Modern consumers are increasingly interested in their personal health, and expect the food that they eat to be healthy or even capable of preventing illness. Gut health in general has shown to be the key sector for functional foods in Europe. The probiotic yoghurt market is well established but the key growth sector recently has been the probiotic drinks. The popularity of dose-delivery systems for probiotic drinks has also resulted in research efforts targeted to developing probiotic foods outside the dairy sector. New product categories, and thus novel and more difficult raw materials with regard to technology of probiotics, will certainly be the key research and development area for future functional food markets. The viability and stability of probiotics has been both a marketing and technological challenge for industrial producers. Probiotic foods should contain specific probiotic strains and maintain a suitable level of viable cells during the product's shelf life. Unless strict demands are set on probiotic product definition and labelling their regulatory definition will remain obscure. The technological demands placed on probiotic strains are great and new manufacturing process and formulation technologies may often be required for bacteria primarily selected for their functional health properties. Before probiotic strains can be delivered to consumers, they must first be able to be manufactured under industrial conditions, and then survive and retain their functionality during storage as frozen or freeze-dried cultures, and also in the food products into which they are finally formulated. The probiotic strains should also survive the gastrointestinal stress factors and maintain their functionality within the host. Additionally, they must be able to be incorporated into foods without producing off-flavours or textures they should be viable but not growing. The packaging materials used and the conditions under which the products are stored are also important for the quality of products. Future technological prospects exist in innovations finding solutions for the stability and viability problems of probiotics in new food environments. Current research on novel probiotic formulations and microencapsulation technologies exploiting biological carrier and barrier materials and systems for enteric release provides promising results. Maintenance of low production costs will remain the challenge for future probiotic process and formulation technologies. Exploitation of food-grade raw materials such as native, and physically or enzymatically treated starches, is one example of future technology that has the potential to meet the challenge of broadening the range of food types into which probiotic ingredients can be successfully incorporated. Novel developments for control release systems in foods and pharmaceuticals will also provide new possibilities.
- lactic acid bacteria