French firm Colloides Naturels International (CNI) claims that its new Equacia ingredient is both highly functional and nutritious. For example, it offers food markers thickening and stabilising properties and can act as a water binder, fat replacer and mouthfeel enhancer. And in addition, the soluble fibres have a prebiotic effect, while the insoluble fibres can aid digestion. "Equacia develops its viscosity immediately after dissolution," said the company in a statement. "It is neither affected by pH nor temperature, guaranteeing viscosity even after heating. Equacia is particularly suited for applications in bakery, ice cream, mayonnaise, sauces and confectionery and goes through all the food process." The company claims that in bakery applications, Equacia is effective at use levels of between one and two per cent, and can help food makers to reduce fats by up to 50 per cent. "The staling effect is reduced, the water content is increased, the organoleptic properties are enhanced or preserved," said the company. "This extremely high level of functionality and effectiveness provides major cost savings while also ensuring superior smoothness over time." Equacia is labelled as gum Acacia (Acacia fibre) and wheat fibre. The company said that the ingredient is all-natural, has GRAS certification and is GM-free. Acacia gum, or gum Arabic, is known as the Rolls Royce' of gums. It is widely used by the food industry as a thickener, adhesive, and stabiliser and is heavily used as an emulsifier in beverages. Characteristic properties of colloidal systems featuring acacia gum include high stability, inert behaviour, and independence from temperature, pH value or other influences as well as taste-neutrality. The top producers (mainly Sudan) bring about 50,000 tonnes of the gum to the market each year. However, the supply of gum Arabic (E414 in the EU), also known as acacia gum because it comes from Acacia trees in the gum belt of Africa, is variable due to political and climatic factors in the primary producing countries, and this has led to spikes in the price of the ingredient. CNI (Colloides Naturels International) is a leading manufacturer of acacia gum. The company is present in more than 75 countries, has eight distribution subsidiaries and a network of 45 agents. Last year, the firm was recognised by the government as the best export agent of 2005. The award was presented by the French ministry of economy, finance and industry in the presence of delegate minister of foreign trade Christine Lagarde. The French ministry of economy, finance and industry prize is awarded each year on the basis of criteria such as the percentage of turnover from exports, infrastructure, subsidiaries and distribution networks abroad. Customs statistics and growth in terms of turnover are also taken into account.