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What are the Differences between Shelf-stable and Refrigerated Probiotics?

What are the Differences between Shelf-stable and Refrigerated Probiotics?

, by Aussie Pharma Direct, 6 min reading time

In our previous blog post, we covered the considerations surrounding the incorporation of probiotic supplements into your dietary regimen, dissecting their potential advantages and drawbacks. Now, our focus turns toward another crucial aspect: the optimal storage conditions for your chosen probiotic supplements.

We’ll compare shelf-stable and refrigerated probiotic supplements varieties, and offer some insights on how to extend their shelf life for optimal effectiveness.

Shelf-stable probiotics

When you encounter the term "shelf-stable" on a probiotic supplement product label, it essentially signifies that it is formulated to maintain the viability of its probiotic strains at room temperature, without the need for refrigeration

Manufacturers design these products to ensure that the probiotic microorganisms remain dormant and resilient in a dry state until they are ingested. The shelf-stability of probiotics is achieved through a combination of factors, including the specific strains of probiotics used, the manufacturing process, and the encapsulation or packaging techniques employed.

Refrigerated probiotics

Refrigerated probiotics represent a category of dietary supplements designed to maintain the potency of live probiotic microorganisms through a cold storage environment. These specialised formulations are known for their high potency and efficacy, making them a popular choice for those seeking to support their gut health.

Shelf-stable vs refrigerated: Are they the same?

Shelf-stable and refrigerated probiotics are not the same; they are distinct categories of probiotic supplements that differ primarily in their storage requirements and formulations. Here's a breakdown of the differences between the two:


Shelf-stable probiotics

Refrigerated probiotics

Storage Requirements

Room temperature, cool and dry place

Refrigeration (36°F to 46°F or 2°C to 8°C)


Designed to withstand higher temps

Sensitive to higher temps, requires cooler environment


Stable potency, longer shelf life

Higher colony count, sensitive to temperature fluctuations


Highly convenient, no refrigeration needed

Requires specific storage conditions


Suitable for travel, busy lifestyles

Preferred for maximum potency


Capsules, powders, some chewables

Certain capsules, liquids, fermented food

 Considerations to take note

Shelf-stable probiotics

While shelf-stable probiotics can endure at room temperature for extended periods, over time, some loss in viability is inevitable, and this leads to expired probiotics. It's unlikely to cause harm in most cases. After the expiration date has passed, the potency of the probiotics might start to decline, which could potentially lessen their intended health benefits. So, it's a good practice to check the product's expiration date before purchase.

Refrigerated probiotics

Refrigerated probiotics are typically more sensitive to temperature fluctuations compared to their shelf-stable counterparts. If you're wondering how long refrigerated probiotics can stay out of the fridge before their viability is compromised, here are some general guidelines:

  • Short periods (up to 2 hours) - Refrigerated probiotics can generally tolerate being out of the fridge for short periods, such as during transportation from the store to your home. If the temperature is not extremely high and the exposure is brief (around 2 hours or less), the probiotics should still remain viable.
  • Longer periods (over 2 hours) - If refrigerated probiotics are left out of the fridge for longer than 2 hours, their potency might start to decline. The warmer the environment, the quicker the decline. While they might not become harmful, their intended beneficial effects could be compromised.
  • Avoid repeated exposure - Repeatedly taking refrigerated probiotics in and out of the fridge can cause temperature fluctuations that may impact their viability. It's best to maintain a consistent temperature to ensure their potency.

Even refrigerated probiotics have a shelf life, so always check the expiration date before consumption.

Tips for storage

Probiotics can be potent allies when consumed in their optimal state, however, their effectiveness hinges greatly on how well they are stored. Here are some storage tips for both shelf-stable and refrigerated probiotics:

Shelf-stable probiotics

  1. Avoid direct sunlight - Sunlight can accelerate the breakdown of probiotic microorganisms. Storing your supplements away from direct sunlight, such as in a cabinet or drawer, helps shield them from harmful UV rays.
  2. Minimise heat exposure - Elevated temperatures can gradually degrade the effectiveness of probiotics. Keep the supplements away from heat sources such as stovetops, ovens, and radiators to prevent unnecessary heat exposure.
  3. Maintain dryness - Moisture is another factor that can compromise probiotic viability. Store your supplements in a cool, dry place to prevent the growth of moisture-loving organisms that might be present in humid environments.

Refrigerated probiotics

  1. Consistent temperature - Keep your refrigerator set to a stable temperature between 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C). Fluctuations outside this range can affect the viability of the probiotics
  2. Avoid freezing - While refrigeration is essential, avoid freezing your probiotics. Freezing can damage the delicate probiotic cultures, rendering them ineffective.
  3. Interior placement - Store your probiotics away from the fridge door, as temperature fluctuations are more pronounced there due to frequent opening and closing.
  4. Original packaging - Keep the probiotics in their original, airtight packaging to prevent moisture and contaminants from affecting the cultures.


When it comes to probiotics supplementation, the journey doesn't merely start with selection, but also understanding the little difference of its varieties. From the resilient shelf-stable probiotics that dance with convenience to the temperature-sensitive world of their refrigerated counterparts, one constant thread emerges: the significance of proper storage to ensure that they remain potent and effective.


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