Optimizing Ingredients

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Microencapsulation Manifesto: Transcending Barriers in Food & Feed Manufacturing

Imagine the unimaginable. What if you could overcome every application and processing challenge? Now, with Maxx Performance, you can.

As a child growing up on our family farm, I wondered what materials were available to prevent piglet diarrhea and to help our chickens become thriftier. In graduate school, I vividly recall infusing amino acids into the blood stream of sheep to prevent their destruction in the rumen and inserting cannulas into the rumen of beef cattle in order to determine ruminal digestibility of ingredients. Over the years, in fact, I experimented so much that I founded Maxx Performance to help manufacturers in the food and feed industries maximize the rate and efficiency of livestock production and overcome inherent processing challenges.

At Maxx, our pioneering microencapsulation technologies redefine what’s achievable. Today, we can safeguard the integrity of combination ingredients, shielding them from interactions up and down the digestive tract to ensure optimal delivery. The possibilities are amazing.

Innovative Solutions to Timeless Challenges

Increasing the bioavailability of copper

Copper (Cu) is an essential element necessary for life, acting as a co-factor for hundreds of enzymatic reactions involved in red blood cell production, energy manufacturing, hormone formation, collagen synthesis, and protection against oxidative damage. However, Cu can be toxic in excess, prompting all living organisms to develop specialized homeostatic mechanisms to recruit, deliver, and eliminate Cu and neutralize its toxic effects. Most animals, including humans, have efficient regulatory systems to manage Cu levels and protect against dietary excess, with high dietary concentrations (up to ten times physiological requirements) used as growth promoters in swine diets.

Unlike these animals, ruminants lack efficient regulatory mechanisms for Cu, leading to chronic toxicity episodes, especially in sheep. Among ruminants, sheep are the most susceptible to chronic Cu toxicity, making it crucial for farmers, nutritionists, and veterinarians to avoid over-supplementation to prevent excessive hepatic Cu accumulation. Ruminants are more prone to Cu toxicosis than other species, possibly due to adaptation to grazing Cu-deficient pastures with antagonistic minerals like sulfur, molybdenum, and iron. Despite poor homeostatic control over Cu absorption, ruminants store excess Cu in the liver by decreasing its excretion in bile, but this mechanism fails at concentrations above physiological requirements, leading to excessive hepatic Cu accumulation.

Using microencapsulation technologies, we are able to effectively protect Cu to avoid formation of the typical Cu molybdenum complex which previously posed a significant danger to ruminants, particularly sheep.

Reducing the use of medicated feeds

Organic acids are used to reduce the pH in the small intestine of simple-stomach animals such as pigs and poultry to provide a greater resistance to pathogenic bacterial infections. Post-weaning diarrhea is one of the most frequent causes of heavy economic losses in pig herds. Before 2006, health strategies widely used antibiotic growth promoters to reduce enteric infections and the occurrence of pathogens able to adhere to intestinal mucosa. Antibiotic growth promoters are typically added to feed for piglets from birth to weaning with the aim of improving gut health. The increased use of antibiotics has given rise to a fear of the development of resistant pathogenic bacterial strains and residual contamination of the food chain with antibiotics. This has led to the adoption of safety measures and a gradual withdrawal of antibiotic promoters from pig diets. Because the use of antibiotics as growth promoters has been banned in certain countries and that the expansion of this policy to other countries can now be expected, intensive research has focused on the development of alternative strategies with the aim of maintaining animal health and performance.

Various natural materials, many of which are commercially available, have been investigated as efficient alternatives to antibiotic growth promoters, organic acids, and essential oils among them. Piva and coworkers (2007a) fed piglets a diet containing microencapsulated organic acid at a 10-fold lower dose rate compared to the normal dose of unprotected organic acid, which resulted in a similar response in the rate of piglet diarrhea. This means that a lower dose of protected microencapsulated organic acid was effective and economical in reducing the instance of piglet diarrhea.

