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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
The company exhibited on its own for the first time at this year’s SupplySide West trade show, where it promoted to the U.S. audience recently launched chia powders designed specifically for beverages as well as for food.
The Chilean company Benexia has been a chia-ingredients supplier since 2005, but the firm has often worked behind the scenes and let its distributors promote the Benexia name in the U.S. The company is now ready to make a larger push behind its chia ingredients especially to food and beverage formulators. It started by exhibiting on its own for the first time at this year’s SupplySide West trade show, where it promoted to the U.S. audience recently launched chia powders designed specifically for beverages as well as for food.
One of those launches, Xia Powder 125, is an ultra-fine, micro-milled powder whose particle sizes are smaller than 125 micron. According to Remi Reguero, Benexia’s director of business development, the dispersibility of this powder expands formulating possibilities for beverages especially.
Reguero pointed to existing chia beverage brands on the market today, such as Mamma Chia, which promotes whole chia seeds in its products. The success of Mamma Chia is a testament to the fact that many consumers don’t mind-and even appreciate-consuming whole chia seeds in their drinks. Still, the gelatinous, gummy texture of the chia seed isn’t necessarily for everyone. (Reguero explained that the texture come from the mucilaginous soluble fiber in chia seed, which protects the chia seed when the seed is growing.)
Benexia’s Xia Powder 125 is smooth (“like flour,” Reguero said), so it disperses well in liquid and “is going to be homogenized easily, with no remaining clumps in your product,” he said. In addition to working in a broad range of beverages, the powder may impart functional benefits like emulsifying, thickening, and gelling. In fact, the firm says, it can replace more than 50% of gels. It can also be used on existing processing lines, including ultra-high-temperature processing (UHT) and hot filling.
Xia Powder 125 is also nutritionally rich, Reguero said. It is rich in protein (40%), fiber (38%), and omega-3 (6%), plus calcium. He pointed out that the powder has an even higher protein content than standard chia seeds, which offer 20% protein, so it is ideal for formulators looking to make higher-protein products.
Benexia recently opened a new chia facility in Arica, Chile, whose sole focus is chia processing for foods. Reguero said the company needed to open its own high-tech chia facility in order to give it the ability to produce advanced chia ingredients like the new powder, which is produced by the firm's MicroTech milling technology. “We built up and designed the technology, so why wouldn’t we have it in house,” Reguero said. He added that having its own facility enables Benexia to “control for any possible cross-contamination.”
Reguero said that Xia Powder 125 broaden chia's appeal to a wider range of consumers. “With this product, you can reach a broader population,” he said. And in terms of flavor, the powder has chia’s signature nutty flavor. Reguero pointed out that because the powder is fine and “doesn’t take too much of a part of your formula,” formulators may have “a little more space to play with more ingredients to add more, different types of flavors” to a product.
Also at SupplySide West, Benexia promoted its recently launched Xia Powder 435, a multifunctional chia concentrate high in fiber (56%), vegetable protein (25%), and omega-3 (4%). The ingredient, which the company describes as a “medium-fine particle size” produced using MicroTech, is targeted toward applications like bread, pasta (such as the El Dorado pasta pictured above, which features the ingredient), and bakery products. The ingredient “can improve ‘whole grain’ appearance, and it has a synergistic effect with proteins and bonding agents,” said Benexia CEO Sandra Gillot in a press release.
According to Reguero, the demand for chia is strong worldwide. “Sales of worldwide chia are increasing worldwide, and new markets are gaining in size,” he said. “For instance, Asia is now participating more, and you see more participation now from the Middle East. I believe there is still a lot of growth for chia.”
Nutritional Outlook magazine