Talking to FoodNavigator, CP Kelco’s Ted Russin, MSc Food Science and inventor of the multi-layer self-separating gel, said that food scientists like the layered idea but not the practicalities.
Previous approaches for multi-layered systems involve pouring out each layer and then allowing it to set before adding another layer. However, Russin’s invention allows the creation of the multi-layer gel from a single homogeneous stream.
The technology involves preparing a gel composed of two or three separate and discernable layers. The bottom layer is a clear water gel layer, the middle layer is an aerated gel layer, and the top layer is a very light foam layer.
“This distinguishing feature facilitates the production of layered dessert gels in an industrial setting removing the traditional processing limitations such as the mixing of dairy and non-dairy ingredients, the time required to pour and set three distinct layers, and/or the allergenicity and lifestyle issues surrounding protein containing desserts made from animal sources such as gelatin, at least for food gels,” explains the patent application (PCT/US2008/083856).
The product would be sold as a ready-to-eat dessert in the refrigerated aisle, he said. “It’s not shelf-stable so it does need refrigerated.” Even so, Russin puts the shelf-life at around four to six weeks, “a shelf-life comparable to single phase refrigerated gel cups currently on the market”, adds the patent application. A two-layer version, which is also covered by the patent, has a longer shelf-life of months, he said.
“There’s no protein involved,” he said, “so there are no allergen concerns. Also, all the ingredients come from vegetarian sources.”
Aspire to inspire
San Diego-based Russin explained that the project started in 2006-2007, and was initially an ‘aspirational project’.
While initial tests proved fruitless, the breakthrough came when the food scientist used Kerry Bioscience’s Myvatex Texture Lite K emulsifier blend. “The emulsifier blend can catch air, and there is a creaminess to it,” said Russin. “Not only that, but it’s less dense than water so it rises to the surface.”
The key to the multi-layered systems is the use of the emulsifier and the gellan gum instead of gelatin or carrageenan. “The low viscosity of the Kelcogel or Kelcogel F gellan gum solution matrix allows for the rapid separation of the three layers, while the relatively high setting temperature of Kelcogel or Kelcogel F gellan gum stabilizes the triple layers, in particular stabilizing the very light foam layer,” explains the application.
A patent has been filed in the US, and Russin noted that there are plans to make it an international patent.
A previous similar idea was available in the US several decades ago called Jell-O 1-2-3 by General Foods (now Kraft), and this was based on a dry mix. Russin’s innovation removes the need for the consumer to prepare the dessert in the home.
From supplier to manufacturer
During a meeting with a “very big company” Russin notes that “everyone zoomed in on this. I had no idea it would be so popular.”
Work is ongoing with the initial customer who liked the idea, but Russin said that there is no confidentiality agreement. “We are open to show it to anyone,” he said.
“This patent requires the use of Kelcogel F low acyl gellan gum and we would be more than happy and open to discussing commercial opportunities with interested food processors,” added Russin.
While the prototypes have focused on other ingredients, Russin considers that the technique could be applied to fruit juices, or even move towards savoury versions.