As the healthy eating trend continues its momentum, consumers around the world are demanding new nutritional solutions with a healthier profile. In the Asia Pacific region for instance, 71 percent of people looking to lose weight are actively adapting their diets to include healthier, more natural options and 68 percent is trying to do so by cutting fat content, according to a 2014 Nielsen Global Health & Wellness Survey.
At the same time, many consumers want to include more protein in their diet. Indeed, 34 percent of consumers surveyed in Asia Pacific consider the claim ‘high in protein’ as an added value. With this growing body of market research confirming the soaring demand for low-fat, clean label products, healthier reformulation is becoming a top priority for food and drink manufacturers. Yet, although such healthy attributes are identified as a strong influencing factor in the purchasing decision process, there is additional recent market analysis from Information Resources Incorporated that suggests there has been an increase in global sales in the indulgent category of 3.1 percent in 2015, outpacing healthy options by over half a percentage point.
In such a complex marketplace where both flavour and a healthy profile are kings, how should manufacturers respond to the demand for new dietary choices?
Gelatin—The Natural Solution
Gelatin is a food ingredient of natural origin that has no e-number. Typically consisting of 85 percent protein, 13 percent water and two percent minerals, it is classified as a foodstuff by the majority of administrative authorities and is therefore the preferred fat substitute that can be listed as a clean label ingredient.
Besides its nutritional value, gelatin is a multi-functional ingredient. But what really makes it unique in functionality is its thermo-reversible gelling power. Gelatin-based formulations gel when cooled and liquefy when subsequently heated. This transformation occurs rapidly and can be repeated without significant changes in characteristics.
Gelatin offers a number of other well-known benefits in food production in addition to gelling. These include foaming, emulsifying and binding properties. The ingredient is water soluble, for example, and can provide a stabilising effect compatible with other hydrocolloids, including vegetable hydrocolloids like agar-agar, alginates, carrageenans or pectins. It is also effective when used with sugars, corn syrups, edible acids and flavours and its multi-functional properties offer an ideal fi t across clean label applications.
Gelatin is a pure protein obtained through the acid, alkaline or partial enzymatic hydrolysis of collagen. When extracting gelatin from its original source, processing factors including time, pH and temperature are carefully supervised. Although the number of extractions tends to vary depending on the gelatin’s final application, commonly used gelatin is produced with three to six extractions.
The first extraction takes place at around 50 deg C, with following extractions made at intervals increasing by 5-10 deg C, followed by the final extraction carried out close to boiling point. The early extractions of gelatin have higher gel strength, higher molecular weight and a lighter colour, whereas the later extractions, have a lower gel strength, lower molecule weight and a darker colour.
A specific characteristic of gelatin is its so-called ‘bloom’. The bloom value specifies the gelling strength of gelatin. Typical premium quality gelatins would have bloom values from 75 to 300.
A Healthier Alternative
For manufacturers tasked with reducing the proportion of sugar and fat in products, delivering the same eating enjoyment presents a number of technical challenges. Often, these ingredients provide important functional properties, such as bulking, mouthfeel and flavour, so it is crucial that they are replaced with options which can replicate some or all of these characteristics.
Gelatin is a proven, effective alternative to less healthy ingredients such as sugar and fat. Its unique foaming properties allow it to retain a mass of bubbles of air, a process known as colloidal dispersion, which manufacturers can use to increase the levels of air in food, and therefore reduce the number of calories per portion. Moreover, its binding and stability properties enable manufacturers to replace fat with water and yet keep the preserving properties of fat with no impact on shelf life.
The viscosity of gelatin below melting point also gives it a smooth consistency and a fat-like mouthfeel. It therefore delivers the sensation of a full-fat product while simultaneously increasing protein content, and also conferring the same texture and mouthfeel as full-fat products yet with fewer calories than fat, four kilocalories per gram as compared to nine kilocalories per gram.
Gelatin In Food And Drinks
Widely used in the confectionery industry, gelatin is popular for its texture enhancing capabilities. Added to confectionery to create foam, gel or melting texture, it provides a slow dissolving rate that extends flavour and enjoyment. Gelatin is also used in aerated confectionery, such as marshmallows, to stabilise and set foam from gelation and prevent sugar crystallisation.
As consumer health awareness grows, gelatin desserts are becoming a popular low-caloric alternative to traditional desserts. Water jellies are the most common type of gelatin desserts as they are easy-to-make and have a quick setting time. Gelatin is also used in cake filling and coating due to its excellent foaming, coating and stabilising properties.
Beverages And Juice
Gelatin is traditionally used in the beverage and juice industry as a fining agent for wines and fruit juices. By incorporating gelatin in cloudy liquids, it aids in precipitating and binding with compounds to reduce clarity. The ingredient is particularly suited for red wine, beer and apple juice clarification as it reduces turbidity and the astringency of final beverage without having any negative impact on suitable flavour components.
By adding gelatin to dairy products, it can prevent syneresis— extraction or expulsion of a liquid from gel—and improve foaming and stabilising of the aerated structure. It can also provide a soft creamy texture and improve the shelf-life of many dairy products. Popular applications for gelatin in dairy products include mousses, quark, desserts, yoghurt and ice-cream.
A natural food ingredient, gelatin, and consequently hydrolysed gelatin, contains 18 different amino acids, including eight out of the nine essential amino acids, with the exception being tryptophan.
Unlike other protein sources used in the food industry, such as soy, whey and pea protein, gelatin is particularly rich in hydroxyproline. This unique amino acid composition gives gelatin, the precursor of hydrolysed gelatin, the ability to form three dimensional networks in water and deliver a number of important hydrocolloid functionalities.
In response to the high protein trend, manufacturers have ventured into creating carbohydrate- and fat-free proteins. One of these is a hydrolysed gelatin of porcine origin by Rousselot which contains 90 percent protein and can be mixed with other proteins in order to achieve a ‘high in protein’ product positioning. Being GMO (genetically modified organism)- and allergen-free, it complies with European Union Regulation 1169/2011.
Easy to digest and offering neutral organoleptic characteristics, the gelatin is cost-effective and easy to integrate into many applications including powder blends, nutritional bars, meat replacements, soups and ready-to-eat products to name a few.
As manufacturers seek to remain at the forefront of the fast evolving food industry, they are facing increased pressure to reformulate. Innovating and, at the same time, delivering a comparable eating experience presents a number of technical challenges. It is also crucial for manufacturers looking to replace ingredients that provide important functional properties, such as sugar and fat, to use alternatives that can replicate some or all of their key characteristics.
To ensure success, manufacturers should work with high quality, safe ingredients which support the development of appealing and innovative new products without compromising on taste or texture. Gelatins are therefore one effective solution for manufacturers—whatever their reformulation goal.