Scientists at India’s Bhavnagar-based Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI), a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) lab, said that the juice extracted from seaweed has nutrients that benefit brain functioning and immunity.
They are working with CSMCRI technology licensee AquAgri – which took over PepsiCo’s former seaweed cultivation platform in August 2008 – to produce phycocolloid and seaweed juice from a fresh seaweed that can be cheaply cultivated on the Indian coastline, Kappaphycus alvarezii.
CSMCRI director, Dr. Pushpito K Ghosh, told BeverageDaily.com: “The juice is presently being marketed as a plant stimulant and the health drink would be another application of the juice. The refined juice for a health drink application is yet to be licensed for commercialization.”
Affordable health drink for India
But Ghosh insisted that this would happen once the seaweed juice’s efficacy as a health drink was established and toxicological studies were completed.
“CSIR-CSMCRI is in discussions with leading institutes to undertake studies in this direction,” he said.
In 2012, the CSMCRI received a US patent for the juice – made with added lime – and the body says tests show significant reductions in mortality rates among chickens fed the juice.
Ghosh told BeverageDaily.com: “Our focus is to promote this as an affordable health drink for India.”
“Certainly, it should find a market overseas also and the international patent position will help. Tie-up with a suitable MNC (Multinational Corporation) is required for this purpose.”
Asked about the trials with commercial poultry, Ghosh said they showed that the juice reduces mortality in chicks.
“These studies also indicated low toxicity of the product. We are formulating a project to conduct wide-ranging studies on the utility of the juice in animal nutrition," he added.
Overcoming that fishy odor…
But how had the CSMCRI worked to remove or reduce the taste of seaweed, which might appear to create commercialization challenges, in terms of selling the juice concept to end consumers?
“We used certain absorbents and suitable membranes for this purpose,” Ghosh replied. “Besides the inorganic constituents, an important organic constituent in the literature to have a positive effect on foetal development was unaffected by the refining process and confirmed to remain in the juice.”
The CSMCRI’s US patent for beverage, published in August 2012, discloses a “nutritious, tasty and affordable drink” that resembles coconut water in appearance and taste, is free from fishy odor and rich in potassium.
The juice also contains iodine, magnesium, calcium, sodium, zinc, phosphorous and iron, but has low concentrations of toxic elements such as lead and chromium.
Ghosh et al.’s patent discloses the use of activated charcoal powder or a carbon filter to remove fishy odor and the optional addition of other ingredients such as salt, lime, herbs, spices and CO2 to enhance the taste of the beverage.