In a world with an ever-growing appetite for healthy food, Cork company AnaBio Technologies is carving out a global name for itself with innovative technology which can protect and preserve the health benefits of food ingredients.
A pioneer in the field of encapsulation, the company has developed a solution to the threats posed to probiotics, bioactives, nutrients, minerals, and other ingredients, by high heat during food processing, degradation during storage, and by stomach acid during digestion.
“Our technologies encapsulate the ingredients — protecting them and ensuring that they are delivered to the part of the body where they are needed,” explains chief executive and founder Dr Sinead Bleiel.
Established five years ago, the company now has 13 global patented technologies including three with fully-granted patents. Dr Bleiel says that as a supplier of encapsulation technology for human and animal nutrition, AnaBio is unique in having this level of patented technology, and is aiming to establish itself as the leading player in this specialised field.
A multimillion euro company with 17 employees, AnaBio sells to a client base which includes multinationals in the UK, Europe, the US and South America.
Although unable to reveal customer names for confidentiality reasons, Dr Bleiel says her clients include leading global manufacturers of dietary supplements, sports nutrition products, infant formula, and animal health and feed products.
Having achieved growth of 150% in 2015, AnaBio is currently preparing for the opening, this month, of a new laboratory at Moorepark in Fermoy, which has been its base of operations since it was set up in 2011.
Tripling the size of its facility, the company is planning to take on an additional ten staff by the end of the year. The first of the company’s 13 technologies — which uses milk proteins to encapsulate ingredients — was developed by Dr Bleiel while completing a PhD at Teagasc Moorepark in conjunction with UCC in 2007.
After working in industry, Dr Bleiel set up AnaBio in 2011. Operating from a lab at Moorepark, she used the technology she had developed to provide consultancy services helping companies to develop new food products. Her first customer was a European ingredient company, which needed help to add health benefits to a food product and give it a longer shelf life.
With the help of an employment grant from Cork County Council, AnaBio took on its first employee in 2012. It enrolled in the Ignite programme in UCC and by the end of the year had a workforce of seven, and a range of seven technologies.
The first export to the US came at the end of 2013, when the company developed a product for a sports nutrition firm. The US has since become the company’s largest market, accounting for 40% of sales.
Developing human nutrition products accounts for 60% of sales, while animal nutrition products make up the remainder.
“The demand for our technology is being driven by consumer demand for healthy foods and also by food regulation changes, which mean that companies claiming to produce foods with health benefits have to be able to prove the claims,” says Dr Bleiel, who estimates the food encapsulation market is worth $50 million.
Last year, AnaBio made a significant breakthrough in infant nutrition and elderly nutrition, which are becoming very significant markets for it.
The company also made a major investment in a new state-of-the-art laboratory in Fermoy. The facility being opened there this month will provide space for additional staff and allow the company increase the range of encapsulated ingredients it can develop. With the expansion of facilities and staff size Dr Bleiel is aiming to double sales this year.