NESTEC, the research and development arm of Swiss food giant Nestlé, has patented a calcium complex to fortify food and drink, in particular those containing milk proteins. Calcium has been growing in importance in new product development in recent years, as the link between calcium and bone health has become more clearly established.

Adding calcium to beverages, especially milk, can be problematic. If slightly or completely insoluble sources of calcium are used, precipitation of the salts can occur, especially if stabilizers are not used. If highly soluble sources of calcium (calcium chloride, etc.) are used, interaction between the calcium and calcium sensitive ingredients, such as milk protein, can occur. These interactions can lead to coagulation of the ingredients during temperature treatment even at pasteurisation temperature. In addition, the pH of some calcium salt systems may not be compatible with other ingredients or it might affect the flavour.

Nestec believes its new invention will improve palatability without affecting product quality.

Protected under US patent number 6,242,020, the abstract reads:

    A novel calcium complex for the fortification of beverages and foods, especially milk, is disclosed. Fortifying complexes are made of a calcium source and a negatively-charged emulsifier with or without an organic or inorganic acid or a salt thereof. These complexes have been found to be particularly effective in fortifying milk and milk-protein containing beverages without coagulation of the proteins or without significantly changing the texture of the product.

The first claim (of 20) is for:

    A separately formed calcium complex formed by the interaction of a calcium source with (A) a negatively charged emulsifier and (B) an organic or inorganic acid or a salt thereof.

To see full details of the patent, please click here.