Food manufacturers are working hard to reduce or remove the negatives, like sugar, salt and fat, and add back the positives, like iron, calcium and vitamins. But this is not problem-free, and problems need solutions. Dr. Steve Bodicoat, marketing and innovations director for CP Kelco, said that pectin may be the most versatile solution to solving the problems presented by the shift towards health and wellness. Bodicoat explained that many of these micronutrients do not exist in the initial materials, be that water, dairy or soya systems. By adding these micronutrients to the formulation, and thereby increasing the particle content, ingredients are then needed to help suspend and stabilise the functional ingredients. "This is creating fantastic opportunities for us as a hydrocolloids company to provide solutions about suspension and stabilisation without just thickening the beverage so it becomes undrinkable," he said. Other pectin producers think the same. Ralph Appel, business unit leader, Cargill Texturizing explained: "In the production of health foods, pectins and hydrocolloids in general can play a significant role in creating good texture, mouthfeel and taste and so on, particularly if other elements such as salt, fat or sugar have been reduced." Getting in a jam over pectin For many people pectin is forever associated with Grandma's jam making. But even the jam is feeling the effects of health and wellness, with the industry is no longer the sole domain of high sugar jams with high solid content that used high methoxyl (HM) pectin. The chemical structure of pectin is based on a chain of repeating galacturonic acid units. In very basic terms, galacturonic acid has a ring structure with a carboxyl (CO2-) group jutting out. In nature, a large portion of these carboxyl groups have methanol (CH3OH) bonded via a reaction called esterification. A high degree of esterification, or many bonded methanol groups, produces a high methoxyl (HM) pectin, while a low degree of esterification gives a low methoxyl (LM) pectin. The ratio of esterified to non-esterified galacturonic acid units plays a central role in determining the properties and behaviour of the pectin, and determines which food applications it can be used in. The growing consumer demand for low sugar jams due to weight management issues, coupled with regulation changes in the EU that allow for a product with a lower solid content to still be called a jam, has seen an increase in the use LM pectin. "These products of lower sugar content tend to be slightly less acidic and require a pectin that will gel effectively under these conditions," explains Appel. "This is where the LM pectins - and specifically the LMA pectins (Amidated Low Methoxyl pectin) - are appropriate. These pectins rely on the presence of bivalent cations typically calcium - to build a gel." Amidated pectin is a chemically modified form whereby some galacturonic acid is converted to carboxylic acid amide by reaction with ammonia. "Thus the rise in consumer demand for reduced sugar and sugar-free jams is driving the market for LMA pectins, rather than inherent health benefits," he said. The LM pectin market is subject to "even tighter demand", added Bodicoat. Pectin has a set gelling temperature, like a melting point of a compound, and this depends on the characteristics of the pectin. Heating the ingredients above this temperature will cause pectin to dissolve, and when this is followed by cooling beneath the gelling temperature gel will start to form. The chemical structure, including the level of esterification, and nature of other ingredients determines the strength of the gel. For example, calcium plays a significant role in gelling and is needed for LM pectins for form a gel since the pectin lacks methoxy groups on the carboxyl parts, the calcium acts as a bridge to bind pectin molecules together. Tomorrow, FoodNavigator will look at pectin as an alternative to dairy proteins, and its potential to be used to encapsulate valuable ingredients.