Microencapsulated flavors are opening up new food development possibilities never before attempted, writes Anthony Fletcher.
An innovative partnership between flavor firm David Michael & Co and microencapsulation specialist Balchem Encapsulates for example has created new possibilities in delivering flavors and even nutrients to the consumer.
"We have recently introduced MichaelCap microencapsulated flavors based on a fluid bed process combined with water soluble and lipid coated flavors," George Ennis, chief flavor chemist at flavor firm David Michael & Co told FoodNavigator-USA.com.
"Specific temperature controlled flavor release is a key function of this flavor delivery system."
Microcapsules, tiny particles that contain an active agent or core material surrounded by a shell or coating, are now increasingly being used in food ingredients preparation. Coating an ingredient with another material seals it off from its surroundings, opening the door to new possibilities in product development.
This latest solution illustrates how flavor firms are tapping into new technologies to improve their products. A decade ago, Balchem had no involvement in the flavors sector, but the firm is now helping David Michael & Co to separate itself from the competition.
"We saw the need for encapsulation while Balchem didn't know how to sell in the flavor market - it was a win-win situation", said Ennis. "We did the business plan together, and from there came up with a line of encapsulated flavors."
MichaelCap 3D represents the latest development of this line. "Here we can incorporate flavor, color, nutrients or other key essential food components that can be delivered to a food application."
Ennis believes that the MichaelCap innovation is part of a growing trend towards microencapsulation in the food ingredients and flavors sector.
"There are several key reasons for encapsulating a flavor," he said.
"Foremost, to protect the flavor from oxidation, control flavorrelease, transform a liquid flavor into a granulated powder form, change the hydrophilic or hydrophobic character of flavor and in some cases achieve better economics in specific applications for example reducing the flavors loss of volatile compounds in a baking process."
And more and more firms are turning to microencapsulation in order to stay competitive in the marketplace by creating a point of differentiation for their company.
"It is also to strengthen their core business, to serve customerdemands and to advance the science and technology in delivering uniquecreative flavor systems," he said.
Microencapsulation is not new. It has been around for decades in the form of spray drying, spray chilling, freeze drying and coacervation. But Ennis believes that the sector has innovated rapidly.
"We have kept up to the demands of the food industry and have been waiting for the industry to catch up to a few of the advances we have made in controlled flavor release using microencapsulation techniques," he said.
The microencapsulation sector is therefore fast establishing itself at the cutting edge of food and beverage flavor development. The use of nanotechnology, which involves the study and use of materials at sizes of millionths of a millimeter, could increasingly be used in the creation and development of flavors and flavor systems in the future.
"The manipulation and application of nanotechnologies will creep into the food / flavor industry," said Ennis.
"It is futuristic, but there has been some work done and it is not too far off. Let's just say it's in the back of our minds."