sugar and calories, high in beneficial electrolytes and assists hydration, so it works both ways.

     

    What are the other opportunities?

    PlantZap® can be added to a range of other foods, not just drinks.

     

    How do you make it?  Is it a by-product of another process?

    The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) developed an innovative process to extract PlantZap® from sugarcane juice.  Patents have been registered in a number of jurisdictions.  The extract is taken from sugar processing before sugar is crystallised from the juice.  Removing the water and minerals makes the cane juice stream much better to process.

     

    How did the research start? ie what was the goal of the research or did this happen by accident?

    DAF scientists are always looking for ways to add value to Queensland produce as a way to support productivity growth of agricultural industries.  The research started many years ago as a project funded by the Department to help extract sugar more cheaply.

    In the course of developing the sugar processing technology, the Departmental team of scientists recognised the potential application and health benefits of one of the juice components as a healthy drink base.  This led to changing the project’s focus onto optimising the economics of the extraction process, and establishing the quality of the product for beverage consumption.

    The end result is a novel healthy product that adds new value stream to sugar mill production, with the added bonus of potentially improving the efficiency of sugar production.

    ENDS