Plant power: Independent research supercharges probiotic tonics firm Akesi for APAC expansion

By Nurul Ain Razali

- Last updated on GMT

Bio-fermented tonics by Singaporean firm Akesi is backed by research. ©Akesi
Bio-fermented tonics by Singaporean firm Akesi is backed by research. ©Akesi

Related tags Akesi Probiotics Polyphenols Research and development

Singapore bio-fermented tonics firm Akesi hopes new research on the polyphenol content of its products will be the catalyst for the firm’s growth in APAC over the next five years.

Armed with the independent research carried out by Australia’s Southern Cross Plant Science Analytical Research Laboratory, Akesi’s founders Victoria McKellar and Dr Elizabeth Biggs plan to enter new markets, such as Malaysia, other South East Asian nations and bigger markets like Japan from 2023 to 2027.

These plans were revealed by the two friends in an interview with​.

Akesi co-founders Victoria McKellar (L) and Dr Elizabeth Biggs
Akesi co-founders Victoria McKellar (L) and Dr Elizabeth Biggs. ©Akesi

“The research demonstrated the power of plants as medicine and the growth potential from this is the expansion of our successful combination of probiotics species with plant nutrients in the unique bio-fermented tonics. Our products are now ready for expansion in Asia. We use quality species of probiotics, and now we can demonstrate the presence of polyphenols with the research,”​ said McKellar.

Akesi (pronounced ah-kee-see), established in 2017, produces five SKUs: the Bio-Fermented Papaya Tonic, Bio-Fermented Turmeric Tonic, Bio-Fermented Berry Spritzer, and two multi-species synbiotic Probiotic+ Powder. They are manufactured in Queensland and transported via cold freight to Singapore.

The vegan tonics contain natural ingredients like turmeric, ginger, pepper and papaya leaves, fermented with the same eight bacterial and yeast strains – Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus fermentum, Saccharomyces cerevisiae​ and Lactobacillus plantarum​.

The firm claims its products could promote good gut health, which supports the immune system, assists digestive health and maintains healthy bowel movements. Its products are suitable for ages three and up. The ranges are egg-, gluten-, dairy- and soy-free.

The tonics come in a 500ml bottle for a month’s supply at SGD$58 (USD$42) or a 100ml bottle for a week’s supply at SGD$18 (USD$13). Users are recommended to start with one serving of 15ml, or one tablespoon, daily and progress to the upper limit of 45ml or three tablespoons.

Each serving approximately costs SGD$1.75 (USD$1.28), compared to similar functional or probiotic beverages like kombucha in the market today, which cost around SGD$6 (USD$4.30) to SGD$8 (USD$5.80) per serving.

The firm utilises online retail channels such as its e-commerce platform, Amazon, Shopee and Lazada.

Research results

According to Dr Biggs, a trained medical doctor, the research proved that the firm’s tonic range contains powerful plant-based nutrients, especially polyphenols, that might play a role in disease prevention through their antioxidant properties. Besides polyphenols, it proved the tonic range contains anthocyanins and curcumins.

Upon measurement using the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC), a process to estimate antioxidant capabilities, the berry spritzer featured an ORAC value of over 200 micromole Trolox Equivalent (TE) per serving. The higher the ORAC score, the greater the antioxidant capacity and, in theory, the more effective the neutralisation of harmful free radicals. The daily target is around 3,000 to 5,000.

"Regarding polyphenol content, this varies considerably and depends on external factors like environment, harvesting, storage and cooking. In research, scientists are trying to understand the correlation between dietary plant intake and any correlations with the incidence of disease. We want to be part of this discussion.

“Previously, polyphenols were always discussed as antioxidants. However, they can act as anti-viral and even as antibacterial. The plants use these compounds as protection. There needs to be more research in polyphenol content and quantification of these ingredients, particularly given the interest in nootropics and adaptogens,”​ said Dr Biggs.

Powering on

The partners intend to continue working with Asian ingredients and taking up the challenge to expand the product range. With five years of knowledge in the industry, they are confident in experimenting with other ingredients and finding the perfect combination of taste and effectiveness.

McKellar said: “Asian consumers are more concerned with their purchases. They are shunning high-sugar products and choosing more functional beverages. COVID-19 has caused a surge in the demand for wellness products that can improve one’s immunity. The virus has nudged people to be more aware of what they put in their bodies. It’s an exciting area to be in now.”

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