Unistraw was designed in 1996, by Australian Peter Baron. Baron had been searching for a more effective way to get his grandchildren to drink their milk, and a prototype for a bead-in-straw delivery was born using a woman’s stocking. The first application for a patent for the straw was submitted in 1997, and patents were obtained in Australia and the United States, as well as several other countries in 2001. In 2003, market testing took place in Denny’s restaurants throughout the United States.
The new version of Unistraw is set to launch in the United States soon, with a release date sometime in the first quarter of 2013. It is already sold in 30 countries around the world, and has been internationally recognized for its design innovation.
How does this straw differ from adding in flavored syrup you might be wondering? For one thing, the makers state that the flavor will be continuous, without excess stirring to break up the glob of syrup at the bottom of the glass. The patent application explains that the Unistraw, “has been developed primarily for use in relation to the flavouring of pre-packaged or bottled beverages such as milk, and will be described with reference to this application.”
Another benefit of the straws is that in addition to milk and other beverages, it can also be used as a delivery method for children who usually have an aversion to medicines and other necessary vitamins or tonics. According to the press release from the company, “the technology can be used to deliver not only flavorings, but nutritional and therapeutic compositions such as probiotics and medications, greatly expanding its uses.” This could be good news for any parent who has fought with their child to take their medication. Ill-tasting medication can be disguised with a more favorable taste by using a flavored straw to drink it.
Suchet Rastogi, CEO of Unistraw said: “We see the opportunity to own the ‘better-for-you kids’ beverage market, particularly with fun, take-anywhere milk beverages that promote both mental and physical health. Of course, having strong, defendable IP is a prerequisite to making the necessary investment to commercialize the technology.”
If you’re wondering how the Unistraw works, we get a clue from the patent application. The abstract describes the straw as:
“A drinking straw for progressively adding an active ingredient to a carrier liquid as the liquid is drawn through the straw. The straw includes a generally elongate tubular body having an internal bore and a sidewall. The tube includes first and second filters and disposed at respective first and second ends and, of the tube. Together, the first and second filters retain a predetermined measure of soluble active ingredients within the bore of the tube, while allowing a carrier liquid to be drawn through the straw, by oral suction. The active ingredient, takes the form of a plurality of solid pellets. Each filter is formed by blocking, closing or constricting the tube at or adjacent the corresponding end and providing at least one aperture sized to be sufficiently small to retain the pellets within the tube whilst sufficiently large to allow passage of liquid.”
Sounds a bit complicated, but the final product is amazingly simple to use. In fact, simplicity seems to be the reason for the invention. The patent application makes mention of other items or objects that makes use of much of the same technology, but it is however, not cost effective. The application reads:
“It is known in the art to use soluble pellets or granules, retained by perforated end caps within an elongate tubular body in the form of a straw, to progressively disperse flavouring agents or other ingredients into a carrier liquid drawn through the straw by oral suction, at the point of consumption. Application WO 98/15187 discloses one such device. However, such straws may be unnecessarily complicated and too costly to produce, particularly in disposable form.
It is an object of the present invention to overcome or substantially ameliorate one or more of the limitations of the prior art, or at least to provide a useful alternative.”
Unistraw Holdings seems to be doing well in other countries, and has the potential to become popular with the kids, and also parents, here in the United States.