What can make a savory sauce, rich dressing, velvety filling or creamy soup less than appealing? Inconsistent textures caused by clumping of powdered ingredients. It is not only unappetizing to those who consume the food, but it is a major frustration and challenge for food manufacturers that want to eliminate these issues in their food products.
Clumping, caking or fish eyes in food processing often occurs when powdered ingredients are introduced into a wet batter. Once the problem occurs, no amount of shearing or filtering can correct the problem because of the molecular structure of some of the ingredients.
There are, however, ways to minimize the risks of clumping and caking to ensure a rich, smooth consistency without loss of viscosity or the introduction of unpleasant flavor profiles. Read on to more clearly understand why clumping occurs, preventative measures and alternative solutions for food and beverage industry development teams.
What Causes Clumping and Fish Eyes in Food?
The clumps that form when a powdered ingredient is added to a wet mixture are a result of improper hydration. Once a powdered agent hits a liquid’s surface, the outer layer can form a shell that seems impenetrable.
This barrier shields water from hydrating the powdery core and prohibits it from breaking apart and being incorporated into the mixture. Even high-vortex shearing machines often fail to disperse them. Chances are, over-shearing will result in viscosity breakdown of other ingredients by the time those clumps do break up.
Thermal treatments can help, but finding the exact heat application poses additional challenges. Many powdered ingredients, if heated too quickly, will expand immediately and shield the inner molecules from coming into contact with the liquid. And if a mixture is too hot and isn’t tempered properly, clumping will likely be inevitable.
Related: A Fix for Food Formulation Fails
Tips for Preventing Powdery Clumps and Fish Eyes
Use these food industry tips to reduce clumping when combining free-flowing powdered ingredients with other food ingredients.
- When possible, sift powdered agents together with other granular ingredients that disperse more easily, and introduce agents into the liquid at a slower rate
- Create a slurry by pre-mixing a small portion of liquid and powder, then incorporate it into the larger batch
- Closely monitor temperatures
- Do not add any starches or gums when a mixture is too hot
- Use a high-shear mixing system to help prevent clump formation and/or increase mixing time. However, make sure it doesn’t result in permanent viscosity loss of already-hydrated ingredients
- Replace starches and gums with an alternative emulsifying agent that doesn’t experience the same issues during the mixing process
Alternative Ingredient Solutions to Prevent Clumping
In the move to replace or reduce the use of high-fat, high-cost butter, cheese, cream, oil, eggs and other traditional ingredients in their formulations, some manufacturers have turned to artificial gums, starches and thickening agents, often in powder form. Some have also tried plant-based alternatives, but attempts to duplicate the rich flavor and consistency of the original formulation, however, are often met with disappointing results.
For product developers who want to find ways to reduce or replace traditional ingredients without the problems associated with most gums and starches, consider shelf-stable Grande Bravo® functional whey protein concentrate.
Unlike commodity whey protein powders, moderate shear of this easy-to-disperse alternative will not pose clumping problems when added to a mixture. That’s because it doesn’t require heat to activate and set up. It can be hydrated and added to mixtures at various temperatures without the occurrence of fish eyes, caking or clumping. Its superior water-holding capabilities can maintain and often improve the texture and mouthfeel of the final product.
A bonus to its superior functionality is its clean flavor profiles, ensuring that signature flavors aren’t compromised. It also can improve nutrition by replacing or reducing high-fat, calorie-laden traditional ingredients, and can be promoted as an all-natural ingredient to cater to consumer demands for cleaner labels.
Dig deeper into the science behind why clumping and fish eyes in food occur, and get more applicable tips for preventing these problems. Download our complete guide, How to Avoid Common Food Formulation Fails.
Our team of scientists is ready to bring their expertise to the table and help you overcome these and other challenges. Let them demonstrate how Grande Bravo functional whey protein can be successfully incorporated into your food system and formulation. They’ll help you overcome common frustrations associated with formulating creamy applications. Reach out to us today to start the conversation.