Hydrocolloids have become trendier as of lately. Chefs featured on the Food Network and the television show “Top Chef” experimenting with molecular gastronomy have moved gums to the limelight. Hydrocolloids are now performing beyond their standard functionalities to advance functional beverages.

“When it comes to the use of hydrocolloids in beverages, the first thing that crossed people’s mind was their role as an emulsifier and stabilizer in flavor emulsion for carbonated soft drinks,” says Sebastien Baray, technical manager at Colloides Naturels International (CNI), Rouen, France. “But the nutritional interest is also more and more important, and the use of hydrocolloids in beverages, such as acacia gum, is now indeed more often due to an original combination of technical and nutritional functionalities.”

Gums now have a positive perception as a beneficial ingredient in many beverage and food applications, says Joshua Brooks, vice president of sales at Gum Technology Corp., Tucson, Ariz.

“The health and wellness industry in particular has taken off over the past few years,” he says. “Consumers have become more educated and have learned that hydrocolloids are functional ingredients.”

“The more that the consumer, who is concerned with health and wellness, sees these hydrocolloids listed on their beverage labels, the more they may appreciate that they are going to ingest a beverage which has added benefits,” Brooks adds. “This association also transfers to the general food and beverage market. A consumer knowing that these ingredients can be found in nutraceuticals welcomes them on the grocery shelf.”

Gum’s multiple uses
Hydrocolloids, including gums, pectins and carrageenan, among others, provide several functions in beverages.

“Hydrocolloids enable ingredients to be used in a successful manner with equal distribution and with pleasant, light mouthfeel and clean flavor release,” says Jane Schulenburg, global marketing director at CP Kelco, Atlanta. “They help other things work.”

Gums, such as fenugreek gum and guar gum, are cold water soluble, quick hydrating, stabilizing and are used in instant beverages as a thickening agent. Acacia gum has been used at very high concentrations in drinks, when one might not want to increase viscosity, but would like to make a fiber claim, Gum Technology’s Brooks says.

More than a source of dietary fiber, acacia gum also allows the reduction of calories in a beverage without the loss of any organoleptical quality, CNI’s Baray says. Acacia gum is being used in reduced-sugar and low-fat beverages because the roundness and mouthfeel it imparts mimic the texture brought by sucrose or fruit juice, he explains.

Low-viscosity and clarified hydrocolloids also represent interesting areas for new beverage developments because they can be used at higher levels in beverages to reach the nutritional claim thresholds with no detrimental impact on the texture and the visual aspect of the finished product, Baray says. CNI offers Fibregum Clear, a highly purified and clarified acacia gum with a guaranteed minimum level of 90 percent soluble fiber and a low viscosity.

In addition to acacia gum, other hydrocolloids can be used as a fiber fortification in drinks. Hydrocolloids like low-viscosity guar gum, inulin and larch gum do not provide much viscosity and can be used to fortify drinks with high doses of soluble fiber, says Grace Wang, food scientist at TIC Gums Inc., Belcamp, Md. They also are considered prebiotics, she adds.

In performance beverages, thickening and emulsifying systems commonly are used to give milkshake-like textures, prevent separation and help round out some of the off-flavors or textures associated with highly fortified products, Wang says. TIC Pretested Dairyblend 603-EP FF and TIC Pretested Stabilizer 10749-PC are both suitable for milk-based drinks and juice smoothies for their ability to thicken, emulsify and stabilize proteins.  

In addition, TIC Gums offers TIC Pretested Guarcel 302 FF, a cold water soluble thickener for dry mix applications and TIC Pretested Gum Arabic Spray Dry and TIC Pretested Ticamulsion A-2010 for use in concentrated beverage emulsions. The latter has been found to work well in forming stable high-oil emulsions, Wang says.

Another gum, gellan gum from CP Kelco functions in systems that need suspension, such as high-protein beverages, Schulenburg says. “It likes being in that environment and it’s very pH insensitive so gellan gum can be used in all kinds of pH ranges,” she says.

CP Kelco also offers carboxymethyl cellulose gum (CMC), which is very economical, she says. In acid drinks, CMC provides protein stability and mouthfeel, and it prevents the coagulation and settling of milk proteins. In other beverages and juices, CMC improves mouthfeel and stabilization.  

Xanthan gum also is used in beverages for its rheological and stabilizing properties. Xanthan gum can provide stabilization of an emulsion or an oil and water-type system, Schulenburg says.

“In functional and health and wellness beverages, xanthan gum is used, often in combination with guar gum, and in fiber-enriched fruit juices to stabilize the fiber system, respectively, to prevent sedimentation of the fibers,” Achim Hergel, product manager, xanthan gum at Jungbunzlauer, Basel, Switzerland.

