In most applications, emulsifiers are used to emulsify oil in water or vice versa. However, the main functionalities of emulsifiers in bakery products are multiple. These include: protein interaction, starch complexing (e.g. bread), fat emulsification (e.g. biscuits), modification of texture, viscosity and fat crystallization, improvement of foaming and aeration properties (e.g. cakes), and wetting of powders and emulsification and stabilisation of two immiscible liquids.
In many value-added dairy products (such as chocolate mousse, aerated desserts, topping powders, whipped cream and ice cream), aeration, the speed of foam formation, and stability are key characteristics. Other dairy products, including milk drinks or cheese, are dependent on emulsifiers to promote emulsion formation and stabilisation.
In confectionery, emulsifiers are not only used to create water and oil emulsions, they also influence crystallisation, flow properties, foam tendency, and texture. For example, in chewing gum, caramels and toffees, and sugar confectionery, emulsifiers are added to improve texture and reduce stickiness. Emulsifiers in chocolate are used to delay the development of bloom and control the flow properties of the chocolate mass. Some can even be used to reduce other costly ingredients like cocoa-butter, having the additional benefit of reducing overall fat and trans-fat levels.
Emulsifiers in dressings, mayonnaise and sauces are used to provide emulsification and an extended shelf life. In the production of potato flakes, potato granules, and pasta products, they may be used to increase flexibility during cooking, ease processing by reducing stickiness, and improve the quality of finished products. In processed meat products, emulsifiers are added to improve the stability of meat emulsions such as pâté.
The oils and fats market, including margarines and shortenings, has developed considerably in recent years. Moving on from traditional margarine, emulsifiers now support developments such as low-fat products, trans-free solutions, liquid systems, and a variety of fillings. In spreads & peanut butter, emulsifiers are used as emulsion stabilisers, reducing stickiness in the mouth, improving flavour release, and easing production.