Despite conventional emulsifiers’ benefits and effectiveness, the fact remains that trends toward clean label ingredients have many bakers phasing conventional emulsifiers out of their formulations. 

“One of the main challenges faced when working with emulsifiers in the baking industry is their inability to meet the clean label requirements, which is a significant drawback,” said Sean Hart, R&D manager, bakery mixes and improvers, Puratos. “However, there has been remarkable progress in enzymatic technologies that have successfully replaced emulsifiers while addressing the issue of clean label appeal, resulting in improved ingredient statements for products.”

Clean label has gained traction as consumers have become even more educated when it comes to their food choices, particularly around ingredients. 

With all of that in mind, bakers looking to clean up their labels will need to pair clean emulsifying ingredients, like lecithin, with enzymatic solutions and oxidizing agents like ascorbic acid if they want the same finished product characteristics.  Yanling Yin, PhD, director of research, development and applications for bakery at Corbion, pointed out that food science has come far in developing alternatives through the use of these naturally occurring sources of emulsifiers. 

“Using a natural source of emulsifiers from egg, soybean or sunflower, for example, might be preferred for manufacturers,” she said. “Also, ingredient technology companies have been working on enzyme-based solutions to replace chemical emulsifiers.”

These enzyme-based solutions work within a wheat-based formulation to create the emulsification functionality needed to strengthen dough and soften crumb.

“Emulsifying enzymes, working on the natural lipid fractions of the wheat flour, are capable of creating emulsifiers in situ that replicate the performance of chemical emulsifiers,” said Luc Casavant, director, baking applications, Lallemand Baking. “For example, a lipase can create mono- and diglycerides, phospholipase can produce a dough strengthening molecule comparable to DATEM or SSL like digalactosyl monoglyceride, lyso-lecithin, while lipase produces starch complexing molecules like monoglycerides.”

Much of this has been made possible by the improvements in enzyme technology. 

“Enzyme suppliers have improved the enzyme’s purity, specificity and have excellent controls on the enzyme’s activity,” said Matt Feder, senior vice president of sales, Cain Food Industries. “Enzymes have been shown effectively to remove chemical emulsifiers like DATEM, SSL, mono- and diglycerides in bread applications by blending different classes of enyzmes.”

Cain Foods has used this knowledge to develop four different enzyme-based solutions that address the many functions lost when bakers turn away from conventional emulsifiers. PureBake is a dough conditioning system that improves machinability, improves loaf volume and increases shock tolerance. Alpha Soft SR is a crumb softener that provides moistness and resilience as well as a 21-plus day shelf life. Tru CLF blends ascorbic acid and enzymes for improved dough strength and volume. Ultra PF and CLDC F is a blend of enzymes for added dough stability and a tighter crumb grain.

Lesaffre’s clean label dough improvers handle a variety of issues bakers might be trying to address through emulsification. Star-Zyme MDG Replacer improves crumb softening while reducing the amount of anti-staling improvers needed by 10%-15%. Star-Zyme STR 701 R replaces DATEM, mono- and diglycerides, SSL, vital wheat gluten and L-cysteine. Star-Zyme STR 607 improves volume while replacing DATEM, SSL and vital wheat gluten. 

In response to the move away from monoglycerides, Kerry developed its Puremel ingredient, which Tim Cotrell, North America director of business development for emulsifiers, texturants and acacia, Kerry, said delivers the same emulsification and textural enhancements expected from conventional monoglycerides. The ingredient can be listed on the label as acacia and natural flavor.

“Application data shows that when Puremul is applied as an emulsifier in white bread it results in increased functionality versus distilled monoglycerides while meeting the consumer preference for natural and non-GMO ingredients,” Mr. Cotrell explained.

One of the biggest challenges when replacing conventional emulsifiers with enzymes, however, is replicating the feel of the dough. 

“Enzymatic doughs tend to not feel as conditioned or soft as a chemically emulsified dough but still have the same dough stabilization, strength, tolerance and machineability,” said Brylie True, bakery technician, Repco. “This can lead bakers to believe that if the dough does not feel the same then the bread does not perform the same; however, it will perform the same and sometimes better since enzymes have multiple functions.” 

Ms. True also noted that bakers should be aware that a formulation must contain enough substrate in order for their enzyme of choice to work optimally. 

“Each enzyme works on specific substrates that are available in the bread formulation,” she said. “If a baker is using a lean bread formula, there is a possibility there is not enough lipids for a lipase to work on, so we would not be able to formulate a solution with lipase.”

In addition to custom blends and premixes, Repco offers two emulsifier replacements: DR400 Condition to replace DATEM and SR250 Condition to replace both SSL and DATEM.

Sherrill Cropper, PhD, new product development lab manager, Lesaffre, noted that with the way consumer attitudes are shifting, clean label emulsifier solutions are here to stay, and bakers would be wise to think long-term when considering their dough conditioning needs. 

“Clean labels were once a nice-to-have, but consumer attitudes have been shifting as innovation improves,” she said. “It’s important to think long-term about where the market is going so you don’t go through the effort of choosing an emulsifier only to reformulate in a few years. The clean label alternatives are on track to become the standard, profitable option as consumers demand more and technology advances.”

This article is an excerpt from the July 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Emulsifiers, click here.