Depending on the application, the shell can be made of wax, oil, gum, starch, or cellulose. Microencapsulation is a useful tool for food, beverage and supplement manufacturers. This technique allows you to create tiny particles by encasing functional ingredients—such as plant extracts, flavors, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, vegetable and marine oils, probiotics, and enzymes—in an outer coating.
There are many benefits that can be achieved through microencapsulation. Knowing when to use this technology is key to formulating products that will be successful in the market.
- Flavor and Odor Masking: Increases consumer acceptance by minimizing unpleasant tastes and odors associated with certain nutrients.
- Protection: From moisture, acids, ingredient interactions, heat, and exposure to oxygen.
- Precision: The stability afforded by encapsulated ingredients allows measuring and delivery of precise levels of the desired nutrient.
- Reduce Overages: To ensure a label claim is met, often higher levels or “overages” must be added to compensate for expected losses in nutrient potency that occur during processing. Given the high costs of many vitamins, these overages can eat into your profit margin over time. Encapsulation protects these nutrients, reducing losses and minimizing overages, resulting in significant cost savings.
- Release Parameters: Engineered so that the nutrient can be protected from processing losses, but can be released when desired. For instance to be released at a specified temperature, when chewed or in moisture.
- Effectiveness: Encapsulation is critical to such products as medical foods, nutraceuticals, and meal-replacement products where characteristics such as stability, bioavailability, delivery, and effectiveness are closely regulated.
- Ease of Handling: Encapsulated ingredients are dry and free-flowing.
Benefits of Microencapsulation for the Consumer:
As more and more consumers search for ways to address their nutritional needs, manufacturers can set themselves apart from the pack by offering fortified food, beverage and supplement options that utilize microencapsulation.
In recent study by the Hartman Group, 1 in 3 U.S. consumers indicated they looked for functional fortified foods and beverages to get nutritional ingredients into the diet. According to the same study, the top nutrients consumers look for in functional food & beverages is antioxidants, fiber, electrolytes, probiotics & Omega-3s.1
Supplement use is widespread as well, with the number one consumers take supplements is they are looking to receive a specific benefit or result. Ensuring format and taste meets consumer expectations is important for this category. Over 40% indicate easy to swallow as their most important feature for choosing supplements, followed by dosage, cost and shelf-stability.1
Offering products that are specifically formulated to incorporate these nutritional ingredients & consumer preferences effectively can help you differentiate your product offerings to the consumer.
Flavor and odor masking of ingredients for foods and supplements
One of the first benefits that most people think of when they think of microencapsulation is flavor-masking. Masking the off-flavors associated with some nutrients is essential. The products we fortify, first and foremost, must taste good—otherwise, no one will eat them. By coating the vitamins and minerals that have objectionable flavors, we can minimize their impact on the flavor profile of the finished product, both for foods and chewable supplements.
Perhaps this is most evident in fortified Nutrition Bars, where typically 25% to 40% of the DV, for 20 or more vitamins and minerals, are incorporated into a bar weighing less than 2 ounces. A typical fortified nutrition bar or meal-replacement bar would taste terrible if microencapsulation were not used to mask the off-flavors of certain nutrients. The same holds true for Children’s Chewable Vitamins. Microencapsulation masks the flavor of the nutrients, so all that the children can taste are the fruit flavors.
Along these same lines is odor-masking. Imagine how unappealing a meal-replacement bar would be if it smelled of vitamins when you opened the foil wrapper. Microencapsulation is effective in masking the undesirable odors associated with many nutrients.
Benefits of Microencapsulation for the Manufacturer
Protection of nutrients for increased stability
So far, we’ve been reviewing benefits that impact consumer appeal. But there are also benefits that impact costs for the manufacturer, and make fortified foods more economical for the end consumer. One of the most important benefits of microencapsulation is improving the stability of nutrients, preventing ingredient interactions and degradation. The coating matrix effectively separates particles and prevents them from contacting each other. It also protects them from moisture and oxygen, extending the product’s shelf life.
Precise nutrient amounts
The improved nutrient stability achieved through microencapsulation also means that the nutrient levels in a product can be precisely controlled.
Reduced overages for cost savings
Microencapsulation offers cost savings, too. The process lets manufacturers measure and deliver precise levels of a desired nutrient. It can also reduce the need for overages—including more of a nutrient in a product to compensate for expected losses in nutrient potency that happen in processing. Encapsulating protects nutrients and reduces loss, creating significant cost savings over time. Encapsulating also ensures the stability, bioavailability, delivery, and effectiveness of these nutrients in medical foods and meal-replacement products.
Controlled release in the body and during processing
Another benefit of microencapsulation is the control of release point, or release parameters. Through controlled-release microencapsulation, we can control when the core (active material) is released. In this way, reactive materials can be released at the point in the process where the chemical reaction is desired.
The release mechanism may be a change in pH or temperature, the introduction of a chemical agent, the application of pressure, or an increase in moisture level. For example, flavors can be released during chewing.
An important application of controlled release during processing is the use of microencapsulated sorbic acid in baking. Sorbic Acid 50%, which is encapsulated with vegetable oil, is used in the baking industry as a shelf-life extender to prevent mold growth.
The microencapsulation matrix, or coating, prevents the sorbic acid from interfering with yeast activity. If it’s released too early, or if uncoated sorbic acid is used in a yeast-raised product, the sorbic acid kills the yeast, and the bread won’t rise. The coating melts only during the baking process, releasing the sorbic acid prior to completion of the bake. By the time the sorbic acid is released, the yeast is no longer active and the leavening has been completed. Once released, the sorbic acid works to inhibit mold growth throughout the product’s shelf life.
For certain products, such as medical foods and nutraceuticals, product effectiveness is closely regulated. Microencapsulation is critical for these types of products to ensure optimal nutrient stability, delivery, and bioavailability.
Ease of handling in production
Another valuable application of microencapsulation is to improve handling during production. Hygroscopic ingredients that tend to clump during processing can be encapsulated to improve their flowability. Microencapsulation can also be used to convert liquids into free-flowing powders.
At Glanbia Nutritionals the Watson tradition continues, allowing us to draw on the extensive years of expertise in microencapsulation to provide you with solutions to create great-tasting functional products that meet shelf-life requirements. We provide a robust portfolio of microencapsulated ingredients to the food, beverage and supplement industries. Contact us for more information on how our microencapsulation technologies can benefit your next product formulation.