Natural emulsifiers ‘not good enough’ to work on their own, says formulation expert

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Mayonnaise, Emulsion

Wayne Morley says that natural emulsifiers are not yet good enough to provide clean label solutions.
Wayne Morley says that natural emulsifiers are not yet good enough to provide clean label solutions.
Natural ingredients that claim to have emulsifying properties do not, as yet, have good enough functionality to be able to use them in most products, according to one formulation expert.

With so much focus on the search for natural emulsifiers, the statement may be hard to swallow for some, but according to Dr Wayne Morley, head of food innovation at Leatherhead Food Research, UK, many natural ingredients that claim to have emulsifying properties are  “just not that good really.”

And according to the ex-Unilever expert, that situation doesn’t look like changing any time soon.

“Emulsifiers are really important ingredients that allow you to form the emulsion but also in order to stabilise the emulsion. But I think with regards to natural emulsifiers, there is a fairly limited selection available really,”​ Morley told FoodNavigator.

The Leatherhead innovation expert said that whilst there are many ingredients coming onto the market “that claim to have emulsifying properties or claim to have emulsification functionalities, most just aren’t that good really.”

“They are not that effective – they have an effect, but not enough to really properly call them an emulsifier I would say.”

Morley argues that the limited choice of natural emulsifiers on the market currently means that such ingredients often have to be combined with other ingredients – it is often the ‘something else’ that can lead to problems in terms of clean labelling, he said.

“Emulsifiers are a really interesting area because of course proteins are very well known and very widely used, but in a lot of food you can’t use protein on its own – you have to use protein and another emulsifier with it to get the right functionality,”​ explained Morley. “It’s often what you use with it that causes the issues with regards to natural and clean labels.”

Natural alternatives

The formulation expert said that whilst egg yolk is a ‘very natural’ emulsifier that can be used in particular for mayonnaise and salad dressings, it is not actually that good of an emulsifier.

“It does a job in those products but it’s not that great,”​ he said.

In addition, phospholipids are also seen as very natural emulsifiers. However, Morley warned that they are ‘not effective’ for oil in water type emulsions.

“I think beyond that there are a few others available but there’s not a huge amount of versatility with regard to natural emulsifiers,”​ he said.

“That’s the part of the issue with natural ingredients that have emulsification properties – they are just not good enough,”​ said Morley. “They have some functionality, but not nearly enough.”

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