Dairy foods have a long history of using ingredients and processes that assist with maintaining product quality and performance. Ingredient inclusion is usually apparent by their listing on the ingredient statement;processes can go undetected. The ingredients, collectively called stabilizers, are either carbohydrates or proteins, or unique blends of both. Sometimes dairy foods manufacturers rely on “stock” stabilizing ingredients; other times they will have a proprietary blend developed for a specific application. Dairy Foods talked with eight suppliers of stabilizing ingredientsto provide you with updates on application, innovation, pricing and regulatory trends.

Dairy foods have a long history of using ingredients and processes that assist with maintaining product quality and performance. Ingredient inclusion is usually  apparent by their listing on the ingredient statement; processes can go undetected. (See sidebar on Daisy on page 61.)

The ingredients, collectively called stabilizers, are either carbohydrates or proteins, or unique blends of both. Sometimes dairy foods manufacturers rely on “stock” stabilizing ingredients; other times they will have a proprietary blend developed for a specific application.

Dairy Foods talked with eight suppliers of stabilizing ingredients to provide you with updates on application, innovation, pricing and regulatory trends. Here’s what they had to say.

Dairy Foods: How do stabilizers assist in the formulation of dairy foods?

Robert: In most dairy applications there is not one specific gum or stabilizer that is going to provide answers for all attributes in a food system. For example, it is well known that in ice cream applications, locust bean gum is very important in helping to control ice crystal structure to avoid heat shock. But, it will do little to build and stabilize foam structure or provide a desirable texture and mouthfeel. This is why it is important to understand how various stabilizing ingredients interact and work together in a food system.

Malik: Updated nutritional recommendations influence consumers’ desire and need for more balanced foods in their diet. This has led to formulation changes in some dairy products. Stabilizers, such as carrageenans, can assist formulators in overcoming some of the hurdles. An example is the recommendation that a food product have a 30-40-30 balance of calories delivered from fat, carbohydrate and protein, respectively, in that ratio. This can be challenging in a meal replacement-type dairy product, as that ratio of nutrients results in an astringent and chalky mouthfeel. We have a carrageenan that helps create a fragile gel structure and body that provides consumers with a mouthfeel that minimizes such undesirable attributes. Another example is low-fat ice cream, which often tends to be perceived as “cold eating” in the mouth when compared to higher-fat ice cream products. It is possible to combine various stabilizers to allow for a “warm mouthfeel” and a great-tasting, low-fat ice cream.

Loesel: Hydrocolloids are commonly used in dairy products and their inclusion has a basis in solving a problem; however, many forget that that is the case. The problem can easily reappear should the stabilizers be removed. Further, innovations in ingredients and processes can introduce new problems. For example, locust bean gum and guar gum have traditionally been used to provide viscosity to ice cream mix, but their inclusion can result in mix separation over time. This is evident in both hard-pack and soft-serve formulations, but is a greater concern in soft-serve mix. As plant sanitation has improved and new technologies, such as aseptic processing have evolved, soft-serve mix has a longer shelflife. Those separation issues are now apparent. Carrageenan functions to keep the mix from separating for this longer shelflife. Separation is also an issue in refrigerated drinkable yogurts and smoothies as a result of protein interactions. In this instance, pectin is used to impart stability.

Loesel: Cheese sauces made by aseptic processing have benefits in lower-energy utilization and cleaner flavor compared to retorted products; however, an issue introduced with aseptic processing is fouling. Our patented, modified tapioca starch reduces fouling and has the added benefits of lower-filling viscosity. This allows manufacturers to make concentrated bases for foodservice outlets and provide additional savings opportunities by reducing packaging amounts and shipping costs.

Llaneras: Alginates provide enhanced functionality to a range of process cheese applications such as process cheese spread loaves and slices, process cheese dips and sauces, and process string cheese. Specifically, sodium alginates have a long history of use in dairy applications due to their unique ability to react with calcium ions. They can be used to thicken or gel a variety of dairy systems, depending on the amount of calcium available to interact with the alginate. Phosphates are typically added to milk-based systems to sequester calcium, this controls the rate and extent of the calcium-alginate reaction. Since phosphates are also used as emulsifying salts in processed cheese, sodium alginates are generally compatible with processed cheese formulas.

Schock: One of the biggest challenges nowadays is the speed required to find the right starch, gum or combination of the two for a very specific customer or new product development request. If we set out to create a specific texture, the first challenge in the development process lies in determining the target texture, which is needed to maximize consumer preferences. We have, for example, acquired an in-depth understanding of the textural attributes of the existing yogurt market, which helps us to pinpoint the texture target. The second challenge is to then formulate with the right ingredients. This requires an in-depth understanding of the functionality of the various ingredients such as the starches and gums that could be used to create yogurt textures. We have developed a fundamental understanding of the link between sensory science and material science to match certain textural needs with various starches and starch-based systems. This understanding provides yogurt manufacturers with a faster, targeted process to support their new product launches and to ultimately increase their success rate in the market.

