Stabilizing dairy products has become easier in recent years due to an increased supply of some of the basic hydrocolloids, as well as creative technology. The enforcement of the organic rule in June has pushed many organic-food processors to make changes to their product formulations. The rule has always been in place, but it is coming under stricter enforcement. The rule simply states that if a certified organic source of a material is available then it must be used.
In the case of dairy products, gum-based stabilizers are imperative to provide the body and textures consumers desire. In addition to providing the sensory qualities needed in dairy products, stabilisers also improve shelf life and visual appeal.
One example is cup yoghurt where a good set and increased viscosity give a more pleasing body and mouth feel. Whether the yogurt is vat set or cup set, stabilisers will improve the shelf life by reducing or even preventing whey off syneresis. Dairy-based beverages always need help with stabilisation to improve the viscosity, prevent separation and even protect the protein in acidic products. Another example is ice cream. Stabilization of basic ice cream systems aids in processing challenges such as overrun control and slower meltdown during packaging and hardening. It gives the ice cream smoother, creamier texture. Shelf-life stabilization reduces heat shock (large ice-crystal formation) and helps reduce sugar migration.
Can these products be made without stabilizers? Yes, it can and has been done, but it is much more costly due to specialised equipment and distribution. However, these products have been seen in many cases to be inferior and not very traditional to the standard ones.
Gums available today as 100 percent organic are guar, locust or carob gum; gum acacia; and starches. A new pectin that could be used in 100 percent organic products recently came on the market out of Spain, but currently there is not enough to supply market needs.
Hydrocolloids that meet the 95 percent rule are agar, alginate, carrageenan, gellan, konjac, tara, pectin and xanthan.
Although any one hydrocolloid may provide the function you are looking for in stabilising your dairy product, it has been demonstrated that combinations of these gums perform much better. Certain gums provide a specific function, but when blended with other gums, synergistic reactions occur that make the stabilisation more effective. One example is that xanthan creates a viscosifying effect, and even a small amount of suspension characteristics. Locust bean gum provides smooth rheology viscosity. However, when the two are used together in certain ratios, they make for a very firm gel. Also, in blended form you tend to get a more standardized system that disperses much better with the help of dispersing agents such as salt, organic sugar or even organic whey.
Some gums perform better in certain applications, just as some do not work well in others. For example, guar gum tends not to be very functional in cup yogurt due to its acidity constraints. Conversely, guar performs well in cottage cheese, sour creams and buttermilk. This is when it is a good time to rely on your stabilizer company for direction based on your particular application. Share your application as well as processing parameters with your supplier. They are experts in designing the right stabilizer based on the many variables in making and distributing the dairy product.
Emulsifiers also are an important part of the dairy stabilizing system. Only a few are available, but they are effective in their applications for dairy products. These basic products are lecithin, egg-yolk solids and gum acacia. All are available from 100 percent certified-organic sources. Unfortunately for the case of lecithin, it tends to be very strong in flavour and darker than its conventional counterpart. Lecithin use levels do not tend to be much higher than .15 percent in most dairy applications. Egg-yolk solids can be as high as 1 percent when used as an emulsifier. Gum acacia can be used in a wider level, from .25 to as high as 2 percent.
Use levels of the hydrocolloids depend on the application as well as the hydrocolloid used. Organic ice cream tends to work with just a few gums such as locust bean, guar and in some cases carrageenan. The guar and locust provide the body and texture, as well as control ice-crystal formation. Use levels of the gum content can be as low as .06 percent to as high as .18 percent depending on the total solids and fat of the ice cream. The rule of thumb is that the lower the solids and fat, the higher the use levels of the hydrocolloids. Carrageenan is used mostly in the resale mix for separation control. Very low levels of carrageenan are used.
Organic starches such as tapioca and corn based tend to be used in many of the cultured products. These levels can run anywhere from .50 percent to upwards of 3 percent. Again, the amount of fat and solids determines the level.
Pushing use levels too high can result in several issues for formulators. You can get too heavy of a viscosity to the point where it is difficult to process, not to mention that the product does not look natural. We have even seen cases where too much or the wrong stabilizer can cause texture defects such as grainy yogurt or sour cream.
In short, the challenges in stabilizing organic dairy products are not as difficult as they were just a few years ago. Paying attention to new hydrocolloid sources, especially how they work in combination with each other, can help you develop premium-level dairy products the organic consumer market is searching for.
Gums for organic dairy products
- Yogurt: starch, locust bean, pectin, acacia, agar, alginate and gellan
- Cottage cheese: starch, locust bean, guar, carrageenan, xanthan and tara
- Sour cream: starch, locust, guar, carrageenan and xanthan
- Cream cheese: locust bean, guar and xanthan
- Buttermilk and kefir: starch, carrageenan, locust bean, guar, xanthan and tara
- Flavored milk: starch, guar and carrageenan
- Ices, sherbets and sorbets: locust bean, guar, xanthan, pectin alginate, tara and agar
- Ice cream: locust bean, guar, xanthan, carrageenan and tara
- Novelties: same for ice cream, sherbets and ices
Gum stabilization concepts
- 100 percent organic: gum acacia, locust bean gum, starch
- 95 percent organic: 100 percent group, plus alginate, agar, carrageenan, gellan, pectin
- Gum levels up to 0.40 percent. Starch, up to 3 percent
- 100 percent organic: guar, locust bean gum, starch, gum acacia, lecithin, egg yolks
- 95 percent organic: 100 percent group, plus carrageenan, alginate, gellan, tara, xanthan
- Full fat: 0.08 percent to 0.14 percent gum content by weight, and 0.07 percent to 0.12 percent emulsifier; egg yolks 0.10 percent to 0.50 percent
- Reduced or low fat: Increase gum levels by 15 percent to 25 percent; emulsifiers stay the same
Smoothies and flavored milks
- 100 percent organic: guar, locust bean gum, acacia, starch, lecithin
- 95 per cent organic: 100 percent group, plus carrageenan, gellan, pectin, tara, xanthan
- Gum levels 0.02 percent to 0.10 percent. Carrageenan 0.02 percent to 0.04 percent, and starches up to 1 percent
- Emulsifier not more than 0.10 percent
- Acacia up to 0.50 percent
Ted Benic is dairy programme manager for TIC Gums, which supplies a full line of 'Pretested Dairyblend' and organic hydrocolloids and hydrocolloid systems.