This story is based on early research conducted by Griffith University, which provides early evidence that the Barista Blend found in BRULIFE was able to activate isolated human immune cells.
You probably know about the health benefits of probiotics. Probiotics are foods or drinks that contain live bacteria and provide a health benefit. But have you heard of lesser-known postbiotics? They are another form of ‘good bacteria’ that are becoming increasingly popular. Even with coffee makers.
How do postbiotics differ from probiotics?
So, what’s the difference? Well, the main one is that postbiotics do not have live bacteria. This means they can withstand high temperatures as the bacteria is in an inactive form. In contrast, probiotics required temperature-controlled conditions. Postbiotics' resistance to temperature makes them an excellent candidate for hot drinks such as coffee.
Developing a healthy coffee product
Coffee Roasters Australia smelt an untapped opportunity in the market to develop a new type of healthy postbiotic coffee blend.
In the early days, the company poured a lot of time into developing their perfect postbiotics coffee blend. But they were keen to have the health benefits validated by independent research.
Power of R&D to help companies grow their business
This is where CSIRO SME Connect enters the picture.
Mitch McGuire is our SME Connect Facilitator. Mitch met with Coffee Roasters Australia to understand what they wanted to achieve. He connected the business with immunology and infectious disease researchers at Griffith University (Griffith).
"Part of my role as a facilitator is to help businesses get the most out of their research and development journey," Mitch said.
"For this project, Griffith researchers were the perfect match, as they have the expertise in the gut microbiome, the role of gut microbiota and microbial manipulation in chronic disease.
"Most importantly they have an impressive research track-record working to understand better the role of probiotics in the interaction between the gut microbiome and the immune system in disease.
"We were also able to bring support to a collaborative project with matched funding to lower the risk barrier commonly associated with R&D, particularly for SMEs."
In 2021, we released one of Australia's largest-ever surveys about R&D collaboration. The report found that businesses that collaborate with research institutions have higher levels of innovation, can better deal with uncertainty and are more profitable.
Testing the immune response of the postbiotic coffee blend
Griffith's Senior Lecturer of Immunology Amanda Cox was part of the research team who led this project.
“We used the postbiotic blend developed by Coffee Roasters Australia and completed some independent exposure tests to investigate its ability to activate isolated human immune cells in the lab,” Amanda said.
"Having access to a collection of biobanked samples at Griffith allowed us to test the postbiotics against a series of samples.
“We found the patterns of response to the different postbiotics were generally similar between the independent samples, suggesting the immune cells were responding in a similar way to a specific postbiotic. This provides a level of certainty that responses to postbiotics were reproducible.”
“We also found the strength of the responses did vary between the samples, and this is consistent with how the strength of immune responses can vary between individuals.”
Amanda also explained how heat does not affect postbiotics.
“Postbiotics are not impacted by heat in the same way as the live bacteria in probiotics may be impacted by heat,” Amanda said.
“In fact, heat treatment can be a common step in postbiotic production. Even following heat treatment, postbiotics still contain bacterial cell components and by-products to interact with host immune cells. So they are perfectly suited for a hot drink like coffee.”
Replacing one of our daily coffee cups with a healthier alternative
The founder of Coffee Roasters Australia is former Gold Coast Businesswoman of the Year, Alana Beattie. Alana's goal is for coffee lovers to replace one of their daily cups of coffee with a healthier alternative. This is all while not having to compromise on quality or taste.
“We know coffee aficionados often drink more than one cup of coffee a day,” Alana said.
“What if one of those daily cups of coffee could also boost your immunity, without you having to purchase additional supplements? That’s our goal.”
Alana also emphasised the importance of collaborating with a research partner.
“While this idea had been brewing away at the company for some time, without support from SME Connect to enable the research by Griffith, we were on the verge of abandoning this idea,” Alana said.
“As a lot of businesses would know, a great business idea is good, but to get people and investors interested, it needs to be backed up by independent research and development.
“Navigating this path isn’t always easy, but we felt CSIRO and Griffith really understood our business, product, and the problem we were trying to solve."
What's the next order?
"Since completion of the project, it’s given our product a new lease on life and opportunity to resurrect the product concept," Amanda said.
"The research results encouraged us to rebrand our family of different product formats under the Brulife brand and to completely relaunch it to the market, which has led to some outstanding results so far.
“We are in a much stronger position to talk to consumers and investors. We're currently in negotiations with a global distribution partner about the new markets a healthy coffee product could tap into.
“We have also been approached by a leading global coffee company who are interested in our product to expand their offerings. The research Griffith completed got us a seat at the table.”
Griffith conducted this research independently. Here is the Executive Summary.