While IFF already supplies carrageenan - a red seaweed extract - SEAFLOUR is a whole food ingredient (after harvesting, the red seaweed undergoes a “natural preservation process” before being dried and milled, according to IFF) that contains protein, fiber, and minerals and can be described on ingredients lists in the US as ‘natural seaweed.’
The light tan-colored powder “offers exceptional stability, high-suspension ability and excellent mouthfeel,” and has “a unique synergy with plant proteins, keeping plant-based beverages stable and appealing, and providing smooth, creamy texture and mouthfeel throughout their shelf lives,” said Michael Cammarata, senior beverage technologist, IFF, Nourish division.
At the low usage levels in a plant-based beverage, meanwhile, it doesn’t impart any color or flavor, he said. “We've run sensory analysis to ensure that there’s no marine off notes you can pick up in the final products.”
Suspension and mouthfeel
So how can SEAFLOUR potentially shorten some ingredients lists?
“The real staple in the industry now for this type of [plant-based milk] application would be gellan gum to provide stability,” said Cammarata. “But in a lot of cases, our customers also have to add some other type of thickener, something like xanthan gum, guar gum or locust bean gum, to get some of these more indulgent textures and beverage applications.
“But we've been able to achieve that with just the use of this ingredient, in certain applications… The fact that it can do what gellan gum does from a suspension standpoint, and [also] do what an additional thickener will do from a mouthfeel perspective, makes it pretty special in our opinion.”
As to how SEAFLOUR – which has self-affirmed GRAS status - compares to carrageenan, he said: “We've found some really exciting differences.
“The industry knows about carrageenan and its synergy with casein micelles [dairy proteins], while it doesn’t have that same interaction with plant proteins. But with SEAFLOUR we see benefits when it’s used in combination with certain plant proteins, specifically soy and pea.
“So for example, upon addition of pea protein into an almond based beverage, you can get perfect uniformity through several months of shelf-life. We've also found when SEAFLOUR is used in combination with specific plant proteins, the dosage level needed to optimize stability is lower, and the viscosities are higher.
“So with this one ingredient in certain plant based beverage applications, you can get the stability, the uniformity that our customers are looking for through the shelf life, as well as the mouthfeel and viscosity that consumers are looking for.”
He added: “With this single ingredient, manufacturers have the potential to reduce fat and sugar levels in their products without compromising texture or mouthfeel.”