Lecithin is a highly versatile ingredient offering a multitude of functional and processing properties. As well as being a great emulsifier, did you know that it's also a natural instantizer? Applying a thin coat of lecithin to the surface of powder particles increases their dispersibility in a liquid. This makes lecithin a vital ingredient in a wide range of powdered food products.
Lecithin reduces the surface tension of a liquid, so when it's applied to the surface of powder particles, it enables them to penetrate the surface of the liquid and disperse uniformly. This so-called 'wettability' is different to solubility where a substance actually dissolves into the liquid.
Not all powders are created equal, so the type of lecithin required to optimize a powder's dispersibility depends on its behavior and composition.
- For example, a powder with high surface fat, like fat milled milk powder, repels water. As a result, the particles tend to remain on the water's surface; they cannot submerge. Applying the right lecithin improves the particles' reconstitution properties enabling them to break the tension barrier to disperse evenly in the liquid.
- On the other hand, high protein powders, like sports drinks, have very hydrophilic or ’water loving’ particles that absorb water too quickly. When these powders land in water, only the particles on the outside of the formation that are in direct contact with the water quickly absorb water, while the inside remains dry. The formation becomes very heavy and sinks to the bottom of the liquid. As a result clumps will populate the bottom of the glass, and stirring only moves the clumps around. Applying the right lecithin helps slow and control the water absorption of the particles which eliminates clumping and allows the powder to wet and disperse evenly.
In a three-year study, Bunge Loders Croklaan partnered with University College Cork to investigate the functional properties of the different lecithins in our portfolio. Researchers used fluid bed equipment to lecithinate fat filled milk powders (FFMPs) and then measured different parameters including instantizing properties. The results showed how seven different lecithins influence the wettability of FFMPs.
With science-based knowledge like this, Bunge Loders Croklaan knows the properties of different lecithins and how to apply them in spray drying, fluid bed agglomeration and other processing techniques. In addition, when a particular type of lecithin is in short supply, we can suggest viable alternatives to ensure uninterrupted production. And with our fully traceable supply chain, we know where our lecithins come from.
Whether you're manufacturing infant milk formula, sports drinks, dairy powders, powdered soup, instant drinks or convenience food, our experts can recommend the right lecithin to optimize dispersibility. Call on our team of experts to maximize the performance of your product.