Jungbunzlauer offers several special grades of xanthan gum for beverages, such as Xanthan Gum FF (fine granulation), FNQH (a treated xanthan which allows quick hydration, for a rapid viscosity build-up) and FED (a granulated xanthan which is easily dispersible, for prevention of lump formation during hydration).

Solutions for suspension
Beverage formulators have been using pectins to suspend proteins in acidified milk beverages.

“When heated, proteins tend to denature and curdle,” Gum Technology’s Brooks says. “These positive, electrostatically charged milk proteins can be stabilized with various pectins which are negatively charged.”

Acid dairy drinks represent one of the fastest growing sectors in the healthy food and drinks market, says Lorna Macfadyen, beverage category manager Europe, Middle East and Africa at Cargill Texturing Solutions. Adding high methoxyl pectin (HM pectin) to acid milk drinks is one way to prevent the formation of sediment. Minneapolis-based Cargill Texturing Solutions’ Unipectine AYD series has been designed for the stabilization of acid dairy drinks. In order to produce a smooth, well-stabilized acid dairy drink, suitable for a wide range of textures and applications, it is necessary to create small particles of protein, Macfadyen explains. These then are coated with the dispersing agent, the HM pectin, which acts to prevent the particles from agglomerating, she says. If it is to act as a stabilizing agent, HM pectin must first adhere to the surface of the casein particles and then prevent them from sticking together.

Cargill also has formulated a range of HM pectins especially for use in fruit beverages, the Unipectine Q series. The range includes apple (Unipectine Q) and citrus (Unipectine QC) versions to optimize the behavior required in the drink, Macfadyen says. Both pectins, while offering a natural and appealing mouthfeel, do not mask or modify the flavor and, in some cases, may even enhance the flavor profile, she says.

Another important issue in beverages is to achieve fruit pulp suspension without bringing too much viscosity to the beverage. For that specific purpose, Cargill has developed Flanogen QST 200, a blend of alginate and pectin which provides a fluid gel. The fluid gel is strong enough at rest to support the weight of fruit pulps, is able to rebuild after shaking, but does not present viscosity when the beverage is poured into a glass or consumed, Macfadyen says.

Particle suspension also is a consideration with chocolate milk drinks, as cocoa powder is an insoluble substance that will form a dry sediment under any storage conditions, Macfadyen says. Carrageenans such as Cargill’s Satiagel series create a tri-dimensional network that enables the suspension of insoluble components like cocoa powder. In addition, Cargill’s Aubygel ABN series, comprising blends of processed euchemea seaweeds, has been specially designed for chocolate and soy milk applications, Macfadyen says.

CP Kelco also offers carrageenan, which in addition to its use in dairy-based drinks and cocoa suspension, is used for suspension purposes in ready-to-drink coffee beverages.   

The company also offers microparticulated whey protein concentrate. CP Kelco’s Simplesse microparticulated whey protein concentrate are uniform protein particles with an average diameter of 1 micron. The microparticulation process denatures the protein to impart a decreased tendency to aggregate and gel upon heating. The ingredient is an emulsifier and offers a fat-like mouthfeel suitable to be used in creamy beverages, Schulenburg says.

Working in tandem
The interaction of gums resulting in synergies are going further to provide a greater range of functionality than single gums alone. Time-pressed manufacturers are increasingly looking to ingredient suppliers to provide them with complete functional systems based on specific blends of hydrocolloids and other texturizing ingredients, rather than just raw materials, Cargill’s Macfadyen says.

For example, beverage manufacturers often ask to improve textures or mouthfeel and suspend proteins and fruit particulates in smoothies, shakes, juices as well as in acidified milk beverages, Gum Technology’s Brooks says. “We have learned that xanthan for instance might provide a good body in a smoothie,” he explains. “However, by adding just the right amount, which would be at a very low usage level, of CMC you can improve the creaminess and create a better mouthfeel resulting in a smoothie which tastes and feels richer and may therefore sell better in the marketplace.”

CNI has developed a formula to boost nutrition in a beverage. The company is a part of the Iranex Group, Rouen, France, which also includes Bio Serae Laboratories, Bram, France, a supplier of nutraceutical ingredients. CNI and Bio Serae co-developed a formulation with health benefits combining Fibregum from CNI with Bio Serae’s Cacti-Nea, a cactus fruit extract Opuntia ficus indica. The formulation is especially developed for instant beverage application and combines Cacti-Nea’s diuretic and weight-management properties with Fibregum’s prebiotic and fiber enrichment effects, says Catherine Lecareux, marketing director at Iranex Group.

Cargill has developed a range of functional systems – the Lygomme QMF series – to optimize the choice of colloids depending on the specific needs for the drink. The Lygomme QMF range, consists of different gum combinations which have been optimized to bring maximum viscosity, be flexible toward pH and provide good sensorial profile, but each product has its own specificity. BI