How Bartek Ingredients is Adding Its Touch to the Formulator’s Toolbox

Oct. 21, 2021
We’re talking with the team at Bartek Ingredients about how the company is helping processors address challenges that may arise with pectin-based gummy products.

In this special bonus episode, Bartek Ingredients’ Jeff Billig and Matthew Patrick talk about the challenges that formulators and manufacturers encounter when working with pectins.

We kick things off talk talking about Bartek’s focus in the bakery, beverage and confectionery markets as well as how the company, which specializes in malic and fumaric acids helps companies optimize their applications. We then shift into a conversation about pH and the challenges of producing pectin-based gummy products before rounding out the episode learning more about Bartek’s new buffer salt, Pecmate.


Erin: I want to open up this special episode by having you tell me a little bit more about Bartek Ingredients.

Jeff: Thank you, Erin and thanks for having us here today. So Bartek's been in business for 52 years, dating back to 1969. It's been family-owned for most of that time. And our core business is global leadership in the production and sale of malic and fumaric acid. We have sales in 40 plus countries around the world, and we focus very much on sales to the global food customers. We service virtually every market segment, but our focus is bakery, beverage and confectionery. Innovation has been a core pillar for the business historically, and this is an area that we've invested in significantly over the last few years, aligning new products to emerging market trends.

Erin: I think it's great that Bartek has served the confectionery market for more than 50 years. Looking forward, what opportunities do you see in this space?

Jeff: Consumers continue to get more sophisticated with their tastes and their preferences across all categories and confectionery is certainly no exception. One area of high consumer interest is a growing desire for more plant-based and vegan alternatives to animal-derived ingredients. In response to that, a range of alternative ingredients have emerged in soft confectionery, but the most prominent one is pectin, which is being used right now as a direct replacement for gelatin, because it's very much on trend with finding those plant-based and vegan alternatives.

In fact, pectin has appeared in nearly 50% of the soft confectionery products that have launched in the last 5 years that are making vegan or no animal ingredient claims.

Erin: Do you see these opportunities also applying to the trending gummy VMS market as well?

Jeff: Very much so. The success of the soft confectionery market in general and gummies in particular, I think has really created a roadmap for the VMS segment to follow. VMS marketers are looking to deliver functional and therapeutic compounds of all kinds of shapes and sizes and gummies offer a consumer-friendly and easy-to-use format that makes it easier to taste-mask these functional compounds. And a good example of that might be the bitterness of caffeine.

At the same time, these same marketers can't forget about the vegan and plant-based trends that consumers are looking for that I mentioned earlier, and the intersection of the taste masking and the consumer preferences has led to a similar rise in the use of pectin in VMS gummies. And in that particular market segment, if you look back over the last 5 years, nearly 60% of VMS gummies launched have also contained pectin.

Erin: Are there challenges manufacturers face in formulating with pectin? What's the transition like to switch from gelatin to pectin?

Matt: One specific challenge that formulators and manufacturers are going to have to deal with is pectin exhibits its gelling behavior in a very specific and a very tight pH range of 3.4 to 3.6. A manufacturer's going to have to adapt their process to be able to deal with the fact that they've got to control the pH in this range. Transitioning from gelatin to pectin in, say, a gummy application, it's all about managing the critical point in the process.

Gelatin is typically added at the end of the process to help prevent thermal degradation. You don't want the heat to tear up the gelatin and end up paying for gelatin. It's not serving any functional benefit. It's typically added at the end of the process to prevent that thermal degradation, but adding gelatin at that point can sometimes cause foaming. Manufacturers have typically adapted their process to manage that problem at the end.

When you switch over to pectin you're adding the pectin at a different point in the process. You're adding it early in the batching from the very beginning so that you can disperse it well and by dispersing it well, you'll ensure that it's hydrated well, like any hydrocolloid, but then on top of that, you've gotta make sure that the pH is exactly where it needs to be.

Erin: Talk to me a bit more about the chemistry of pectin. Specifically, how does pH factor into things?

Matt: Gelatin will exhibit its gelling behavior when you cool the solution down. Pectin is different. With pectin, they're very large molecules and these molecules bond with each other only at a certain pH. That's the only way you'll get enough of the bonds formed to generate a network and generate the structure that results in a gelled candy.

As I mentioned before, pectin requires very specific pH. If the pH is too high, you will get incomplete gelling and the product won't form into its expected structure. And if the pH is too low, you'll actually get pre-gelling. The materials start gelling before it even makes it into the candy mold, which is a real problem in a manufacturing line.

