Image from an electron microscope showing a particle of encapsulated omega-3.

Image from an electron microscope showing a particle of encapsulated omega-3.

Microencapsulating bioactives

Microencapsulation improves the ease with which dietary bioactives, such as omega-3, can be added to foods and creates growth opportunities for the nutraceutical market.

  • 21 November 2005 | Updated 4 October 2013

Microencapsulation has been successfully used in the pharmaceutical industry for targeted delivery of drugs in the body.

It is thought the technology could also be applied in the functional food industry for the delivery of dietary bioactive ingredients. 

To date, inclusion of bioactive ingredients such as omega-3 to food to improve its nutritional or functional value has been limited, as these additives are very sensitive and prone to degradation.

Our researchers have developed an encapsulant technology that successfully protects the added nutraceutical from environmental or other changes (for example, oxidation of omega-3) and can control the site of its release in the body.

CSIRO is actively developing this technology for probiotics (health promoting bacteria) and for delivery to selective sites along the gut for optimum health benefits.

A new, innovative and natural encapsulant material allows targeted delivery of susceptible or unpalatable ingredients such as omega-3.


The encapsulant system has been designed to perform a number of functions to stabilise bioactives. The versatility of the technology enables it to be used for the production of shelf-stable dry powders or oil-in-water emulsions. It is made from natural ingredients.


An advantage of this encapsulation system is its efficiency. To date the loading of most oil-based microencapsulated powders, such as those containing omega-3 fatty acids, has been limited to around 25 per cent weight.

Using the CSIRO technology, this level is routinely lifted above 50 per cent and in some cases above 75 per cent, significantly improving the cost-efficiency of incorporating functional ingredients into foods.

Future directions

We are building on our strategy of developing new and innovative encapsulant material from natural food ingredients and exploring their release properties to enable the targeted delivery of bioactives through the gut.

Ongoing research is increasing the range of materials that can be incorporated and reducing the particle to 'nano' size which will open up new product attributes.

Market opportunity

Analysts already estimate the functional foods market at over A$60 billion.  A microencapsulation that successfully allows the encapsulation of dietary bioactives could be instrumental to the advancement of this market.

Intellectual property

In addition to the strong patent position around the base technology, CSIRO has layered provisional patents dealing with the delivery of probiotics and the targeted delivery of the bioactives throughout the gut.

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