Video Series: Carrageenan, Agar & Alginate--Seaweed Extracts
Videos in the Basics of Food Gums Series
In this episode, we’ll be looking at the category of Food Gums known as Seaweed Extracts. 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.
Over the years different seaweeds have been used as food ingredients because of the unique qualities that each seaweed imparts. Because of the differences between these seaweeds, they’ve been classified into three categories namely alginate, agar, and carrageenan. The commercial seaweeds from these categories grow both in warm water regions like the Phillipines and cold water regions like those around Chile and Northern Europe.
Out of these different seaweed extracts, there’s one that you’re more likely to hear about and that’s Carrageenan. Carrageenan is widely used in the food industry for its ability to stabilize dairy products, provide texture and suspension in beverages and to form the gels that you find in puddings or bakery fillings.
The most popular carrageenan species is harvested off the coasts of Ireland during warmer months. In colder seasons it’s typically harvested in the Philippines and Indonesia where the waters are warmer. This plant, which grows to about 4 inches high, originated in Ireland and can be traced back almost 600 years.
Carrageenan can be classified into three groups: kappa, iota and lambda. These three classifications represent the different abilities of each variety of carrageenan. For example, kappa will create a harder, stiffer gel, whereas iota creates a gel that’s more malleable. These distinctions give product developers the necessary variety to achieve the perfect texture attributes that they’re looking for.
So what foods actually make use of this unique extract? Fortified beverages are one of the more popular applications because one of Carrageenan’s greatest attributes is the ability to hold ingredients together. Take for example chocolate milk. Without carrageenan, ingredients like cocoa particles would sink, creating an undesirable collection at the bottom of the product. Carrageenan makes sure that your chocolate milk doesn’t separate before you get a chance to drink it. And that’s just one of many examples.
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 Carrageenan, one of the more widely known Seaweed Extracts.
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.