Pineapple Jelly Probiotics Health Drink for Elderly Adults that Can Help Fix Farmers’ Problems
Writer Kanitha Chancharoen
A team of researchers from Chula Faculty of Science in cooperation with the Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University has developed the “Jelly Nata Probiotics” jelly drink made from pineapple to benefit the mental wellbeing of the elderly, add value to pineapple while also solving the oversupply of pineapples. The technology is ready to be transferred to entrepreneurs mid next year.
Thailand is the world’s largest producer and exporter of pineapples, including 50 percent of products processed from pineapples (source: http://www.thaipineapple.org/). The problem of plunging pineapple prices due to overproduction in some seasons, substandard yields, and export problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic have directly affected pineapple farmers. The solution lies in finding opportunities to add value to the oversupplied pineapple market.
Associate Professor Dr. Chaleeda Borompichaichartkul, Department of Food Technology, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University, led a team of lecturers from the Faculty of Science, in collaboration with the Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University, under the Research University Network (RUN) Partnership, conducted a research project “Development of Jelly Nata Probiotics from Pineapple, and Evaluation of its Consumption that Promotes Mental Health of Older Adults”.
“Thailand is the world’s top exporter of pineapple, mostly in the form of canned pineapple and pineapple juice. However, there is still an overabundance of pineapples in some seasons, especially during the COVID-19 crisis that impacted the exports, and has resulted in oversupply, and a drastic price drop to only 5–10 baht per kilogram. This afflicts farmers, especially subpar or fully ripe fruit, making them unsellable,” Dr. Chaleeda stressed the problem of pineapple farmers.
“This study seeks to create variety and added-value for pineapple by processing it into a health drink to solve the oversupply problem, and serve as an alternative in the current popular health drink market,” said Prof. Chaleeda, head of the research project.
In addition to Prof. Dr. Chaleeda, the research team includes Associate Professor Dr. Cheunjit Prakitchaiwattana, Assistant Professor Dr. Kiattisak Duangmal, research assistants, and master’s students from the Chula Faculty of Science, as well as research teams from the Department of Physiology, the Department of Psychiatry, the Faculty of Medicine and the Integrative Complementary Alternative Medicine Research and Development Center, Khon Kaen University.
“The project is under the auspices of RUN and is divided into 10 research clusters, one of which is the Functional Food cluster, which is hosted by Khon Kaen University. This cluster is funded by the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT) under the” Thailand Grand Challenge ” grant which aims at creating socio-economic impacts for the country.”
Add Value to Pineapple with Good Microorganisms
With the intention to help our farmers, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chaleeda and the research team have researched various ways to create value for pineapples in addition to existing products.
“Several previous studies have indicated that pineapple juice contains enzymes that help with the digestive and immune systems of the body, and when compared between fresh pineapple juice and pineapple juice fermented with good microbes, fermented pineapple juice has antioxidants several times greater than that of unfermented pineapple juice.”
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chaleeda referred to a study abroad that allowed a group of volunteers who were soldiers and had accumulated stress and anxiety disorders to eat the beneficial microorganisms chosen for the study.
The research found that …
- the mental state of the volunteers improved,
- the stress accumulated in the body decreased,
- the sleep improved
“Hence we were interested in processing the surplus of pineapple juice by the fermentation method with beneficial microorganisms,” said Prof. Chaleeda about the origin of the health product developed especially for the elderly, who may experience accumulated stress due to age, slower body movement and lower appetite that may be harmful to health.
What are Jelly Nata Probiotics?
Jelly Nata Probiotics is a natural jelly formed by fermenting pineapple juice with a microorganism and adding the appropriate probiotics.
“In the fermentation process, the microorganism creates a microbial fibrous gelatin (Bacterial Cellulose), which is the same microorganism that produces coconut gum, called nata de coco made by microbial fermentation with coconut water without using gelatin powder, so we ferment the pineapple juice and select the appropriate duration for optimum fiber formation,” Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chaleeda explained the process of fermenting pineapple juice into jelly.
“This process can maintain the nutritional value of pineapples, and good microorganisms also produce nutrients in the jelly. There is also prebiotic fiber that helps regulate bowel movement, and it is the food of good microorganisms that live in the large intestine. Probiotics help to produce important substances that stimulate and maintain immunity in the body, as well as increased antioxidants. In addition, some microorganisms produce substances that reduce the accumulated stress in the body.”
Although the research focuses primarily on elderly health, the various benefits of the product are suitable for consumers of all ages, ”said Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chaleeda.
“Jelly Nata Probiotics is easy to drink with the texture like a regular jelly drink in the market, but our products don’t use gelatin powder. Our ingredients are all-natural, with low sugar content, and can be taken daily. The product goes through a stabilization process, so it can be stored at room temperature for at least 6 months to 1 year.”
Health Drinks Ensured by Clinical Results
Jelly Nata Probiotics’ Strength lies in the Clinical Studies to Confirm its Potency
Armed with the knowledge of food processing, fermentation process development, and product development, the Chula Faculty of Science research team was responsible for lab-scale product study within the Faculty of Science until stable production procedures are obtained. Then the production on a larger scale was moved to the Center of Excellence in Food Processing Pilot Plant, Faculty of Science, Chula, located in Kaeng Khoi District, Saraburi Province at a capacity of 1,000 bottles per batch. Then the finished products were sent to the Faculty of Medicine. Khon Kaen University’s research team to be tested with elderly volunteers who are the main target audience of the project.
“The research team experimented with having volunteers take one bottle of product a day (30 g. — the size of a bird’s nest drink) to study and analyze changes in terms of slowing cellular deterioration, reducing stress, and more. Comparative data between the volunteers who received “jelly nata probiotics” and those who received placebo drinks were collected.”
Currently, the trial is in the finalization stage, such as the duration of consecutive use before one can see the results, or other health benefits of the product, etc.
“Rarely do healthy food products in Thailand undergo this serious medical test. We want to make “Jelly Nata Probiotics” a dietary supplement with quality functional food properties, with real health benefits backed by detailed research, starting with product development, to clinical trials among volunteers leading to the delivery of technology to entrepreneurs interested in production for sale.”
The Future of Jelly Nata Probiotics Health Drink
Both the research findings and the clinical trial show that Jelly Nata Probiotics has high business potential in the health drinks market.
“Initially, the price should be in the same range as other functional drinks and drinking yogurts. It can also be positioned in many markets, such as the elderly, working people, teenagers, students, health enthusiasts, and those facing cumulative stress.”
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chaleeda added to the product’s market opportunities that entrepreneurs can also use this beverage as a base for other functional drinks, by replacing probiotics with other microorganisms, such as those that slow down and reduce the risk of oral diseases, or those that improve skin health or other useful nutrients to diversify the product line and widen the range of target audiences.
The research and testing are expected to be completed by the end of this year, while patenting of “Jelly Nata Probiotics” is underway. Those from the private sector interested in investment or production can contact the NRCT directly after the project is completed. The research team is ready to transfer the production and distribution technology right away “to help farmers solve the problem of agricultural production surplus, which is the intention of everyone involved in the project,” Prof. Chaleeda concluded.