Higley: Ice cream manufacturers continue to be interested in ingredient innovations that allow them to recreate the popular churn-style, low-fat ice cream without the considerable equipment investment. We have a unique stabilizer blend that helps manufacturers develop these creamier, low-fat options.

Rakes: Combinations of galactomannans, emulsifiers and functional whey proteins, such as our Cornerstone Series, provide effective ways to produce healthier ice cream and frozen dairy desserts at a lower cost.

Dairy Foods: Speaking of costs, how have raw material costs of various stabilizing ingredients impacted the dairy industry this year, and what are some solutions to prevent product formulations from skyrocketing?

Malik: With increasing costs of raw materials used in making dairy products, a processor has some options to deliver a quality product, while maintaining cost parameters. One approach would be to substitute lower-cost ingredients while using stabilizers to maintain product functionality. Another approach may be to increase overrun or create a non-standardized product. Sherex stabilizers, including the Enlite series, can assist a processor in producing high-quality ice cream, while at the same time maintaining ingredient costs.

Loesel: Stabilizers, like all ingredients, have price fluctuations due to supply and demand. The dairy industry is familiar with this volatility in milk pricing, vanilla pricing, etc. Stabilizers make up only a small percentage of dairy formula costs. These ingredients may get more attention from manufacturers since some costs are harder to control, such as milk. It is important to keep in mind that hydrocolloids are often used to reduce formulation costs, as they can replace more expensive components. For example, gums provide viscosity and texture in reduced-fat dairy products. In addition to the fat and calorie reduction, gums often result in lower costs for low-fat products compared to their full-fat counterparts. 

Higley: The price of stabilizers hasn’t been as much of a problem for the dairy industry as the increased cost of milk solids. In fact, by increasing the usage levels of our stabilizers, producers can use less of the more expensive dairy solids without sacrificing consumer appeal. Yogurt manufacturers have found that Dairyblend Natural YG AG stabilizer is particularly helpful in reducing milk solids levels in vat-set and cup-set yogurts.

Llaneras: Although the prices of many gums, including alginates, have increased, the low use levels of Textureze PC, which is a sodium alginate, can still provide a cost-savings in processed cheese applications. The use level of Textureze PC is typically in the range of 0.5% to 1.5%. Textureze PC products permit the reduction of expensive casein in a formula without significantly impacting the texture and firmness. It also increases moisture retention while maintaining the texture and body of the finished product. Often times, other stabilizers require a higher use level to match the texture and firmness, which usually impacts the color and flavor of the final product.

Rakes: An exception to increasing costs for hydrocolloids can be seen with xanthan gum. Its price has typically dropped 50% over the past eight years. Xanthan gum’s use, in properly balanced combination with carrageenan, guar gum, locust bean gum and emulsifiers, such as our Keystone Series, can work with whey protein to reduce the costs and fat in frozen dairy desserts and ice cream.

Loesel: Several products have moved away from following standards of identity, such as frozen desserts and process cheese products. This has given manufacturers more formulation options that can also reduce effects of ingredient cost volatility. There are stabilizer solutions to use to offset or partially replace some of the more expensive ingredients. Starch-, fiber- and hydrocolloid-based systems have been developed that can be used to replace fats and oils and also dairy proteins in several dairy applications such as sour cream dressings and dips.

Schock: We recognized this problem early on and offered guidance to the dairy industry globally on how to reduce the impact of rising dairy ingredient costs. For example, the use of our Instant Purity SMR in ice cream applications enables a significant reduction of milk-solids-nonfat levels. Our N-Dulge Co-Texturizers product range for yogurt applications allows formulations with reduced milk protein levels, while not reducing eating quality. The use of these ingredients often improves the textural qualities preferred by consumers, an added benefit if a change in texture is in line with the yogurt manufacturer’s plans. Another example is butterfat, which is a significant contributor to raw material costs. Novation 8300 has proven successful in the market as a cost-effective solution for the reduction of butterfat, while at the same time reducing the amount of calories from fat.

Robert: To help combat rising costs, we work with our customers to optimize their product formulas-sweeteners, proteins and stabilizer systems. To optimize efficiency of our stabilizer and gum systems, we take advantage of synergistic relationships between gums. Using optimized combinations of locust bean gum and some carrageenans, for example, can keep usage levels lower and deliver a more cost effective system. Another example is Tate & Lyle’s premium texture stabilizer system, which is a blend of emulsifiers, gums and starch that imparts the premium mouthfeel characteristics of a 14% ice cream to a light ice cream formula. Industry leaders are using new technology in ice cream equipment and freezers to accomplish these qualities in light ice creams, but our unique stabilizer system provides the same attributes with standard freezing equipment.

Dairy Foods: What new stabilizer systems is your company offering to the dairy industry?

