Guar and xanthan gums are used on a widespread basis throughout the food industry to help thicken products, and to impart creamy consistency to ice creams and other dairy foods. These gums help to stabilize emulsions, provide good cling, inhibit syneresis by controlling crystallization in frozen products and bind water.

Guar gum is a cold water-soluble polysaccharide that has large molecules, allowing it to hydrate easily to produce water-based solutions with a high viscosity (thickness), at low gum concentrations. It is used in the beverage industry as a stabilizer in fruit juices and is utilized in dressings as a thickener. Its ability to thicken liquids allows for better pumpability during the manufacturing process and allows sauces to pour without splashing (such as pouring marinara sauce on a pizza).

Xanthan gum does an excellent job in preventing oil droplets from clumping together, such as they would do in salad dressings; it also stabilizes solutions. The gum has a low viscosity at high shear, translating into good suspension and coating properties. Xanthan gum is more heat stable than guar gum and has better acid and shear stability. It is a good candidate for thermally-processed and microwaveable foods.

Both gums are used in baked goods to increase baking volume. In meats and sausages, they are used to bind water and act as a lubricant. They help to stabilize the milk proteins in dairy-based sauces, such as Alfredo sauces, where de-stabilized proteins can give the sauce a curdled appearance. In ice cream, they contribute good mouthfeel, as well as help to protect the product during the distribution chains' inevitable heat/thaw cycles.

Bowls With Safety in Mind

Michelina's, Duluth, Minn., recently introduced its line of Homestyle Bowls, a convenient alternative to typical frozen dinners. The single-serve bowl can be heated in the oven or microwave and the outer carton even becomes a safety device: diners can put the hot bowl in it after heating so that they do not burn their fingers. The bowls contain xanthan gum which, in addition to its stabilizing and freeze/thaw properties, is being used to suspend active ingredients during the freeze cycle. The gum helps protect the product from syneresis, or weeping, and, generally, helps to give the product a good appearance.

Crunchy Ice Cream

Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, Oakland, Calif., teamed up with Masterfoods to present Edy's Snickers Cruncher ice cream, noted as new this past spring on the Global New Products Database. The ice cream features crisped rice, crunchy peanuts, caramel and vanilla ice cream, presented in a 48-fl. oz. paperboard tub. The ingredient panel lists guar gum and carrageenan, both hydrocolloids used to stabilize dairy products and contribute mouthfeel. The guar gum helps control the formation of ice crystals that are the result of the heat/thaw cycle experienced during distribution.

Two Dressings in One

Kraft's, Northfield, Ill., new Blue Cheese Ranch Dressing is an addition to a wide variety of dressings, but this one seems to be more exciting because it has both blue cheese and ranch flavors. As a dressing, the mixture needs to be emulsified and stabilized, which is why xanthan gum is used. The label highlights an “Easy Pour Top.” The gum's pseudo-plastic properties will permit the product to flow out quickly while the bottle is shaking, but then allow it to cling to the greens.

Rich, Thick BBQ Sauce

Campbell Soup Company's, Napoleon, Ohio, new addition to the Open Pit barbecue sauce line also features xanthan gum, a key ingredient in making it thicker. The sauce is to be brushed on foods before baking, or during the last phase of grilling. It needs to be thick in order to cling to the meat or vegetables, and the gum also offers its emulsification properties—it helps keep the ingredients from separating and adds just the right amount of viscosity and cling.

Genuine Mexican Flavor

Specialty Brands', Ontario, Calif., Jose Ole line of seven fully flavored Mexican dishes addresses consumers' desire for genuine ethnic foods. Jose Ole steak and cheese frozen, rolled tacos come eight to a 1-pound bag and can be heated in the oven or microwave. The company claims to have surveyed consumers in order to provide a genuinely ethnic taste, and the crispy texture of the tacos is important. The guar gum likely helps bind the meat in the tacos, as well as contributes hydration and water-binding functions, protecting the crispy shell. Again, in a frozen product, the gum will help protect it from syneresis and weeping, and will help maintain its freeze/thaw stability. .

Thick, Rich Dips

Tostitos, a subsidiary of PepsiCo Inc., Purchase, N.Y., added another member to its line of cheese dips last year. Consumers enjoy dips that are thick and have good cling, the reason why xanthan gum figures into its ingredient label. The gum helps stabilize the mixture, adds body to it and gives it a pleasant mouthfeel, thereby doing its job. The dip is labeled “medium,” a warning to those eating that it is just a bit spicy. Interestingly, the perception of what is spicy (hot) has changed, as consumers have cultivated a tolerance for hot foods. What is now labeled as “medium” might have been “hot” just a few years ago.

Sidebar: Going Global

Lowfat products have special considerations and guar and xanthan gums are key to creating a smooth, creamy mouthfeel. Additionally, their thickening properties help make the batter heavier and they add volume to baked goods. In Australia, Green's DeLites added Tropical Fruit Cake to their line, a product that is 97% fat free. The box contains a real can of fruit and consumers need only to prepare the mix. Another addition to the line, not shown, was Choc Caramel Fudge Muffins, to which an egg and water must be added.

Brazilians continue to embrace ready-made meals and Prato Predileto introduced Strogonoff de Frango, a chicken strogonoff meal, to satisfy them. The xanthan and guar gums bind the meat in the meal, as well as help thicken the gravy. The product claims to have no additives or preservatives.