Enhancing digestibility and nutrient absorption

Besides antimicrobial function, organic acids and their salts have a beneficial effect on digestibility, nutrient resorption, and performance of weaned and growing piglets. Antimicrobial effects can be explained by two mechanisms. First, by a pH below 6 in the stomach, which inhibits the growth of pathogenic microorganisms such as coliforms and, second, by the ability of non-dissociated organic acids to penetrate the bacterial wall and destroy some specific microorganisms. Bactericidal or bacteriostatic effects of organic acids consist above all, in a direct effect of the organic acid anions on bacterial cell walls. For organic acids to function as effective bacteriostats, they must be delivered and dissociated in the large intestine where most harmful bacteria such as E.coli reside. They cannot be released in the small intestine alone.

Animal studies, where our microencapsulation technology was used to produce organic acid preparations, show an increase in villi height, a decrease in the number of piglet diarrhea and better feed conversion which means higher average weight gain and faster time to market. In totality, microencapsulation is being used to deliver compounds with bacteriostatic properties. These compounds such as organic acids, zinc oxide, copper, and others are available commercially.

Microscopic view of irregularly shaped essential oil particles after microencapsulation. Note the coating around each particle. The coating prevents leakage, ensuring active ingredients remain intact, promoting gut health, and enhancing specific microbial growth in the intestines.

Envisioning a World of Possibilities

Countless thought leaders, product developers, nutritionists, and manufacturers have asked whether Maxx can help them use their own ingredients to solve common processing and delivery issues. Others wonder whether it is possible to release ingredients in one specific section of the gastrointestinal tract while allowing other ingredients to flow and be delivered into the small and large intestine. Yes—this is eminently doable using ingredients supplied by our collaborators and arriving at innovative solutions.

These solutions might involve applying enteric coatings by combining with trace minerals, probiotics, organic acids, and other ingredients to achieve the required functionalities. This could include incorporating an enzyme for human or animal applications where thermal stability during handling and pelleting is required, or creating greater bioavailability of a well-known phytonutrient such as turmeric or berberine, which are known for their gut heath and weight management properties. It could even mean overcoming the longstanding issues associated with capsaicin, the active component in chili peppers. While capsaicin speeds up metabolism through thermogenesis, making it ideal for weight management, it is also a chemical irritant that poses dual challenges of handling and low bioavailability. Our technology has been used to overcome both.

Now imagine how microencapsulation could solve other common challenges. Consider amino acids and tannins, which have a very bitter taste and poor bioavailability. Or think about sausage or burger manufacturers who want to prevent “browning” and protein denaturation.

What about gummy manufacturers struggling with “sweating” issues in packaging and losing market share due to moisture pickup on the shelf?

Then there are hamburger manufacturers whose equipment constantly jams, especially when raw salt is used. Or hamburger bun bakers who want to reduce salt content in their finished products while still delivering the same taste.

And then there are the tortilla manufacturers whose products suffer from poor shelf life and a lack of uniformity.

Bakers around the world have relied on us to help them extend shelf life, provide better texture and greater volume of their finished bakery products. We have helped pastry manufacturers use less sugar while maintaining the same taste. Likewise, we have collaborated with bakers to deliver a 30% reduction in salt without altering taste.

Ever walk in a mall and smell cinnamon product only to realize that the taste leaves something to be desired? Our technology can even deliver longer lasting taste of cinnamon on the palate.

Your Partner in Progress

In the end, microencapsulation is designed and available to help feed and food manufacturers overcome application and processing issues that were previously considered impossible—and in many cases, create products that are more cost-effective and nutritionally beneficial, as well.

With Maxx Performance at your side, we can unleash the full potential of food and feed manufacturing, shaping a future limited only by our collective imagination.

Winston Samules PhotoWinston A. Samules SignatureWinston A. Samuels, Ph.D.Maxx Performance CEO

Reference: PIVA, A.; GRILLI, E.; FABBRI, L.; PIZZAMIGLIO, V.; CAMPANI, I. Free versus microencapsulated organic acids in medicated or not medicated diet for piglets. Livestock Science, Amsterdam, v. 108, p. 214-217, 2007a.