Developing products which are functional as well as cost-effective seems more daunting than ever. This is certainly evident in the world of hydrocolloids or gums. Since many gums come from trees in the form of seeds, i.e., locust bean gum or various seaweeds such as agar, these materials can be in short supply--be it due to poor climate, labor conditions or increasing demand from developing markets. With the current skyrocketing cost of energy and valuations in the U.S. dollar, rising costs are a serious consideration for any product development team.
The solution lies in creating gum blends that utilize the synergies between various gums. These stabilizing systems maintain the functionality of individual gums, while using less of each individual component. Blends can balance the properties of each gum to meet the needs of the end product.
“Gums have unique properties and functionalities, necessary in a variety of applications,” says Joshua Brooks, vice president of sales for Gum Technology Corporation. “Locust bean gum, for example, with its ability to bind water, is effective in reducing ice crystallization in frozen foods, extending shelflife and resulting in a more appealing product.” Locust bean gum is unique in that it reacts synergistically with other gums. Combined with carrageenan, locust bean gum prevents syneresis and provides the perfect gel structure for shelf-stable gel desserts. Agar is unique in that it has a high melting temperature. Aida Prenzno, director of R&D for Gum Technology, indicates that agar gels will melt at 85°-90°C. “This would be the gum for a cake icing or donut glaze, since it will not easily thermo reverse or crack.”
R&D departments have been hard-pressed to find alternatives which can provide the specific functions of locust bean gum or agar. “That's where Gum Technology comes in. Although we offer almost every type of gum, we've always used our technology to develop stabilizing systems which are functional alternatives to the higher-cost, commodity-type gums,” says Brooks. Its systems are comprised of gums, mono- and diglycerides, or other hydrocolloids such as starches or oat fiber, depending on the application. “In most situations, these are 1:1 replacements. For example, Gum Technology's Coyote Brand CT line of stabilizers, comprised of various blends of tara and carrageenan, are excellent replacements for locust bean-carrageenan blends at a cost savings of about 40%. Since tara gum does not require heating for full activation the way locust bean gum does, there is an additional energy savings as well.”
Currently, agar prices have been rising, causing development teams to search for alternatives. “A lot of customers are changing from agar to our stabilizer VPB-1, a konjac-carrageenan blend. The synergy between these two gums creates a gel strength similar to agar and, at the same time, with less of its off-odor characteristic. It is also much less susceptible to shortages in raw material,” Brooks says. “Furthermore, our technology enables us to formulate our blends to provide just the right viscosity or clarity of gel to meet any application.”