Five years ago, it wasn’t possible to create a shelf-stable, low-pH dairy beverage. But today’s pectins allow for this use, as well as many others. These drinkable yogurts, milk-juice blends and other drinks often appeal to modern consumers’ desire for healthfulness and convenience. According to Mintel, 43% of Americans agree that living a modern lifestyle makes it very difficult to be healthy.1 Technical advancements in pectin have made these low-pH, label-friendly dairy beverages possible.
Versatile and label-friendly pectin
For decades, pectin was primarily associated with high-sugar jams and jellies, but now it’s a versatile thickener, gelling agent and stabilizer, even in low-acid and reduced-sugar applications.
Pectin is a soluble gelatinous polysaccharide found in berries, apples and other fruits. It’s generally sourced from citrus peel rinds and apple pomace. Pectin appeals to shoppers who are looking for nature-derived foods. Nearly two-thirds of Americans seek product claims which avoid negatively perceived ingredients.
The technology used to extract pectin has advanced considerably. Technicians can now focus on different pectin components to target stability or gelling. Food scientists can tailor the structure of the pectin, both physically and chemically, for specific functionalities.
The rise of yogurt beverages
Studies show that consumers consider yogurt a nutrient-dense food that contributes to a healthy diet and lifestyle.3 While spoonable yogurt accounts for 90% of all yogurt sales4, yogurt drinks are gaining popularity. Sales have grown 62% between 2011 and 2016 and are expected to continue to rise, reaching $10 billion by 2021.4 These drinkable yogurts, as well as other low-pH dairy beverages such as kefir wouldn’t be possible without recent pectin advancements.
The science of pectin
Pectin for use in food contains at least 65% galacturonic acid units. These acid groups may either be free or methylesterified, sodium, potassium, calcium or ammonium salts. Amide groups also may be present.
The regular structure is interrupted by the presence of L-rhamnose, which causes deviations called "pectic elbows". The proportion of the galacturonic acids that are in the methyl ester form, is called the “degree of esterification” (DE) or “degree of methoxylation”, and is reported as a percentage. DE affects pectin’s behavior.
High-methoxyl (HM) pectins are defined as those with a DE equal to or above 50, while low-methoxyl (LM) pectins have a DE of less than 50. HM pectins are excellent stabilizers of low-pH dairy beverages. They coat the casein particles, stopping them from aggregating and preventing sedimentation problems. LM pectins are used in yogurts as well as fruit preparations for yogurts and dairy creams.
Cargill’s technical experts help manufacturers capitalize on pectin advancements and the growing popularity of nutritious dairy beverages. Our broad label-friendly portfolio, market expertise and trusted supply chain help manufacturers formulate consumer-pleasing products or solve technical challenges.
1. Mintel Healthy Lifestyles US 2015
2 SHS FoodThink, Snacker Nation 2015
3. J. Nutr. Yogurt Consumption as a Signature of a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle.2017
4. Mintel. Yogurt and Yogurt Drinks-US. August 2016