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Creating novel food ingredients that enhance existing food products with a side benefit of trimming waistlines is one of the many interesting challenges taken on by food technologists at Massey University.
New Zealanders have a huge appetite for ice cream, consuming an average of 23 litres per person a year, making them among the biggest eaters of the frozen treat in the world.
Massey researchers Matt Golding and Allan Hardacre, working on a hunch that interactions between starches and lipid emulsifiers might provide a new mechanism for foam stabilisation, saw an opportunity in the low-fat and fat-free ice cream market. These food manufacturers use emulsifying or foaming agents instead of fat (cream) to manipulate the structure of their products to improve its texture.
Golding is Professor of Food Colloids within the School of Food and Nutrition at Massey University. He also has additional roles as principal investigator within the Riddet Institute and as principal investigator for the Fonterra Primary Growth Partnership in Food Structure Design. His research interests include food-structure design in relation to product performance, with particular focus on colloidal systems, the behaviour of food systems during digestion and the application of novel ingredient systems in foods.
Professor Golding and Mr Hardacre set about testing their idea in a range of aerated food products. To begin with, a range of widely used commercial emulsifiers were combined with a number of modified starches to test the hypothesis. Research showed that a certain class of starches could be combined with a much lower ratio of emulsifier to achieve remarkable foamability and stability, and had the potential to show benefits when used in a food product.
Their first thought: ice cream. “The trick with replicating the texture of ‘real’ ice cream is finding an adequate substitute for the fat content,” Professor Golding says. “The air bubbles in ice cream provide their own important contribution to creaminess, and you can really improve the quality of ice cream by simply making the bubbles smaller and more stable, allowing you to take more of the fat out.”
The starch-emulsifier system was shown to be a very effective way of making very small bubbles in fat-free ice cream. The resulting product was informally taste-tested in comparison with commercially available fat-free and low-fat ice creams. Professor Golding and his colleagues were convinced that their ice cream tasted better.
The novel emulsifying/foaming agent was also tested in soft-serve ice cream, where it performed just as well. In fact, the research team had to lower the sugar content to get a better flavour profile, resulting in an even healthier sweet treat. Currently, the ice cream is not available commercially, but consideration is being given to other consumer products to which the foaming/emulsifying agent can be applied.
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Last updated on Friday 28 October 2016
"The air bubbles in ice cream provide their own important contribution to creaminess, and you can really improve the quality of ice cream by simply making the bubbles smaller and more stable, allowing you to take more of the fat out."