Formulators rely on emulsifiers not only to stabilize cake, donut and pastry texture and softness but also to optimize the crystal structure of icings and glazes.

In June, Corbion Caravan announced it would add propylene glycol monoesters (PGME) capabilities to one of its emulsifier production facilities. This line of ingredients is expected to reach the market in the second quarter of 2017. Primary applications will be sweet goods, bakery mixes and similar products.

“The addition of PGME means Corbion will possess all the necessary building blocks to produce a sweet goods portfolio that matches the breadth of solutions we currently offer to the bread market segment,” said Jim Robertson, global product manager, emulsifiers, Corbion Caravan.

The polyglycerol monoesters and mono- and diglycerides that characterize Palsgaard emulsifiers are derived from non-GMO vegetable oils, noted Arne Pedersen, product and application manager, Palsgaard A/S. They are activated on starch via extrusion, a process invented by the company 30 years ago.

“The whipping-active emulsifier is fixed to the outer surface of the starch particles during the extrusion process, and a very large surface area of several square meters in a single gram is created, Mr. Pedersen explained. The effect is rapid functionality with fast uptake and incorporation of air into a cake batter.” The activated emulsifier both aerates batters to form the cake’s structure and stabilizes water and oil components.

Bill Gilbert, certified master baker, principal food technologist, Cargill, explained the labeling benefit of such emulsifiers. “In some cases, finding ingredients that meet consumers’ evolving clean-label definitions and still deliver the same functionality may require more than one item,” he said. “For example, specialty modified food starches aerate and contribute to structure. They partner well with lecithin to emulsify in cake applications. There are also clean-label proteins that can help formulators replace certain emulsifiers.”

Something interesting happened when Corbion Caravan set out to produce one of its popular emulsifiers in PHO-free style: The new version turned out to be more functional. “In certain baked products, when we reformulated, we found you could reduce the usage rate over the old PHO-based products,” Mr. Robertson said. “We targeted the new emulsifiers to be the same in functionality and use but actually got a modest reduction. These improvements come from the proprietary blend of fatty acids we use. The fatty acid composition drives everything.”

Working with customers to switch formulas out of PHO-based materials, DuPont researchers advise choosing the oil first, then looking at the emulsifiers. “Because the crystallization rate of non-PHOs can be slower, we tend to use emulsifiers that enhance crystallization,” said John Neddersen, senior application scientist, emulsifiers, DuPont Nutrition & Health.

Proper crystallization of the fat and sugar system is critical to icings, frostings and glazes, but different baked products require other considerations. Mr. Neddersen recommended that formulators figure out what benefits the PHO-based material brought and then tailor solutions from there. “You have to address those aspects first,” he said. If oxidative stability is key, then look at high-oleic soy oil. Other concerns may center on aspects of lubricity, mouthfeel and tenderness.

“When looking at replacing functionality, what is expected from the emulsifier? That you can get a comparable product,” he said. You are not replacing an ingredient but a multiple-functional component.”

Technical reasons underlay such changes. “When moving to away from conventional emulsifiers to emulsifiers produced without PHOs or hydrogenation there will be slight differences in the solid fat indices over the working temperature range in production,” said Tim Cottrell, director of business development, emulsifiers and texturants, Kerry Americas.

Initial trials will identify subtle differences in handling and processing, said Ryan Smith, general manager, bakery and dairy, Kerry Americas. “Kerry recommends starting with a 1:1 replacement,” he continued. “However, in several applications such as in dough conditioners, the next generation of emulsifiers have found to be effective at slightly lower use levels compared with the conventional products.”

When it comes to more sophisticated bakery applications such as cakes, the baker may want to rethink how the batter system is engineered. “Until recently, good quality cakes or cake mixes have relied on conventional emulsified shortenings that contain PHOs and mono- and diglycerides,” Mr. Smith said. The new emulsifiers enable use of liquid oils, to dramatically reduce saturated fats and also eliminate trans fats and PHOs.

In the post-PHO, clean-label era, selecting emulsifiers has become more complicated. “Choosing the right emulsifier is a complex decision,” said Bill Gilbert, certified master baker, principal food technologist, Cargill. “Consumers are looking for shorter ingredient statements, with names they recognize, yet they won’t accept changes to the final product."