Future Development

A new and better technique to microencapsulate food ingredients may be developed in the next 10 years, and perhaps the new process will be more economical than the current state of the art. However, if the available technology stays the same, the market for encapsulates in the food industry will certainly keep growing at an accelerating rate. The benefits are significant.

The industry is becoming accustomed to what encapsulation can do and as the confidence level grows, so do the opportunities. What is perhaps equally important is knowing what the new technology can do and knowing what it can't do. Fortunately the food industry no longer looks at encapsulation as some far out technology that might be considered if all else fails. The industry has matured to the extent that products are tailored to fit specific applications. It is interesting to observe that with one common core ingredient—citric acid—one of the major ingredient producers offers 11 different grades, the other producer offers 8. Each one differs in variables that are fundamental to encapsulation, eg, payload, particle size, coatings, water solubility, or fat coatings. Other important differences include the coatings, melting points, origins, and costs. Each product is designed to be useful in a specific food ingredient system.

While commercialization of encapsulation technology covers many diverse fields within the broad term Food In dustry, the majority of products and the greatest volume is focused on two segments, ie, meat processing and baking. It is interesting to observe that in both, encapsulation has been treated not as a tool to be tried and abandoned if it doesn't perform adequately the first time, but rather as a part of the answer to a food-processing problem, albeit an important part. Most initial attempts to solve problems with encapsulates are only partially successful. It is in the fine tuning, not only of the encapsulates to fit a system but, where possible, of the system's design to fit what can be achieved through encapsulation. The meat and baking industries have been doing this. Other industries such as the dairy and microwaveable entree industry would seem to be candidates for a similar developmental approach.

A significant part of encapsulation technology is in the selection or development of optimum edible Food and Drug Administration approved coatings to enclose and protect and still release under the desired conditions. There is room for new coating materials, particularly ones that will have higher melting points or will remain intact under higher temperatures than what is currently available. Edible coatings having release points of ca 74°C (165°F) would be particularly interesting.

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