Finnish research gives food a wooden boost
According to VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, wood-derived polymers can be used to improve the texture of food products and reduce calorie content.
Whilst some wood-derived ingredients, such as xylitol, microcrystalline cellulose and carboxymethylcellulose, have been used as food additives already for decades, there are still others yet to be harnessed.
The likes of xylan, fibrillated cellulose and lignin could be utilised in the manufacture of products such as yoghurt, baked goods and meat products. Studies conducted by VTT have shown this trio contains properties that make them stand out from traditionally used ingredients.
Xylan, a hemicellulose extracted from birch pulp, could be used as texture enhancer in yoghurt, bringing with it digestive benefits. Also of benefit to fermented dairy products is fibrillated cellulose, which acts as a thickening and stabilising agent. Produced by wet-grinding cellulose fibres, the end result has a potential cholesterol lowering effect.
Meanwhile, the surface-active properties of lignin could be utilised to prepare emulsions (mixtures of water and oil) and foams with improved texture. VTT also tested lignin in the manufacture of muffins, resulting in a fluffier texture. This indicates that it could be an efficient substitute for whole eggs and egg yolks. Furthermore, lignin also functioned as an emulsifier in mayonnaise and supported the juiciness of a meat product.
VTT nonetheless points out that the approval of new types of wood-derived ingredients for use in food products is governed by food additive or novel foods legislation.