Encapsulation is a physico-chemical or mechanical process whereby bioactive components such as probiotic bacteria are completely enveloped by a matrix for physical protection against potentially hazardous processes and adverse environmental conditions. Recent advances in encapsulation technologies generated a major transition within the food industry from a simple manufacturing foundation to a functionality-driven food market.
Encapsulation matrix materials can originate from a wide range of natural and /or synthetic materials; hence, the structural arrangement of micro-particles generated may be pre-determined for specific process applications. In the food industry, the concept of encapsulating a material within a defined membrane initially dates back to the 1930’s, when capsules were produced by a complex coacervation process known as “locking” rather than encapsulation.
In the food industry, the principle benefits of encapsulation may be summarized as follows:
- protection/stabilization of a sensitive material from adverse interactions within the immediate environment;
- reduction of evaporation or transfer rate of the core material to the outside environment;
- modification of the physical characteristics of the original material to allow easier handling;
- pulsative, sustained or controlled release of the core material;
- flavor or taste masking of the core material;
- separation of reactive materials and
- dilution of the core material when only small amounts are required.