The bottled drinks range, which contains other ingredients including bird’s nest, roselle and water chestnut, took over a year to develop and is expected to be available for sale online by the end of this month.
NUS and its commercial partner, YGC Group, will subsequently embark on a S$600,000 (US$440,000) joint initiative involving to conduct further studies on the properties of eucheuma, and to develop further eucheuma-based beverages and new bakery products over the next four years.
A species of seaweed, eucheuma 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 its regular consumption can lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, prevent cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer and breast cancer, and promoting anti-ageing, brain development and tissue repair.
“Today’s consumers are paying great attention to their lifestyle choices, including what they consume,” said Gun Kai Chong, chief executive of YGC Group.
“The idea of creating a unique eucheuma beverage was conceived to cater for 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 Yang Hongshun, the NUS research team 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 beverages.
This involved evaluating the physiochemical properties of potential ingredients and using natural sugars from ingredients such as honey, red dates, longan fruit and goji berries to sweeten the beverages.
The team also devised the most suitable heat processing technology to prevent microbial degradation of the ingredients while preserving the nutrients, and stabilised the drinks through a novel method that made use of natural food ingredients to interact with the ingredients in the beverages without adding any artificial additives.
Assistant Professor Yang said: “This project enabled our team to apply our knowledge in eucheuma and strong expertise in food processing to create novel products that benefit consumers.
“It 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 drinks have been positive, YGC said, adding that it had already received requests to distribute the product in Singapore, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea.