Microencapsulation Technology


Microencapsulation Technology

What is Microencapsulation Technology?

Microencapsulation is a process by which we apply a protective coating called a matrix around a small particle called the core or active. The matrix keeps an active ingredient locked in and stabilized until the release of the material is desired.

  • People might encapsulate in order to mask a bitter or bad taste.
  • An ingredient could be encapsulated in order to provide a barrier from other ingredients.
  • An ingredient might be encapsulated to provide a specific temperature release (as in a baking application), a pH release, or a sustained or modified release.

Microencapsulation in Food and Dietary Supplements for Flavor Masking and Stability of Ingredients

Microencapsulation is more than masking flavors or improving stability. encapsulation allows for changing physical properties like color or form (such as oil to powder). You can also control or delay the release of an active.

If you are interested in how microencapsulation technology is used in food, beverage, and dietary supplement formulations, please watch our 15-minute on-demand webinar designed to explain the applications and benefits of different microencapsulation technologies such as hot melt, solvent-based, aqueous, and spray drying. Electron microscope photography used in the webinar will help to illustrate the evaluation of microencapsulation.

Microencapsulation Applications and Benefits:

There are many benefits to the food or supplement manufacturer that can be achieved through encapsulation. Knowing when to use microencapsulation and when it is not needed will make the difference in keeping price points while ensuring strong consumer appeal.

  1. Reduce Overages: To ensure label claim is met, often higher levels or “overages” must be added to compensate for expected losses in nutrient potency that occur during processing. Given the high costs of many vitamins, these overages can eat into your profit margins over time. Encapsulation protects these nutrients, reducing losses and minimizing overages. The result is significant cost savings.
  2. Protection: From moisture, acids, ingredient interactions, heat, and exposure to oxygen.
  3. Release Parameters: Engineered so that the nutrient is released when desired, for instance at a specified temperature or in the stomach for digestion.
  4. Flavor and Odor Masking: Increase consumer acceptance by minimizing unpleasant tastes and odors associated with certain nutrients.
  5. Ease of Handling: Encapsulated ingredients are dry and free-flowing.
  6. Precision: The stability afforded by encapsulated ingredients allows measuring and delivery of precise levels of the desired nutrient.
  7. Effectiveness: Encapsulation is critical to such products as medical foods, nutraceuticals, and meal-replacement products where characteristics such as stability, bioavailability, delivery, and effectiveness are closely regulated.

Different Microencapsulation Methods

Microencapsulated particleHot Melt Microencapsulation Process

Hot Melt encapsulation utilizes fluid bed technology to apply a molten coating to a substrate.

In the fluid bed microencapsulation process, atomizing air breaks a molten solid into droplets, which hit the substrate particle and spread on the surface of that particle. The droplets are applied layer by layer until they coalesce into one integral film.

One of the important parameters is the selection of the coating material. At what temperature do you want it to melt? What is the application? Are there any GMO restrictions or other requirements on it? All of these things need to be considered when selecting the coating material.

Other important product variables that need to be considered are the size and morphology of the substrate. The surface area and shape of the particle will ultimately determine how much material needs to be applied in order to fully encapsulate the substrate. Finer particles will have much more surface area than a larger particle, and thus will require more coating to encapsulate.

In hot melt encapsulation there are many choices of coating or matrix material:

Lipid Encapsulation Matrix Melting Range
Paraffin Wax 55℃ 131℉
Fractionated Palm Oil 55℃ – 60℃ 131℉ – 140℉
Fully Hydrogenated Palm Oil 58℃ – 63℃ 136℉ – 145℉
Mono and Diglycerides 60℃ 140℉
Fully Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil 61℃ – 65℃ 142℉ – 149℉
Fully Hydrogenated Soybean Oil 67℃ – 71℃ 153℉ – 160℉
Distilled Monoglycerides 72℃ 162℉
Carnauba Wax 84℃ 183℉
Fully Hydrogenated Castor Oil 85℃ – 88℃ 185℉ – 190℉

Micro-encapsulation applications for hot melt encapsulation:

  • B vitamins for flavor masking chewable tablets
  • Nutrients for cold form sports nutrition or meal replacement bars
  • Powdered beverages with enough viscosity to suspend the particles
  • Release of antimicrobials in baking application

Aqueous Coating Microencapsulation Techniques

Microencapsulation with a water-soluble (aqueous) coating material can be done using top spray fluid bed coating methods.

Microscope image of an aqueous coated particleYou might want to encapsulate a hygroscopic ingredient but not affect its release characteristic greatly. By encapsulating (or agglomerating) with a water-soluble material, we can reduce the substrate’s hygroscopicity, while not greatly impacting its release rate. Film-coated tablets are an example of applying a water-soluble coating to change the surface of an ingredient to mask its flavor.  Once the tablet is swallowed and past the consumer’s taste buds, the coating dissolves quickly and the active ingredients are released. We can spray this type of coating onto powders, crystals, and granules.

