Fruit juices are successfully proposed as suitable probiotic vehicles, but researchers' efforts should be developed to avoid effects of bacteria overgrowing on sensory and nutritional cues of final products and to preserve viability of probiotic bacteria during storage. In the present study, encapsulation of Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus GG strain in alginate systems was performed through ionotropic gelation technology. The alginate systems were optimized by using Box-Behnken Design to investigate the influence of three independent variables at three different levels: particle mean size and polydispersity index. The optimized probiotic-loaded alginate particles were added to orange juice samples. The viability of the probiotic strain, both as free and microencapsulated, was evaluated in orange juice stored at 5°C for 35 days. Morphology and size of probiotic-loaded alginate particles were found suitable for incorporation into juice. TEM analysis revealed that unloaded systems were clustered as nanoparticles (CL_NP), while the loaded sample appeared as a coated system (Coated_LGG). Microbiological evaluation revealed that the encapsulation assured the survival of Coated_LGG, with a reduction of less than 1-unit log in cellular density after 35 days of refrigerated storage in orange juice. Results indicated that the encapsulated bacteria did not affect the macroscopic properties neither the microbiological characteristic of orange juice; thus, it can be proposed as functional food.
Keywords: alginate polymer; experimental design; functional food; lactobacillus encapsulation; probiotics.