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PATENT WATCH

Mars functional beverage capsule patent application hints at new single-serve trend?

By Ben Bouckley+

22-Jan-2015

Nespresso capsules. Could coffee with added functionality catch on? (Photo: Nick Harris/Flickr)
Nespresso capsules. Could coffee with added functionality catch on? (Photo: Nick Harris/Flickr)

Mars recently applied to patent a special single-serve beverage capsule it said would give more consistent dosing and less wastage of functional ingredients – from flavonoids and vitamins to minerals, antioxidants.

Referencing patented single-serve hot beverage systems from Nestle (Nespresso), Keurig and Sara Lee, as well as Mars – the company’s Flavia platform is a dedicated office system – inventor Natasha Malcolm claims that adding functional ingredients to current beverage preparation capsules “has certain disadvantages”.

“In particular, incomplete extraction of the functional ingredient from them mixture results in variable dosage of the functional ingredient into the beverage, and to wastage of the relatively expensive functional ingredient.

“It is thought that this incomplete extraction may be due to adsorption or reduction of the functional ingredient with the beverage ingredient, and/or with the filter material inside the capsule,” the international patent application , filed in July 2014, and published on January 8 2015, reads.

The European Patent Office said in a written opinion on the patent application that ‘prior art’ (from Drie Mollen Holding, 2007) and Kraft (2011) disclose (in the former’s case) capsules with a water-dispersible coating containing functional ingredients, and (in the latter’s case) cartridges with functional ingredients incorporated.

The next frontier in single-serve dispensing?

Whether Mars proceeds with its application or not on a per country basis, the application at least reflects a developing interest in single-serve beverage dispensing – driven by a 50+ brand platform for its ubiquitous plastic capsules, US coffee leader Keurig Green Mountain’s sales shot to $4.7bn in 2014 versus $492m in 2008, and the company is developing an at-home, single-serve cold carbonation system, having partnered with Coke last February.

Mars’ claimed invention comprises a capsule where the inside surface is coated with a water-dispersible coating containing the functional ingredient, which the company says allows the functional ingredient to be dispersed into the beverage only when water is injected into the capsule in use.

Thus, the functional ingredient is kept separate from beverage ingredients prior to use; moreover the application states that the coating method makes it easier to apply a controlled doses of ingredients – flavonoids (e.g. cocoa polyphenols) vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, stimulants (amino acids), flavoring agents, sweeteners, coloring agents and bitterness blocking compounds are all mentioned – to a capsule.

“The present invention provides a convenient, efficient and cost-effective means to add functional ingredients to a beverage,” the application reads; although Mars mentions tests with its Flavia brewers, it says the new capsule could be based on any of the current mass market capsules that operate through water injection, i.e. single-serve from 25ml to 500ml, and ideally 100-250ml.

Using less of a given ingredient for the same functional effect

“Compared with other systems, in which relatively large amount of functional ingredient may need to be mixed with a beverage preparation ingredient in order to achieve a desired functional effect or sufficient bioavailability, the present invention can contain only a minimal amount of functional ingredient while still achieving the desired functional effect and/or bioavailability.”

This is important, the patent application states, since functional ingredients may be expensive, and contribute to undesired taste and/or appearance of a finished beverage.

“By maximizing the functional effect and/or bioavailability from a given amount of functional ingredient, only a relatively small amount of functional ingredient [the patent proposes at least 50%] is needed in the present invention, such that any undesired taste and/or appearance can be minimized and cost reduced.”

Glossing the invention further, Mars says the capsule has a filter that divides its ‘upstream’ interior (with the beverage preparation ingredient) from the downstream segment, which houses the functional ingredient.

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