Making the switch to natural emulsifiers

Emulsifiers are often viewed as the unsung heroes of the food processing industry. They assist with the texturisation of a product, extend shelf-life and play a significant role in shrinkage resistance, syneresis and sedimentation. While COVID-19 has placed a spotlight on enhanced nutrition and an upswing in the use of clean label ingredients, it has, conversely, widened consumer appreciation for products with a longer shelf-life.1

As consumer demand for healthier products continues to grow, so do the food industry’s requirements for natural emulsifiers. According to Innova Market Insights2, 26.5% of all global food and beverage launches recorded by the company in 2020 used one or more clean label claim, whether natural, organic, no additives/preservatives or GMO-free. In the US, this jumped to 37% of new launches.3 In terms of GMO-free claims, 2020 saw 19.4% of products making a GMO-free claim. This trend is shifting industry focus to natural emulsifying options such as lecithin, which is found in egg yolk and oil seeds.4

Natural emulsifiers

Apart from emulsification, clean label emulsifiers can also offer certain health and wellness advantages. Protein, such as pea, soy and fava bean contribute to a product’s overall protein content and product stability, while fibres, such as citrus, apple, maple and beetroot could play an important part in fibre enrichment and fat reduction.5

Lecithin on the other hand, increases the functional phospholipid content of a food or beverage product. While protein and polymeric emulsifiers may not be as effective as synthetic emulsifiers, they do provide additional functionality by forming thick layers at interfaces that impart long-term stability.6

New sources of potentially label-friendly emulsifiers continue to be discovered. Understanding the structure-function-performance relationships of stabilisation and emulsification is key to identifying candidates that, with some minor process modifications, can become viable clean label emulsifiers.

One of these innovative products causing a stir is made from red maple wood. The product, Nouvarant, is classified as a plant-based, clean label emulsifier, humectant and texturant. It has showed its efficacy as an emulsification and mono-diglyceride replacement in some dairy applications.7

A recent article in Baking Business8 indicates that, when deciding on a clean label emulsifier alternative, it is important to understand what functions the chemical emulsifiers are serving in the application, and how to replace them.

The use of monoglycerides in bread for instance can extend shelf-life, improve process tolerances, crumb texture and loaf volume, and enable clean and efficient slicing.

Other emulsifiers such as SSL or DATEM interact with gluten proteins of bread products, resulting in quite different effects such as increased proof tolerance and larger loaf volume. While in sweet applications, emulsifiers like propylene glycol monoesters (PGME) stabilise the batter and plasticise the crumb chemistry to deliver a smooth eating quality.9

Replacing these functionalities requires working side-by-side with ingredient suppliers to find the right clean label emulsification solution for the application. Resources must be spent on understanding the role of chemicals emulsifiers and identifying clean label, functional solutions and how to use them during product development.

Clean label formulation is not without its challenges. Emulsifiers can require higher usage rates, and they might not be as easy to incorporate or function over time, requiring different process conditions. When experimenting with clean-label formulation, it can be difficult for processors to predict the effect that processing and other elements of formulating will have on the product.

Another potential challenge to switching to clean-label emulsifiers is price. Clean label ingredients can be more expensive than artificial, chemical or overly processed ingredients. Often processors are not able to pay significant amounts more for a clean label. It gets tricky trying to formulate something with more costly ingredients, while keeping overall costs the same.10

A trend gaining traction is the use of multifunctional ingredients that serve more than one purpose during processing. Very few natural ingredients provide multiple functionality and stability in food processing, but research indicates that citrus fibre can provide high water and emulsification properties.

Lecico, which forms part of the Avril Group, offers high quality organic lecithin, including fluid lecithin, soya phospholipids, deoiled and organic lecithin. The latter is ecologically produced and meets all requirements for organic and non-GMO production. Lecico’s portfolio of lecithin’s suitable for clean label production is comprehensive, offering products that are organic, non-GMO, Kosher-certified and offer full traceability. Organic lecithin’s are certified according to IMO standard, DE-ÖKO 005, and comply with the guidelines of Regulations (EC) no 834/2007 and (EC) 889/2008.

In the complicated processing environment of clean label, the field is open for many new ingredients to leverage the ability to create emulsions that straddle technical and health functions. To understand the full service offering across the fat and oil, bakery, health food and confectionery sectors, contact the Lecico team now for more information on how to make clean label products a reality.






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