Natural emulsifier could shave costs for beverage makers

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nigeria

African gum stocks dropped off at the end of 2003 driving up prices
for acacia gum - a natural emulsifier used extensively in food and
beverage applications - squeezing margins for manufacturers. French
hydrocolloid firm Colloides Naturels International (CNI) claims its
latest acacia gum emulsifier can ease price pressures through cost
savings.

Flying the 'natural' flag, the EFICACIA emulsifier is used in doses up to five times less than the typical level in flavour emulsions.

"Our EFICACIA product can contribute to increased competitivity for food and beverage makers through strong savings and heightened emulsion stability over time, "Bénédicte Maheut​ told FoodNavigator.com.

Hydrocolloid firms are constantly trying to crack the shelf-life stability dilemma, providing the market with new competitive opportunities. For beverages, emulsions are consumed in a highly diluted form rather than in their original concentrated form.

As such, manufacturers of carbonated soft drinks, powdered drink mixes, and certain alcoholic beverages find that many of their products are inherently unstable and typically separate into two distinct phases, with flavouring oils diverging into an oily layer at the top. This will deter the consumer from buying the product on the shelf.

"The GMO-free and GRAS-recognised product stabilises flavour and beverage emulsions, guaranteeing total absence of creaming, flocculation, sedimentation or coalescence in the concentrated emulsion and after dilution,"​ added Maheut.

As well as the beverage industry, acacia gum (E414 in the EU) is widely used in the food industry, in particular the confectionery industry where it is included to delay or prevent sugar crystallisation and to emulsify fat. Wherever film-forming and emulsifiying properties are needed - without affecting taste or viscosity - gum arabic can often be found. The emulsification properties of gum arabic are also used in various flavour emulsions.

Obtained from the various species of Acacia trees - that originate in Africa - gum arabic is one of the oldest natural gums. Over 300 gum-bearing species exist, but fewer than ten are used commercially. In 1998 95 per cent of world exports came from three countries : Sudan (56 per cent), Chad (29 per cent) and Nigeria (10 per cent).

But the 2002/03 gum acacia crop was lower than normal in all the producing countries, especially in Nigeria, because the low prices at the time of harvest did not make it financially attractive for the farmers to pick the full crop.

According to leading gum arabic supplier the Agriproducts group, gum prices increased rapidly by 25 per cent to 30 per cent between March and May in 2003, quickly exhausting stocks in Nigeria, and then in Chad.

A spokesperson for US gum leader TIC Gums told FoodNavigator.com that the emulsifying grade of gum arabic has suffered a poor crop mainly due to cooler temperatures across the growing regions in Africa. "108 - 110 F is needed for the gum to flow properly, but actual temperatures hovered between 100 - 105 F. The African growing countries will not release the product until the total harvest level is known and prices can be set."

The firm has patented a replacement for emulsifying gum arabic called Ticamulsion, used at 1/3rd the usage levelof modified starches or traditional gum arabic.

Family-owned CNI claims its 100 year old relationship with key gum arabic (acacia gum) growers in Africa has resulted in good relations today which in turn translates as good supplies. The company sources its acacia gum from 16 African countries, including Mali, Niger, Chad, Nigeria and the Cameroon.

Fluctuations in overseas raw material and increased use of modified starches mean that its use in the food industry has slipped slightly in recent years. But consumer concern over genetic engineered corn is reversing this trend. Acacia gum is not chemically modified and qualifies for 'natural' labelling or 'no artificial additives' claims.

Related topics: Cereals and bakery preparations

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