Sometimes an ingredient is coated to change the color or appearance, to make it shinier for example.

Aqueous coatings are often used as a prefill for particles with a lot of surface irregularity that needs to be smoothed before another coating is applied.

Examples of aqueous coatings matrix materials:

  • HPMC
  • Gums

Micro-encapsulation applications for aqueous coatings:

  • Pre-coating to fill crevices in a particle before next layer is applied
  • Change appearance or color of a particle

Solvent Coating Micro-encapsulation Technology

solvent coated particleA solvent coating is another fluid bed process used to apply a water-insoluble coating (such as ethylcellulose dissolved in alcohol) onto a particle substrate.

Solvent coatings are often used when the substrate is incompatible with water, or extremely fine.

encapsulation applications for solvent coatings:

  • Gummy vitamins
  • To protect sensitive ingredients incompatible with certain pH ranges
  • To protect sensitive ingredients incompatible with extreme heat

Encapsulation by Spray Drying

Spray drying can also be a form of microencapsulation. Learn more on our spray drying page.

Toll Manufacturing:

Do you have an active or raw material you would like encapsulated? Watson provides toll manufacturing services. Work with our research and development team to define your project. We can help develop a matrix or coating that will achieve your goals. You provide the active or raw material and we can create the value-added product you are looking for. Depending on your goals, you can select from options such as having your product assayed by our in-house lab, pre-shipment samples sent to a third party laboratory of your choice or your laboratory for testing. Private label options and drop shipments are also available.

Have more questions about microencapsulation technology and applications?

  • Contact us. We would love to hear from you and we would be happy to arrange for a consultation so that we can better understand your needs and goals.
  • Attend a presentation. You can also check out our trade show and events page to see if one of our innovation and technology experts is speaking at a trade show or seminar near you.
  • Check out our blog. Our Nutri-Knowledge blog is full of great content on microencapsulation.

Customized and Controlled Release Delivery Systems

In addition to the standard products listed below Watson manufacturers custom microencapsulations. In fact, over half of the specialty nutrients we manufacture are custom. They are designed for a specific customer and product to ensure the best performance. For example, many manufacturers of gummy vitamins use micro-encapsulated vitamins to survive the manufacturing process. However, each manufacturer’s process varies. In order to address these needs, Watson designs a series of custom microencapsulated vitamins for each gummy manufacturer. The encapsulation method(s), matrix or coating materials and the amount of coating utilized are selected based on your processing conditions and the properties of your finished product. Watson can also customize a multilayer microencapsulation.

Microencapsulated Products:

The following is an overview of the micro-encapsulations manufactured by Watson; it is not a complete list. Watson also manufactures a wide range of custom micro-encapsulations as well as toll manufactured products.

  • Ascorbic Acid 50%
  • Ascorbic Acid 70%
  • Ascorbic Acid 75%‒Non-GMO
  • Ascorbic Acid 85% EC
  • Beta Carotene 1%
  • Beta Carotene 15%
  • Beta Carotene Dispersion 22%
  • Beta Carotene Dispersion 30%
  • Caffeine 50%
  • Choline Bitartrate 60%
  • Copper Gluconate 50%
  • Copper Sulfate 50%
  • Cupric Oxide 50%
  • D-Calcium Pantothenate 50%
  • D-Calcium Pantothenate 50%‒Non-GMO
  • D-Calcium Pantothenate 85% EC
  • Dipotassium Phosphate 70%
  • Ferrous Fumarate 60%
  • Ferrous Lactate 35%
  • Ferrous Sulfate 60%
  • Folic Acid 25%
  • Folic Acid 85% EC
  • Glucosamine Hydrochloride 70%
  • L-Arginine 70%
  • L-Cysteine 70%
  • Magnesium Oxide 40%, 60%
  • Manganese Sulfate 50%
  • Medium Chain Triglycerides 50%
  • Niacinamide 33%
  • Niacinamide 35%‒Non-GMO
  • Phytonadione, Vitamin K 1%
  • Potassium Chloride 70%
  • Pyridoxine HCl 33%
  • Pyridoxine HCl 35%‒Non-GMO
  • Reduced Iron 50%
  • Riboflavin 25%
  • Riboflavin 33%
  • Riboflavin 35%‒Non-GMO
  • Riboflavin 70% EC
  • Sodium Ascorbate 50%
  • Thiamine Mononitrate 33%
  • Thiamine Mononitrate 33%‒Non-GMO
  • Vitamin E 50% CWS
  • Zinc Gluconate 60%
  • Zinc Oxide 50%