Erin: How can formulators manage pH fluctuations and what is used currently in the industry to do so?

Matt: What you're really talking about is utilizing the stabilizing influence of a buffer. A buffer or a buffer salt is frequently used. A very common one you find in this application is sodium citrate. The whole purpose of a buffer is to reduce sensitivity to pH. If you're not using a buffer, small changes in the amount of acidulant that you're using can cause really big pH swings. Their whole purpose is to stabilize pH.

Typically, if you're formulating with an acidulant and a buffer, you put them in at about equivalent levels. A very common combination in gummies is the combination of citric acid and sodium citrate. But something very important to keep in mind is that each buffer has its own preferred pH, very specific pH that it tries to keep the system at, and different buffers have different capacities for managing anything that might upset the pH.

If you use the wrong buffer, the pH can wander off in a direction you don't want it to, or if it doesn't have the right capacity, then there's a limit to how much of an acidulant you could put in to a given system.

About Bartek Ingredients

Based in North America and distributing to customers around the globe, Bartek is the world’s largest producer of malic acid and food-grade fumaric acid. Bartek serves food, beverage, confectionery, animal nutrition, and industrial markets around the globe, delivering ingredients that go beyond sour, to improve taste and mouthfeel, add differentiating attributes, increase performance, lower cost-in-use, and more. Learn more about Bartek

Erin: In doing some research on your website for this particular episode, I'm seeing a product called Pecmate. Can you tell me more about that and what it does and how is it different from sodium citrate?

Matt: Pecmate is a new buffer salt manufactured by Bartek. It would be labeled sodium malate, and it's a pretty unique buffer, especially for this application because it stabilizes pH at exactly the right range for gelling pectin in gummies. And it's got a pretty significant capacity for buffering acids, so that gives the formulator a lot of latitude in how much of the acid-buffer combination that they wanna add to the product. So really, it's the perfect buffer for pectin-based gummy.

Erin: How does Pecmate help when actives are added or when a new recipe is created?

Matt: Anytime you're formulating with an active, it's likely to upset the pH. For example, ascorbic acid, vitamin C or vitamin B, you'd like to have a buffer in place to manage that. Sodium citrate has a limit to how much buffering it can provide. And at a certain point, no matter how much you put in, the pH is going to wander away from that ideal range.

With sodium malate, you can put in a lot of buffer along with a lot of your active ingredient, and no matter what the level, the pH will stay in that target range, and that's really the unique aspect of Pecmate.

Erin: Are there any other benefits of using Pecmate that manufacturers should be aware of?

Matt: We've been talking about the benefit of Pecmate associated with pectin gelling and forming the structure of a candy or a gummy, but whenever you're working with acids and buffers, you are messing around with pH, and in confections, manipulating the sourness of a product can be a major goal of the formulator. This is a really nice tool to add to the formulator's toolbox in manipulating sour. And then secondly, acids and buffers interact with flavor systems in a way, and they can change and alter the way a flavor system presents itself.

And both of these benefits we're doing more work on, and hopefully we'll have some nice material for a future podcast, but those are two other benefits the formulator might wanna keep in mind, especially if they're formulating in the confection space.

Erin: Are there similar products or applications manufacturers could be considering if they wanted to use Pecmate?

Matt: You could imagine that anything similar to what we've been talking about, an acidic system with pectin as a gelling agent could find use for this tool. For example, other confectionery fillings, bakery fillings, jams, jellies, all these products are acidic and have frequently used pectin as the gelling agent. But you can also move away from solid type products and use acid and buffer combinations in beverages, and then all the way over to baked goods. There's a very wide field of use for acids and buffers and a very wide field of use for Pecmate in a variety of applications.

Erin: As we wrap up this episode. Are there any final thoughts or things that you'd like to share?

Jeff: Yes, Erin. I'll jump in here. First, I just want to thank you again for having Matt and I here with you today to share a bit more about Bartek and specifically our new product, Pecmate. You know, since we introduced Pecmate in early July, the response to the technology has been overwhelmingly favorable. Working with pectin is certainly hard to do and clearly Pecmate is an ingredient that can help with that and is on trend and aligned with market needs.

And this is really just the first step for us and what we expect will be some additional new product and new technology initiatives that will start coming to the market in 2022. So an example of that is we intend to expand our toolbox and our technical messaging to teach the market a bit more about how acids and performance salts like Pecmate can be used together to deliver even more unique flavor and sensory experiences, which is certainly something that multiple market segments are interested in these days. So we hope that your audience will stay tuned to more from Bartek in 2022. And thanks again.

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