Freeze drying adds stability to growing probiotic and prebiotic market

Heart made of probiotic pills and spoon with antibiotic.

As Europeans take more care of their health than ever before, the market for dietary supplements such as probiotics and prebiotics continues to grow. Poul Andersen from European Freeze Dry explores how freeze drying can maintain the viability of live cultures while continuing to meet the rising demand.

Never before have Europeans been so committed to their personal health. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, dietary supplement suppliers were increasing production with European Freeze Dry to meet the growing demand for dietary and health supplements.

Scientific knowledge of probiotics and prebiotics has grown to a new level, while public consciousness of the health benefits that these products can bring, particularly in promoting good gut and intestinal health, continues to raise awareness of the benefits across the world.

While the production of probiotics supplements in the forms of tablets and capsules are being recommended by medical evidence of the impact on boosting digestion, metabolism and immune systems, consumers are also becoming more accustomed to seeing live probiotics such as kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut on supermarket shelves.

The market for probiotics and prebiotics has grown at double-digit rates in the last 10 years and is expected to continue to grow at healthy rates.

Freeze drying offers answer to gentle preservation

Consumers are taking more interest in what they consume and supplementing any deficiencies in our bodies. But how can the live cultures industry continue to meet growing demand, without sacrificing the quality and bio-availability of the probiotics on offer?

Securing the viability live cultures is a careful process and freeze drying is a gentle drying process that enables the preservation and viability of probiotics to provide long shelf life in supplements and tablets.

What is freeze drying technology?

Freeze drying technology has evolved since it was first used as a method to dry vegetables and meats in South American mountains more than one hundred years ago.

The freeze drying process, which can take place at European Freeze Dry’s facilities in Denmark or the UK, takes a frozen probiotic and gently applies heat to the raw ingredient.

During the freeze drying process a deep vacuum is applied, and under these conditions the ice leaves the product as a vapour trail which is then captured on an ice condenser within the freeze drier.

The process typically takes between 24 to 72 hours to complete depending on the product and is carried out in a set of ‘chambers’ which can be controlled at various temperatures, pressures and time schedules depending on specific product requirements.

Over the course of up to 72 hours, the product dries out while remaining viable as a healthy culture, leaving the final product structurally and nutritionally stable, maintaining all the health, digestive and intestinal benefits of the original product for several years.

The complex and subtle process can vary in technical details, requiring our expert teams to identify the specifications of the micro-organisms and protecting the viability of the cultures throughout the process, by applying gentle heat and pressure to the product as it dries.

Compared to more aggressive drying methods such as spray drying or air drying, freeze drying methods are proven to retain the purity of the product, even when they are ground down into a powder.

Freeze dried cultures can be supplied as tablets or added to fortified products

The result is a 100 per cent natural freeze dried product, which retains all the benefits of the raw culture. From there, it can be supplied as a stable supplement or ground down into a powder which can be inserted into tablets.

For probiotic producers, that means live cultures can have an extended lifespan, reducing the possibility of waste and increasing sustainability. The final product can packaged into a supplement tablet which can be supplied as is, or added into natural products, such as yoghurt, milk or snacks such as cereal bars or plant-based dairy drinks.

European Freeze Dry has accumulated significant experience with the 50 trained staff having dried hundreds of different microorganisms over the years. The products are supplied from the plant in the UK and Denmark to customers in Europe and other parts of the world. Awareness and demand for better intestinal health is on the rise, and European Freeze Dry is well placed to meet that growing demand.