New emulsifier from sugarbeets

Published online: May 18, 2017 News

Emulsifiers are used in many food products such as dairy products or sauces.

They keep water- and oil-based ingredients from separating and improve the texture of the products. Natural emulsifiers, e.g., polysaccharides or phospholipids, are preferred for the use in foods. However, polysaccharides have a low surface activity and need to be added in large amounts, and phospholipids can create emulsions that tend to separate during storage. Saponins are naturally occurring compounds that can act as an alternative emulsifier. Quillaja or soapbark tree extract, for example, is rich in saponins and is often used in the food industry.

Jochen Weiss, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany, and colleagues have evaluated the properties of sugarbeet extract, which also contains saponins, as a natural emulsifier for food applications and compared them to Quillaja extract. The team ground fresh sugarbeets and extracted them with methanol. The methanol was removed from the resulting solution and the extract was freeze-dried. The researchers then tested the extract's emulsifying properties by dissolving it in a sodium phosphate buffer solution and blending the aqueous phase with oil. The particle size of the emulsions was measured by light scattering experiments.

The sugarbeet extract showed a high surface activity, reduced the surface tension between oil and water by up to 38 %, and created emulsions with particle sizes as low as 1.3 μm. While the droplets were bigger than in emulsions using Quillaja extract, the researchers conclude that sugarbeet extract is effective at forming emulsions and could be a promising alternative for the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries.