New Zealand’s Fonterra has partnered with US biotech firm VitaKey to develop the health-promoting properties of its milk.

The world’s largest dairy exporter suggested the venture is a “transformative dairy science collaboration to further unlock the benefits of Fonterra’s probiotic strains”.

Fonterra intends to leverage the VitaKey technology across a range of micronutrients, such as Vitamin D, and introduce them into its own products.

Co-founded by Dr. Robert Langer, the VitaKey delivery technology platform for nutrients is based on technology licensed from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and developed at the Langer Lab, regarded as the largest academic biomedical engineering lab in the world.

Fonterra said it could utilise VitaKey’s proprietary technology and customised solutions to design dairy products that “incorporate targeted and time-controlled release of specific dairy nutrients, starting with probiotics”.

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Judith Swales, CEO for Fonterra’s Asia-Pacific region, said the collaboration is part of Fonterra’s long-term strategy and ambition to be a leader in dairy innovation and nutrition science.

“Our co-op has a long and proud heritage of dairy innovation, pioneering many world firsts and, increasingly, new solutions which aim to help people live healthier and longer lives,” she said.

“Home to one of the largest dairy culture libraries in the world, our research and development centre contains more than 40,000 strains. Two of these strains, LactoB 001 and BifidoB 019, address key health concerns such as digestive issues and immunity and are recognised as being in the top five global probiotics.

“By partnering with VitaKey, we aim to ‘make nature better’ by combining the goodness of our New Zealand milk with VitaKey’s technology. In this way, we can really drive our Active Living business by appealing to the growing health and wellness consumer segment that desire the maximum functional benefits from food and are motivated by scientific credibility.”

She suggested that because the nutrients are “encapsulated and highly targeted”, it also means the firm can use less milk in its production, reducing food waste.

The first step in the collaboration aims to stabilise probiotics and deliver them to the digestive tract.

Dr. Langer said his vision for Fonterra and VitaKey working together is “to do something that really can change the world, rather than something incremental”.

He added: “The Covid pandemic has underscored the need for solutions to enhance health and wellness and boost the immunity of men, women and children at every stage of life.”