Creating multifunctional food ingredients from wood
Consumers as well as the food industry demand food products that are healthy, safe, natural and have a long shelf-life. Many of these functionalities can be achieved with wood-based ingredients.
Cellulosic, hemicellulosic and lignin fractions from wood possess unique properties, such as thickening, film-forming, emulsifying, emulsion stabilizing and antioxidant characteristics that are exactly the same functional properties that the food industry seeks for their products.
The proof-of-concepts performed recently at VTT illustrate that wood-based fibrillar cellulose is a promising hydrocolloid to tailor the viscosity and stability of dairy products.
Hydrolysed birch xylan improves the texture and stability of model yoghurt by improving the smoothness and reducing the separation of a liquid layer upon storage. At the same time, in vitro studies predict that it is also beneficial for gut health since xylan is fermented slowly by colon microbiota.
Lignin has been proven to be a promising emulsifier in oil-in-water dressings or baking products.
The constant quality, better performance in selected products, sustainable production processes, gluten-free feedstock and low production costs make wood-based ingredients attractive alternatives for commercially existing ingredients.
Next R&D steps before entering the market
Research is still needed to validate the technical performance in real products, assess safety and realize the novel food status for these wood-based ingredients. Therefore, these could enter the market in 5–10 years.
Anna-Stiina Jääskeläinen, Principal Scientist
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