Videos in the Basics of Food Gums Series


In this episode, we’ll be looking at the category of Food Gums known as Plant Derivatives. In our first video, we provided a little background on food gums as a whole. If you’d like to watch that video for a quick introduction, click the link in this video or in the description below to check it out.

Plant derivatives is another category of gums which, like some of the other gums we’ve discussed, also has extensive history. Two specific examples from this category are Pectin and Cellulose. These gums are extracted from various natural plant sources like trees, fruit, cotton and even vegetables like sugar beets. Their main uses tend to be for improving viscosity, creating gels and adding or improving stabilization.

Pectin is fairly recognizable to most people because it’s an ingredient that’s been in most family kitchens for generations. It’s is commonly used as a gelling agent for jams or jellies and has a significant comfort level with most people. Pectin has a lengthy history dating back to the early ninteenth century, becoming a more prominent ingredient in the market after the 1910’s. It’s natural ability to form gels and add texture has made it a both household name and a go-to ingredient in the food industry.

Cellulose is another plant derivative that has incredible uses but unlike Pectin, isn’t as widely known. It’s a substance that’s found in many plant-based organisms like vegetables. Cellulose is a component in the cell walls contained in most plants and vegetation but the concentration depends on the plant. It’s mostly derived from wood and cotton which contain much higher percentages of cellulose for manufacturers to utilize.

The unique thing about cellulose gum is not only its variety of uses, but the different forms of cellulose gum that can be obtained through adjustments in the extraction process. You can create products like methyl cellulose, CMC, HPC or HPMC, each with their own benefits. This allows manufacturers to use cellulose gum in a wide range of applications like syrups, sauces, beverages and even fried foods.

So what notable foods actually make use of cellulose gum? One of the more common uses of cellulose gum is in bakery; for example in tortillas. The most important job of cellulose in tortillas is maintaining water retention, preventing stickiness with other tortillas and equipment, and preserving those rolling and folding characteristics. Not only that, but it helps to prevent staling too. All these benefits prove just how effective cellulose is in keeping the product consistent with what customers expect when they purchase and enjoy a tortilla.

So to wrap up, in this episode we were able to touch on a new category of gums as well as look at the beneficial characteristics of Cellulose, one of the lesser known Plant Derivative gums.

If you’d like to learn more, then check out this book by Andrew Hoefler called “Hydrocolloids”. It’s a great overview of common hydrocolloids. Also, there are some online journals you can reference for additional research. They can get technical but don’t let that stop you.

We hope you found this video helpful and perhaps presented a new perspective into the world of Food Science. Thanks for watching.

cellulose plant derivatives