What about guar?

by Laurie Gorton
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The law of unintended consequences certainly prevails in the case of guar’s current high prices and tight supply.

In August, food-grade guar prices hit $5,500 per tonne (2,204.6 lb), according to reports by Dennis Seisun, principal, IMR International, and editor of the Quarterly Review of Food Hydrocolloids, San Diego, CA. This far exceeds $2,500 per tonne for medium-viscosity guar gum, a price he quoted as recently as February. He speculated on a possible market bubble in guar, but as of October, no significant price correction has occurred. Delivery times can run four to six months.

“Nobody is sure how high the cost of guar will go,” said Josh Brooks, vice-president, sales, Gum Technology Corp., Tucson, AZ.

Given skyrocketing prices and diminishing availability, formulators are actively seeking ways to extend guar or replace it altogether. For example, bakers can use synergistic blends of guar and xanthan at overall usage levels lower than the individual gums by themselves, Mr. Brooks noted.

Alternately, he suggested selecting a gum from the same seed family of galactomannans, specifically tara gum. Tara combines well with starch, and the Gum Technology produces a blend of tara and starch: Coyote Brand GumPlete ST-FF-203. This blend provides stability to fruit fillings and stops moisture absorption into spongy cakes. “It also prevents fruit filling from overflowing and becoming too molten during heating.” Mr. Brooks said.

Substitution ratios of tara for guar run from 0.5:1 to 1:1, according to Firth K. Whitehouse, PhD, global applications and marketing manager, Caremoli USA, Inc., Ames, IA, which offers CareColloid tara. “You should run tests on your specific applications to see what replacement level works for you.” She cautioned that tara is only fully functional when hydrated with hot liquids. In wetter batters, baking overcomes this issue, although longer proof times may be needed to get full functionality.

In October, TIC Gums, White Marsh, MD, introduced a guar replacer for bakery products: Ticaloid GR 5420. Compared with guar, “it provides equivalent batter viscosity and dough texture,” explained Harold Nicoll, TIC’s marketing manager. Typical usage level is 2 to 5 oz per cwt flour. The company tested the blend in white bread, plain muffins, yellow cake and bagels at 1 to 2% (flour weight basis).

Synergies exist between xanthan and guar, so bakers should look at replacing some or all guar with xanthan, according to John Reidy, market development manager, health and nutrition, Jungbunzlauer, Inc., Newton Centre, MA. “It depends upon the application whether or not a full replacement can be achieved,” he observed. Xanthan exhibits higher viscosity at lower concentrations than guar, thus enabling cost reductions.

Cellulose gums were recommended by Laurie Kronenberg, new product leader, food and pharmaceutical, Ashland Specialty Ingredients, Wilmington, DE. She noted that substitution can increase product benefits. “Aqualon cellulose gum is faster to hydrate and lower in microbial counts versus guar,” she said. It tolerates acid conditions better and can extend guar if complete replacement is not necessary.

Several gum suppliers encouraged formulators to keep an open mind about choices for guar replacement. “I advise them to consider ingredient options that might not be known as standard hydrocolloids,” said Marilyn Stieve, business development manager, Glanbia Nutritionals, Fitchburg, WI, which just introduced OptiSol 5000 based on flaxseed.
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