Preservatives in Baking Industry
24 April 2021
With better technological advances, manufacturers are employing newer methods in food production with the aim to increase output in terms of both quality and quantity.
Due to the greater demand for bakery products and need for larger volume of production, manufacturers have realised the important role additives and preservatives play in the business today. This has resulted in the emergence of steadily growing market for supplies of subsidiary ingredients such as additives, preservatives and sweeteners.
The use of additives and preservatives is not only driven by factors such as improved quality, enhanced taste, better texture and appearance, but also important aspects such as to maximise the yield of the product and to gain higher volumes in shorter span of time for commercial manufacturers.
In this column, we have attempted to elaborate and understand the exact role of commonly-used additives, preservatives and sweeteners in the process of producing baked goods and the latest options available in the industry.
An additive is any substance that is added to a product, but is not the main ingredient of the product. This addition is for technological purpose of manufacturing and processing of the product. An additive may or may not affect the nutritive value of the product.
Similarly, preservatives are substances used in the product with the aim to increase the shelf life, or in other words, to prevent food spoilage during storage and transportation.
Sweeteners are food agents that are substituted for sugar in food products to impart sweetness, to reduce the number of calories in products or products made for certain population with dietary restrictions on sugar consumption.
Some sweeteners are natural sugar substitutes such as Isomalt, Sorbitol, Xylitol, Glycerol, etc., and some are artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame, Sucralose, Saccharin, etc.
Food and drug authorities regulate usage of additives, preservatives and sweeteners in the baking industry globally.
Only an approved and permitted class of additives and preservatives can be used in the manufacturing process.
All additives and preservatives are classified and coded as per the international food safety guidelines.
Additives and preservatives for long have been used in manufacturing bakery products. Some of the natural additives and preservatives that have been historically used are salt, alcohol, vinegar, etc.
Apart from the traditionally used natural additives there some more recently identified and developed forms of additives that are also being used in the industry. They are easier to handle, store, readily available and are very economical. This has attributed to their widespread use in the industry.
Lecithin is a natural product that can be obtained from eggs, soy, peanuts, corn, etc. It is used in baking as an emulsifier, i.e. stabilising agent in the product.
It is available in the liquid, powder or granular form, and is the best form of natural stabiliser available to home bakers as well.
It helps in combining all ingredients well and aids in the formation of stable cake and cookie batter. Using lecithin, especially in bread-making, gives the product a better texture, flavour and quality to the finished product.
Acids act as preservatives and antioxidants. Some commonly used acids are tartaric acid, citric acid, lactic acid, etc.
Tartaric acid is obtained from plant sources, and citric acid is commercially produced using glucose and hydrolysed corn starch.
Lactic acid, found in milk and milk products, is another natural additive and preservative that is used in bakery and confectionery.
It helps in increasing the shelf life of the product as it has antimicrobial properties. It enhances flavor in savoury products and breads, also used in making hard-boiled sugar candies and to prevent stickiness in them.
Lactic acid and some sweeteners also act as humectants, i.e. they help in retaining moisture in the product and prevent them from drying out during storage.
Gluten is naturally present in wheat flour. Commercial gluten is obtained by washing out starch from flour mixed with water. Flour high in gluten is best suited for bread-making.
However, due to geographical and various other factors, the flour obtained has a lesser percentage of gluten or gluten development is weak in certain qualities of flour.
Gluten is also an important ingredient in making popular varieties of breads made these days, from flours that are high in fibre, wholemeal breads, mixed grain breads, etc.
These flours are not naturally high in gluten content. In such products, dried gluten can be added to the flour to give a softer quality of bread, and also to achieve strong gluten development during the bread making process.
Dried gluten is now commercially available in powder form.
Bread improvers, dough conditioners, oxidising agents are widely used by large scale manufacturers to improve the bread texture, impart stronger flavour, shorten fermentation duration, reduce use of fat in breads, uniform rise while baking and give consistent results each time even with varying qualities of flour batches.
Some bread improvers contain natural ingredients such as soy flour, starch, corn starch, etc.
Apart from natural additives, there are many chemically-derived varieties available to manufacturers.
Commonly-used chemical agents in bread-making are potassium bromate, chlorine, ascorbic acid, etc. These agents help in bleaching flour to make flour whiter, providing finer grain texture, high-rising loaves and stability during the baking process.
Potassium bromate has been banned from certain countries due to health hazards, and there are bromate-free improvers also available in the markets today
Caramel is generally used for colouring of food products for more intense brown colour. This caramel is not the same as the caramel obtained by heating sugar at high levels, which is also added to food for flavour. The caramel used for colouring in commercially-manufactured food products is a chemical additive.
Some chemical preservatives used in the baking industry are acetic acid and propionic acid. They are used to inhibit the growth of fungi and other micro-organisms in the products and to retain freshness for longer periods of time.
Some of the more-recently evolved additives are in gel forms, such as cake improvers or cake gels. These gels are added to cake batter, used to obtain moist cakes that are well-risen, have a spongy texture, softer fine crumbs and no alteration in the taste.
These gels also help the shelf life of cakes. Some gels are also used as glazing agents to prevent moisture loss, protect products from pressure and heat and improve appearance of food products.
Until recently, the availability of majority additives were restricted only to commercial food producers by large-scale suppliers.
Renewed interest in baking at home and the emergence of numerous small-scale bakers in the industry, has led to some of these additives now being made readily available in economical packaging.
Consumers are can now get professional looking baked good using these at home. There are many international brands of suppliers that have identified the potential of the Indian market, and have entered, looking to further exploit the growing demand.