Take out trans fat, innovate in organic

by Jeff Gelski
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Gum applications may interest food and beverage processors if they seek to develop products reduced in trans fat, enhanced with fiber or organically certified. Potential cost savings could be another factor to consider.

The emergence of the natural and organic market impressed Sharrann Simmons, vice-president and general manager for Colloides Naturels, Inc., Bridgewater, N.J., when she visited the Natural Products Expo West in March in Anaheim, Calif.

"It was huge," she said. "(Organics has) really gone mainstream."

Acacia gum, also known as gum Arabic, tends to be all natural and free of bioengineered organisms, Ms. Simmons said. If processors want to create natural or organic products and then have trouble finding an all-natural starch, they potentially could use all-natural gums instead, she said. Colloides Naturels offers three gum products that are certified organic.

TIC Gums, Inc., Belcamp, Md., now offers a certified organic hydrocolloid line, said Scott Riefler, president of TIC Gums. Many processors may not know that organic hydrocolloids are available, he said, but they should because of a rule revision in the National Organic Program regulations (see Page 16). Non-organically produced products listed in section 205.606 of the regulations may be used as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as "organic" only when such organic products are not commercially available.

Changing textures, shapes

TIC Gums will use "texture innovation center" as its booth theme for the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Food Expo in Orlando, Fla., this month, Mr. Riefler said. The company wants to increase its role as a consultant to customers, who increasingly are changing the shape and texture of their products.

"In the food category, a lot of effort is going into slicing and dicing — figuratively, not literally," he said. "Companies are changing the product form. That’s a terrific opportunity for texturants. Gum applications are going to grow in support of that product proliferation."

Mr. Riefler pointed to yogurt as an example. It now may come firm in a cup or squeezable in a tube or able to spread on a piece of bread, not to mention the recent trend of drinkable yogurts.

Gums specifically have the ability to mimic fat and provide texture similar to fat, a trait that proves especially beneficial in the development of products free of trans fat, Mr. Riefler said. Keeping the texture of cream fillings in baked foods while taking out the trans fat is one example, he said.

Gum in the classrooms

Increased use of gums in food and beverage applications could lead to university food science departments offering more classes on gums that describe their functions and chemical structures, Mr. Riefler said.

"Right now gums are not widely taught in food science programs," he said.

The African agriculture sector has learned about acacia gum in recent years, Ms. Simmons said. About 10 years ago only two or three African countries exported the gum, which is sourced solely from sub-Saharan Africa. Thanks to education efforts about how acacia gums may produce a cash crop, the gum now is produced for export in about 15 countries, Ms. Simmons said. While about 60,000 tonnes of acacia gum is being used in the world now, about 200,000 tonnes of acacia gum biomass is known to exist, Ms. Simmons said.

For one other possibility, Ms. Simmons said Colloides Naturel is interested in entering into partnership agreements or supply agreements with other gum suppliers. Combining with a supplier of insoluble fibers would be a possibility. Acacia gum is a soluble fiber.

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