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Pollen extract may be encapsulator and flavour masker for foods

By Stephen Daniells, 24-Jul-2009

Related topics: R&D

An extract from spores of the plant Lycopodium clavatum may encapsulate and mask the flavour of ingredients such as cod liver oil, according to new results.

Loading with cod liver oil could be achieved up to a level of one to one, without volunteer tasters distinguishing the cod liver oil encapsulated in the spore extract, according to findings published online ahead of print in LWT - Food Science and Technology.

The technology used was developed by Yorkshire-based Sporomex Ltd, a spin-out of the University of Hull, using sporopollenin exines extracted from the spores of the plant Lycopodium clavatum.

“These data are novel by the extent of the loading achieved by the sporopollenin exines capsules and the degree of taste masking that resulted,” wrote the authors, led by Stephen Atkin.

“In addition, the process of filling was simple, requiring no sophisticated equipment and as such is likely to be appropriate for scaling up to industrial quantities.

“A remarkable property of the loaded exines at 1/1 (w/w) was that they retained a free flowing powder consistency, potentially important for mixing in with other components,” added the researchers.

Looking further ahead, the researchers noted that enhanced flavour masking could be achieved by a double encapsulation with, for example, wax, or by using more traditional methods such as flavouring.

Continued development

Dr Steve Beckett, CEO of Sporomex Ltd., told FoodNavigator.com that the main difference between the company’s encapsulation technique and others is that being a pollen shell, it also has antioxidant activity of its own.

He added that there are no allergen concerns since the sporopollenin exines do not contain nitrogen, and therefore no proteins, and no allergens.

“We are still in the development stage,” said Dr Beckett. “And we are developing this with several large international food companies,” he added.

Finished food products containing this encapsulation technology are expected to appear within three years, he said.

In terms of the regualtory issues, Dr Beckett confirmed that the company is currently investigating the regulatory status.

Study details

Researchers from Sporomex and the University of Hull used the sporopollenin exine capsules to encapsulate water, sunflower oil (0.5 gram per gram), and different amounts of cod liver oil, including 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, and 4.0 g/g.

A team of 20 volunteer tasters was recruited to take part in a double-blind taste trial, which showed that the tasters could not distinguish between the sporopollenin exines filled with 1/1 cod liver oil, water or the sunflower oil.

At higher cod liver oil loadings, the tasters could discern that the fish oil was present, which may be explained by the presence of some oil on the outside of the capsules, said Atkin and his co-workers.

“Therefore, sporopollenin exines can be loaded highly, at up to 1 g oil to 1 g of the exines, and still remain as a dry powder and retain flavour masking, thus disguising the contents,” they concluded.

Source: LWT - Food Science and Technology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.lwt.2009.07.001
“Sporopollenin exines: a novel natural taste masking material”
Authors: Sylvain Barrier, Alan S. Rigby, Alberto Diego-Taboada, Matthew J. Thomasson, Grahame Mackenzie, Stephen L. Atkin