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NPUST Professor Develops Natural Fruit Pearl for Bubble Tea

NPUST Professor Develops Natural Fruit Pearl for Bubble Tea

In Taiwan it is not unusual to hear reports on overproduction of fruit causing prices to fall and farmers to take a hit. Another topic that continues to come up is centered on the concern that food additives are negatively affecting people’s health. For Professor Pao-Chuan Hsieh of the NPUST Department of Food Science, these question set the direction for a new research objective: help fruit farmers find a market for the excess fruit and help people improve their diets. Putting together a research team, the food specialist honed in on one of Taiwan’s favorite treats: pearl milk tea (a.k.a. “bubble tea”). Looking at the overproduced fruits which needed the most attention, dragon fruit, bananas and pineapples, the team developed a method to use the fruits to create healthy, colorful, gummy pearls for milk tea. This would not only allow for consumers to consume healthier treats, but will also add value to fruit production.

NPUST President Chang Hsien Tai expressed that “pearl milk tea is a representative part of Taiwan’s food culture. However, the pearls generally sold on the market contain chemical additives. Professor Hsieh   used his expertise in food sciences to develop a natural fruit pearl. The flavor is excellent and it can increase agriculture product sales”.

Professor Hsieh explained that “the eye-catching rich red pigment of dragon fruit is a natural food coloring. It can also be considered a healthy food-coloring as it has detoxifying, anti-aging, skin revitalizing and weight-loss functions. In recent years, demand for dragon fruit increased so farmers worked hard plant lots of new trees; but this resulted in overproduction and the prices fell. So we developed this red dragon fruit pearl to improve sales.”

Fruits like pineapples and bananas also often experience supply and demand imbalances, and they have very short shelf-lives, so the prices fall quickly. So, Professor Hsieh’s research team began working with these fruits while looking fixing problems related to food additives. Ultimately the team was able to use the naturally bright pigments found in these fruits for food coloring and develop natural fruit pearls using phosphoric anhydride-free modified starch.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, every year in Taiwan 1.02 billion tea beverages are sold, which is an average of 44 cups per person. The market potential is huge— and in recent years, the hand shaken beverage industry has seen continuous growth. In 2016 it was valued at 49.1 billion NTD and by the end of 2017 it had grown 6.1%, reaching a record 50 billion NTD. Currently there are many businesses which are actively taking advantage of technology transfers and it can be expected that in the future, the fruit pearls developed by NPUST will be all the rages for hand-shaken beverages.

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