Probiotic products have been marketed for a number of years, primarily in the yogurt category or as live microbial dietary supplements whose biological activity needed to be preserved. This tends to limit their consumption to supplements taken after meals or in fresh dairy foods. One technology now makes it possible to "have your probiotic and eat it, too!"
The interest in probiotics outside the dietary supplement form is on the rise. Consumption of yogurt has increased steadily since the 1940s, with an expected growth rate of 8.5% in 2002 and 2003 (Frost & Sullivan, U.S. Probiotic Market Study, 2001). Probiotic use in functional foods seems to be the next logical step. However, their applications in food products have been limited, due to industrial processes adversely affecting their survival rates.
With advances in microencapsulation technology, Institut Rosell/Lallemand, Montreal, Canada, now provides probiotics that can be a key ingredient in functional foods. Moreover, their addition to food systems is seen as an effective means of restoring some of the initial beneficial food-associated microflora that may be destroyed during microbial reduction treatments—such as pasteurization.
During microencapsulation, specially designed equipment coats probiotic bacteria in a matrix of vegetable fatty acids. This increases formulation possibilities, broadening the range of ingredients with which probiotics can be blended.
Similarly, mildly-elevated food processing temperatures, in which heat is required to melt or partially cook food components, can destroy bacteria integrity. Institut Rosell/Lallemand's microencapsulation provides protection at 50Â°C (122Â°F) for several hours, giving a protection that is over three times more resistant than an unprotected control.
Additionally, the passage through the gastric barrier is very stressful for probiotics, especially on an empty stomach where the pH can be as low as 1.5. The hydrophobic coating surrounding microencapsulated bacteria protects the fragile microbial cells, allowing them to pass into the intestine.
The company offers several strains of lactic acid bacteria and is constantly innovating and researching new strains that are potentially applicable for various health conditions.
Typical applications include confectionery, cereals, snacks such as nutrition bars, powdered foods such as infant formulas, meal replacements and beverages.