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Wood-derived ingredients could be future of food

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Wood-derived ingredients could be future of food

May 31
15:22 2016

bisabolol-woodAccording to Finland’s VTT Technical Research Centre, manufacturers could soon be using wood-derived polymers such as xylan, fibrillated cellulose and lignin to improve the texture and reduce the energy content of food products.

The Espoo-based organisation said that the wood-derived ingredients could be used in yogurts, baked goods such as cakes and muffins, and meat products.

As the food industry searches for new natural ingredients that improve the quality of products and promote consumer health, its research has shown that the polymers have properties that make them stand out from their traditional counterparts.

Xylan, a hemicellulose extracted from birch pulp, could be used as texture enhancer in yogurt: VTT’s studies shown that xylan can improve the smoothness of yogurt and enhance its stability when compared to conventional manufacturing techniques, and was shown to be much less likely to result in flatulence than commonly used fructans.

Fibrillated cellulose, which is produced by wet-grinding cellulose fibres, is particularly useful for its ability to bind water at low concentration and form a web-like gel that could be utilised as a thickening and stabilising agent for fermented dairy products – yogurt included. In VTT’s in vitro digestion model it has been observed that fibrillated cellulose binds free bile acids, which is an indication of potential cholesterol reduction in the human body.

As technology develops, increasingly sophisticated ingredients can be extracted from wood, and even lignin could be a candidate for a new food additive, VTT said. The surface-active properties of lignin could be utilised to prepare emulsions and foams with improved texture. Lignin could also be used to reduce oxidation in food products, VTT said.

VTT tested lignin in the manufacture of muffins and found that, in addition to giving muffins a fluffier texture, lignin proved to be a surprisingly efficient substitute for whole eggs and egg yolks. Lignin also functioned as an emulsifier in mayonnaise and contributed to juiciness in a meat product, VTT said.

The new ingredients would have to be approved for use in foods before they could be incorporated into new or existing products by manufacturers.

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