Creating foods and beverages with certain textural, thickness and mouthfeel qualities is the job of gums and hydrocolloids. In addition to thickening and gelling, they can replace some ingredients, such as fat or oils, emulsify, stabilize and even extend product shelf life.
That's the beauty of hydrocolloids and gums. They're problem-solvers − in one application, inhibiting ice crystal formation in ice cream; in another, preventing solidifying and clumping in smoothies.
The right texture can make all the difference when it comes to taste perceptions of soups, gravies, salad dressings, baked goods, sauces and toppings. But what’s desirable in one product for one consumer may be repulsive to another.
As clean ingredient statements are now the rule, gums and hydrocolloids must comply. Clean-label texturizers such as new GuarNT hydrocolloid from TIC Gums (www.ticgums.com) White Marsh, Md., is specifically designed for ready-to-drink protein dairy beverages.
"Every hydrocolloid provides different functionalities and textures to a finished product. Understanding all of their nuances and how they interact within a product is critical to a successful formulation," explains Dan Grazaitis, beverage technology manager at TIC Gums. "That's typically why we utilize blends to provide the optimum benefits of each hydrocolloid. Consumers are looking for clean-label solutions and questioning the exact need of the ingredients used in a product. The Guar NT line allows formulators to expand shelf life, protein content and increased fat levels, while maintaining a clean label."
A Flavor Free GuarNT 5000 variation is available to minimize beany or grassy off-notes in both flavor and odor.
Carrageenan-like dairy texturizer
Carrageenan, which is derived from seaweed, has been used to texturize food products for decades. But it has become controversial. Although considered safe by FDA, 10-year-old research – which suppliers claim is flawed -- showed a link between it and digestive inflammation. The National Organic Standards Board late last year voted to remove it from the list of ingredients allowed in organic products, but USDA has not yet taken action on that recommendation.
Nevertheless, some ingredient suppliers are presuming an organic ban and developing products to replace carrageenan. Cargill (www.cargill.com), Wayzata, Minn., has developed Satiagel ADG 0220 Seabrid, a thickener the company says is similar to carrageenan but was created from cultivated seaweed. The source is sustainable and the ingredient derived via technology that offers functionality for gelled dairy desserts, says Cargill's Xavier Martin, general product manager, seaweed extracts. ADG 0220 Seabrid delivers firmness, creaminess and body to formulations such as flan, custard and crème caramel.
"We saw an opportunity to revitalize this important market segment," he explains, adding that he understands carrageenan's negative perception, but says "now is a good time to provide information based on scientific facts. Carrageenan is safe and functional in various applications, and we are helping to develop an optimal ingredient with a minimal cost. In Europe, due to low dosage, Seabrid can be included in finished products [such as dairy desserts] that make an organic claim."
Another new line of hydrocolloids for food and drinks is Syndeo from acacia gum provider Alland & Robert (www.allandetrobert.com), Paris (and distributed in the U.S. by Farbest Brands). It blends vegetal hydrocolloids with stabilizing and texturizing properties that have demonstrated particular success in dairy-free beverages, salad dressings, prepared meals, fillings, dietary products, desserts and ice cream, according to the company. It was developed with the non-GMO, clean label market in mind, as well as formulators keen on leveraging ingredients that meet demands for ethical, healthy and tasty products. Syndeo has no sugar content, and can be used in sugar-free recipes. Improving mouthfeel, it can also enhance moisture retention. It has no additives, preservative or allergens and is efficient at very low dosage (less than 1 percent). Customers are currently trialing it to formulate plant-based "milks," especially those based on nuts, notes Isabelle Jaouen, head of R&D.
Qualities consumers want most
Xanthan gum may be one of the best kept secrets of industry developers and restaurant chefs, says Nichole Mercer, ADM business manager. It's used to make ice cream smooth, keep pastry crusts crisp and keep dressings in suspension to minimize shaking and separation. "As consumers demand more gluten-free, reduced sugar and protein-fortified products, we see interest in xanthan gum as an ideal texture or ingredient-suspension solution," she says. "Xanthan gum is stable at various temperatures, helps add back texture when traditional ingredients like wheat flour or sugar are reduced or removed, and plays a key role in suspending ingredients."