Lynch: We have developed a blend of gum arabic and titanium dioxide that can be used in cottage cheese dressing or any application where titanium dioxide is used. One of the problems with titanium dioxide is that it is heavy and tends to fall to the bottom of processing tanks. The proprietary product is a co-dried blend of gum arabic and titanium dioxide that helps maintain titanium dioxide in suspension during processing. We also have a liquid version of this blend with xanthan gum and titanium dioxide. 

Higley: There has been more interest among yogurt manufacturers to find gelatin-free, all natural stabilizers that have shelflife and syneresis characteristics similar to their gelatin-containing counterparts. We created Dairyblend Natural YG AG to provide consistent quality in cup-set and vat-set all-natural yogurts.

Dairy Foods: How does natural and organic complement the use of gums and stabilizers?

Loesel: While there are no federal definitions for “natural” ingredients, there are many stabilizers available that receive customer acceptance as natural. Most of these same ingredients would be allowed under the current organic regulations for organic products, especially under the 95% organic category. The organic guidelines allow certain hydrocolloids if they are accepted on their synthetic and non-synthetic lists. Organic dairy products will continue to grow and food developers will need to develop ingredient systems that offer the same functionality as conventional stabilizer systems.

Rakes: In this context, galactomannans and other gums are given an opportunity to present themselves as natural because of the direct (or indirect, in the case of xanthan gum) endorsement by organic certification. In years past, these items would often be portrayed as unnatural in advertisements for all-natural yogurt and other dairy foods.

Llaneras: Consumers need to be educated more on stabilizers: where they come from and why they are used. The market for natural and organic products is growing. Dairy-based products tend to be viewed as healthful and as new dairy-based products that focus on health and wellness are introduced, the use of stabilizers will likely grow. The unique benefits of “perceived-as-natural” hydrocolloids, such as alginates, pectins, carrageenans, xanthan gum and functional blends can provide a true benefit in these products by providing suspension, texture, moisture retention, mouthfeel and even making new product presentations and forms available, such as encapsulated prebiotics and probiotics. 

Schock: We offer our customers a choice of clean-label Novation starches to formulate into all-natural products, as well as a variety of organic-certified starches that can be used in organic dairy applications.

Dairy Foods: What can dairy processors expect in the next five years from their stabilizer suppliers?

Loesel: With the current trend in all-natural products, formulators will need to use ingredients that are minimally processed and stay away from synthetic ones. Carrageenan, locust bean gum and pectin are a few stabilizer choices commonly used in natural products. Of course, the acceptance of any ingredient for use in a natural product would be the decision of the manufacturer of the finished food product. There’s no doubt that organic gums will increase in demand for products needing 100% organic labeling. Further, adding fiber will be an important trend in the next couple of years, and select stabilizers play an important role in the development of high-fiber dairy ingredients. In fact, hydrocolloids contain significant fiber contents, but their inclusion level may not provide enough for a nutritional impact. The role of stabilizers in high-fiber products may be to improve the sensory properties in a manner comparable to their role in fat reduction.

Schock: Manufacturers can expect further sophistication in texture as we see consumers getting more discriminating in making their purchasing decisions based on texture preferences. Additionally, look for new concepts such as mousse-like textures and more exploration into applications that go beyond traditional cows-milk-derived products.     

Robert: The dairy industry seems to be more open to exploring new options. Manufacturers have been open to looking at traditional dairy products with enhanced health benefits, such as vitamin supplementation, added fiber and probiotics. Because of this willingness to look at new options, there will be opportunities to use non-traditional gums and starches that will increase function and be more cost-effective. Relatively unknown ingredients like konjac flour, tara gum or larch gum may find their way into dairy food applications. 

Rakes: Other than the normal efforts to reduce costs and increase availability, suppliers will be pressed to understand their products’ interactions with other ingredients. We expect to see attempts to expand the applications and availability for konjac and tara gum.

Higley: As raw material costs continue to increase, stabilizer suppliers will continue to work closely with dairy manufacturers to develop new ways to maintain costs and provide solutions. The market for cultured dairy products and fortification will continue to grow as consumers learn more about the importance of gut health and better nutrition. Stabilizer suppliers are well-suited to help dairy processors capitalize on these trends.

Llaneras: Dairy processors can expect a higher level of technical service from their stabilizer suppliers as the development for innovative dairy products is pushed to higher limits.  n

Dairy Foods talked to
Jeremy Higley, food scientist, TIC Gums
Martha Llaneras, senior technical service manager, International Specialty Products
Bob Loesel, technical manager, dairy applications, Cargill Texturizing Solutions
Leslie Lynch, Midwest sales manager, Food Ingredient Solutions LLC
Chuck Malik, senior food technologist, Kerry Ingredients & Flavours
Phil Rakes, research and development, Main Street Ingredients
Mark Robert, manager of new product development, dairy applications, Tate & Lyle
Jutta Schock, marketing manager, National Starch  Food Innovation