Natural dairy thickener commercialised
A new type of dairy or food thickener, which may add probiotic characteristics to the products in which it’s used, has been discovered.
The product is the result of decades of research, beginning in the early 1990s when a novel polymer with an ability to rapidly thicken milk was discovered by Oregon State University microbiologist Janine Trempy. The polymer, known as Ropy 352, is produced by a non-disease-causing bacterium.
The polymer appears to give fermented foods a smooth, thick, creamy property and may initially find uses in sour cream, yoghurt, kefir, buttermilk, cream cheese and artisan soft cheeses. Composed of natural compounds, it offers a slightly sweet property and may improve the sensory characteristics of low-fat or no-fat foods. And unlike other polymers that are now commonly used as thickeners, it may add probiotic characteristics to foods, with associated health benefits.
“There are actually very few new, non-disease-causing bacterial strains that produce unique polymers with characteristics desirable and safe for food products,” Trempy said. “In the case of a dairy thickener, for instance, a bacterium such as Ropy 352 ferments the sugar in the milk and produces a substance that changes the milk’s properties.”
These are chemical processes driven by naturally occurring bacteria that do not cause disease in humans, Trempy said, but instead may contribute to human health through their probiotic potential.
Research has determined the new polymer, which has now been commercialised, will thicken whole and non-fat milk, lactose-free milk, coconut milk, rice milk and other products designed for use in either dieting or gaining weight. Beyond that, the polymer may have applications such as thickening of pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, fruit juices, cosmetics and personal care products.
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