Clean considerations when choosing emulsifiers

by Jeff Gelski
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Emulsifiers, bread
Emulsifiers may be used primarily for textural purpose in bread.
 

KANSAS CITY — Emulsifiers fall into different categories when it comes to passing the test for entry into “clean label” grain-based food products. Lecithin ingredients are more likely to pass. Monoglycerides, although they may draw more scrutiny, potentially could work, too. Emulsifiers based on palm oil may need to answer this question: Was the palm oil sourced sustainably?

The clean label door tends to stay shut on these emulsifiers: DATEM (diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides), SSL (sodium stearoyl lactylate) and PGE (polyglycerol esters).

“Clean label is on every manufacturer’s to-do list and finding ‘clean’ alternatives to PGE, DATEM and SSL has been a challenge for formulators, as all are very effective in bakery products,” said David Guilfoyle, group manager bakery/fats and oils for DuPont Nutrition & Health, New Century, Kas. “Lecithin has been the go-to choice for clean label as it is effective, though not to the same degree as PGE, DATEM and SSL, at creating an emulsion. Replacing PGE, DATEM and SSL functionalities may require more than a clean label emulsifier like lecithin, and we have seen that the addition of hydrocolloids can also add the other functionalities that lecithin alone cannot replace.”

Monoglycerides often pass the clean label test, said Tim Cottrell, director of business development for emulsifiers for Kerry and based in Beloit, Wis.

“Right now, the more complex emulsifiers that we have used historically in baked goods, like the DATEM, the SSL, propylene glycol esters, these are kind of on the hit list,” he said. “Clean label would preclude the use of those sort of products, but the very simple products like monoglycerides, I would say those are really the workhorse of the industry because if you’re getting rid of all these unique emulsifiers, you still need some sort of emulsification or some functionality. Monoglycerides are generally still accepted by companies.”

Monoglycerides work especially well in starch-based products like bread.

“They interact with the starch components of the product, and they slow down the firming of the product, the staling or firming reaction,” Mr. Cottrell said. “They are often used for some of the textural benefits of freshly baked products, in helping that texture stay for several days.”

Kerry offers an emulsifier that is more than 95% monoglycerides, with diglycerides also in the ingredient. Care must be taken with labeling, though, Mr. Cottrell said. Monoglycerides provide the emulsifying properties in mono- and diglycerides.

“The F.D.A. (Food and Drug Administration) only recognizes the term mono- and diglycerides,” he said. “So the correct labeling on any baked product sold in the U.S. — regardless if you used distilled
monoglycerides or a high purity product — it still needs to be labeled as mono- and diglycerides.”

Some Kerry customers still want to keep mono- and diglycerides off the ingredient lists of their products, Mr. Cottrell said. Lecithin might be an option for them. Lecithin typically does not perform as well as monoglycerides and may need to be used at higher levels.

“They can reduce the surface tension,” Mr. Cottrell said of lecithin ingredients. “They can help with mixing.”

Soy, sunflower and rapeseed are plant sources of lecithin, Mr. Guilfoyle said.

“These lecithin sources are equal in their ability to create an emulsion,” he said. “The difference will be whether the bakery is limited by handling allergens. If the bakery is limited by handling allergens, then sunflower or rapeseed will be the source to use for lecithin. DuPont Nutrition & Health can source both soy and sunflower lecithin.”

Sunflower and canola are one-to-one replacements for soy in lecithin ingredients, said Bill Gilbert, certified master baker, principal food technologist for Cargill, Minneapolis.

“However, sunflower has some availability concerns, so check with your supplier,” he said. “When considering non-allergen options, canola will have the best availability and cost in use. Non-G.M.O. options are available in all botanical sources.”

Cargill now offers a canola lecithin that is non-allergen and non-G.M.O./non-bioengineered.

“Our work with lecithin gives consumers what they want: shorter, understandable ingredient lists,” Mr. Gilbert said. “Equally important, it gives bakers what they need: cost-effective formulations that consistently produce high-quality, 21-day shelf-stable products.”

Lecithin works as an emulsifier that binds water to oil or oil to water (lipophilic, hydrophilic), but bakers at times will need other emulsifiers, he said.

“However, if I need foaming and/or structure for aeration, that will need additional work,” Mr. Gilbert said. “Cakes must develop microscopic air bubbles in the mixing stage, which creates specific gravity. Achieving the specific gravity leads to fine grain texture in the finished cake.

“While emulsifiers like mono- and diglycerides and polysorbate 60 are trusted emulsifiers, many customers want to replace them with clean label alternatives. Although these alternatives are not yet fully developed, some common ingredient blends can help. Industry food scientists are working on solutions, which should be available in the coming years.”

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