From Vital Proteins to Liquid IV, Wellmune beta-glucan gains traction in food & bev applications as formulators seek to make immunity claims

Derived from the cell wall of a proprietary strain of baker’s yeast, Wellmune​ is a highly purified beta 1,3/1,6 glucan with a pale color and neutral taste that should be distinguished from cholesterol-busting oat beta glucan (1,3/1,4), and from beta glucans extracted from brewer’s yeast, which are also beta 1,3/1,6 glucans, but have a different molecular structure.

Attractive to formulators because it can withstand wide pH ranges, high temperatures and harsh processing conditions such as UHT, Wellmune had struck deals with a series of high-profile brands including Vital Proteins (Nestlé), Liquid IV,  and Olly gummies (Unilever) pre-Covid.

However, the pandemic accelerated interest in immunity, with consumers rushing to stock up on vitamin C and D, but also seeking out other ingredients claimed to have immune health benefits from elderberries to probiotics, presenting brands with ingredients backed by solid science in this area with a big opportunity, said John Quilter, Global ProActive Health Technology VP at Kerry.

‘We see a big opportunity in  functional snacks’

Picture credit: Vital Proteins (Nestle)

Almost four out of 10 consumers in a recent global survey of 13,000 consumers conducted by Kerry had used an immune health product over the past six months and a further 30% would consider doing so in future, said Quilter, noting that categories seen as a good fit for immune health benefits included fruit juices, spoonable yogurt, dairy-based drinks and hot beverages.

According to Kerry, which has a soluble version of Wellmune with extremely small particles ideal for clear beverages, functional beverages accounted for 35.5% of all new beverage launches in North America in 2020. However, snacks also present new growth opportunities for Wellmune, which has a five-year ambient shelf life.

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