Natural surfactant opens up label benefits for food & beverage manufacturers

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Natural surfactant opens up label benefits for food & beverage manufacturers
A natural surfactant from a South American tree matched the established synthetic Tween 80 for the formation and stabilization of emulsions, says new data from a leading emulsion scientist and collaborators at Nestlé.

Data from Dr D. Julian McClements and his co-workers at the University of Massachusetts and Nestle Research showed that Ingredion’s Q-Naturale ingredient is an “effective natural surfactant that may be able to replace synthetic surfactants in food and beverage products”​.

Speaking with FoodNavigator-USA, Dr McClements said that, although the ingredient has been commercially available for several years, he became aware of it fairly recently”. 

“We wanted to systematically test its efficacy under a range of different environmental conditions to better understand its ability to both form and stabilize emulsions,”​ he explained.


Q-Naturale is derived from the South American Quillaja saponaria​ tree. Quinaia (or quinaja) saponins have around a 100 years history of use in food and beverages, as well as other uses such as production of photographic films and cosmetics.

Commenting on his new study, he added that the data will “help food and beverage manufactures to understand the range of conditions that this new surfactant can be utilized under (e.g., pH, salt concentration, temperature).”​ 


The study’s findings were welcomed by Ingredion. A spokesperson for the company told FoodNaviagtor-USA that Dr McClements is “a leading researcher on food emulsions.  His research is widely followed by researchers and the food industry”.

“The paper compared Q-Naturale and Tween 80 for their surface activity and emulsion stabilities.  Given the fact Tween 80 is the industrial standard for synthetic surfactant, it is amazing that the paper illustrated a natural extract, Q-Naturale, has identical surface activity, and good emulsion stability over wide range of pH and temperature conditions.”

Study data

Dr McClements and his co-workers compared the effectiveness of Q-Naturale to form and stabilize emulsions with Tween 80, a widely used synthetic surfactant in the food industry.

The researchers tested the efficacy of the ingredients over a wide range of conditions, and the results showed that Q-Naturale-coated droplets were stable over the pH range of pH 2-8, the temperature range 20-90 C, and a range of salt concentrations (0-500 mM NaCl).

Results indicated that the natural ingredient had “similar interfacial properties”​ as Tween 80.

“Overall, our results show that Q-Naturale is an effective natural surfactant that may be suitable for utilization in a variety of food and beverage products.

“Nevertheless, its successful application in the food and beverage industry will also depend on other factors, such as its taste profile, potential toxicity, reliability of supply, and cost,” ​they concluded.

Source: Food Hydrocolloids
Volume 30, Pages 589-596, doi: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2012.08.008
“Formation and stability of emulsions using a natural small molecule surfactant: Quillaja saponin (Q-Naturale)”
Authors: Y. Yang, M.E. Leser, A.A. Sher, D.J. McClements

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