Phenolaeis on transforming coffee with flavourful and functional ingredients


Phenolaeis is devoted to transforming health through the use of ingredients with flavour and functional benefits, including coffee.

Coffee drinking is often associated with a raft of health benefits, from boosted energy to reduced risks of diabetes, but when health and food science company Phenolaeis saw an opportunity to combine coffee with a botanical ingredient that promotes mood state and wellness, the natural synergy was obvious. 

The result is Phenolaeis’ functional freeze-dried coffee with Palm Fruit Extract. The product contains 5 per cent Palm Fruit Extract to optimise flavour, antioxidant, and other wellness benefits based on benchtop and clinical research. Phenolaeis Sales and Marketing Vice President John Musselman says the plant-based natural fruit extract provides an interesting balance of natural polyphenols and compounds for an enhanced flavour experience in coffee applications. 

“The result is a more premium-tasting coffee. We source coffee beans from Mexico for our freeze-dried coffee product. Once the Palm Fruit Extract is added in the coffee, it suppresses bitterness and reduces the astringency often found in coffee,” he says.

“We’re also finding that it improves the body of the coffee and overall mouthfeel. We’ve had some people say that they’re a ‘coffee snob or aficionado’ and that they wouldn’t typically drink instant coffee, but actually admit it’s good, quite good.”

Phenolaeis invited Q Graders from Brazil to evaluate the effect of adding Palm Fruit Extract to coffee and validate Phenolaeis’ findings in terms of flavour characteristics. In addition to its flavour properties, the natural compounds found in the palm fruit extract are set to boost focus and sharpen the mind.

Phenolaeis is conducting clinical research on mood and cognitive state with e-gamers who actively look for food and beverage products that help with focus and mental fatigue. 

Phenolaeis Sales and Marketing Vice President John Musselman.

“We are doing a growing body of research, but our early research and pre-clinical work has been on oxidated stress, anti-aging, antioxidants in immune pathways, and inflammatory markers over long-term impact, looking at how we age, health wise and age wise,” Musselman says.

“If we’re going to advise making any type of health claims, we need to make sure we have good research with high quality science to back it up. But already a lot of our research trials  are pointing to cognitive health benefits [of palm fruit].”

Phenolaeis is committed to promoting metabolic health and supporting the health of the planet by pioneering new ways to responsibly produce functional ingredients.  

A research team from the Malaysia Palm Oil Board in collaboration with professors from Massachusetts Institute of Technology pioneered the foundation of Phenolaeis’ research and development. They were looking to find a more efficient use for the water stream from oil palm mills, which is typically used for irrigation or composting. They found that throwing away the water stream resulted in throwing away ingredients that could potentially provide beneficial health properties.

“Upon further testing, we discovered the water-soluble components from palm fruit processing contained a botanical and vital nutrient that, due to its chemistry makeup, contains a unique blend of polyphenols with antioxidant properties and compounds that supports the immune system,” Musselman says. 

Palm Fruit Extract, also known as Palm Fruit Bioactive Complex, is a multi-function, specialty ingredient that contains at least five unique polyphenols plus protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. This water-soluble complex is sustainably sourced from oil palm fruits, one of nature’s richest sources of natural polyphenols. 

Most oil palm fruit comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, but when Phenolaeis looked for a producing partner a little closer to home, it found Uumbal, a sustainable oil palm plantation and mill company, to co-locate its first commercial facility in Chiapas, Mexico.  

As such, Phenolaeis works with Uumbal to repurpose a historically unused water stream from oil palm fruit processing into an extract at its facility in Chiapas, Mexico.

“When we partnered with Uumbal, their holistic commitment to sustainability was one of the primary reasons. All of our sustainability and environmentally-friendly objectives were satisfied because they reforested land with oil palm trees on an ex-cattle farm and don’t chop down trees or displace local animals. It was important to see they supported the same environmental ethos as us,” Musselman says.

In addition, Phenolaeis was introduced to top-tier soluble coffee manufacturer Cafesca, a division of ECOM Trading, who has a large, freeze-dried coffee facility in Tapachula, Mexico. Born from a collaboration with Cafesca was Phenolaeis’ first functional coffee product with Palm Fruit Extract.

The functional coffee space is an active market around the world. Musselman says some consumers just want coffee in its purest form, while others throughout the world are seeking functional coffees and beverages that include additives and functional ingredients that can be added to tea, coffee and cocoa, or used in healthy formulations such as sugar-free with stevia. 

“What we found when we did a soft launch last year, is that because Palm Fruit Extract is a new, specialty ingredient, companies were not immediately sure what to do with it. Then, pair that situation with COVID-19, and it was a commercial challenge,” Musselman says. 

“But on the other hand, what we found during COVID-19 is that lots of people experienced an overall brain fog and more mental fatigue, carrying stress from daily life, like juggling work with home schooling the kids. More people were actively looking and researching for products online that could help reduce stress and improve immunity. I think we’ll continue to see people take a more active role in personalised nutrition. The ingredients that exist at the intersection of great taste, health, and convenience, with some type of sustainability commitment by a manufacturer, whether its coffee or another beverage, will be the product of choice for consumers.”

Palm Fruit Extract, as a 100-per-cent water soluble powder, can be mixed in roasted and ground coffee and in ready-to-drink and single serve formats. Flavours, such as chocolate or cream, liquids or other functional ingredients such as fibre can be easily blended into the base formula crystals without changing their appearance. 

Phenolaeis works closely with customers to create private label options that are suitable for glass bottle packaging as well as single serves, stick packs, box, bags, and sachets. 

“We’ve had lot of interest from roasting companies and their engineers, asking for ways to include the Palm Fruit Extract in their soluble products, and lots of interest from the cold brew community. The beauty is that you can do a lot of things with it. Our first answer is usually “yes” to most things. We try to find solutions,” Musselman says.

“The fact that Palm Fruit Extract is water soluble, non-GMO and has a mild, pleasant taste, means we can use it easily in many applications. If a customer wants to add plant protein or immunity ingredients to coffee with 30 to 200 milligrams of our Palm Fruit Extract, we can do it.”

Already Phenolaeis has plans for further expansion of its range to Europe, the Asia Pacific, and the Americas, and is confident in five years’ time it will have many more partners in key regions around the world. 

“We’re excited to see the potential of this product. We want others to get excited too and experience the benefits,” Musselman says. 

“If we get customers telling us they can feel or notice the benefit, then the sky’s the limit.”

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