What are food emulsifiers?
Updated: Aug 21
Emulsifiers are basically chemical substances of a dichotomic nature which help in the coexistence of two immiscible phases in a mixture and prevent coalescence for as long as possible. This is achieved due to the high polarity of the material in the emulsifiers which will have affinity for polar as well as non-polar substances at the same time. The hydrophilic part of the emulsifier will be attracted towards the polar and the lipophilic towards the non-polar.
The basic building unit of food emulsifiers is triglycerides and polyols which are basically natural oils, fats and glycerol, sorbitol and sucrose respectively. The fats and oils are responsible for the interphase properties of the emulsifier whereas the polyols are responsible for hydrophilic property. There is also the use of organic hydroxy acids such as lactic acid and citric acid which provide the function of alteration in the degree of polarity in the emulsifier.
The emulsifiers are classified on the basis of non-ionic, cationic, anionic and zwitterionic nature. Non ionic emulsifiers are commonly used in food applications, mainly monoglycerides and mono-di glycerides. Alternatively, the emulsifiers are classified on the HLB number(Hydrophilic/Lipophilic Balance). The HLB number tells us about the elemental properties and functionality based on the balance between its both moieties.
Some food emulsifier with their HLB values are listed in Table 1. The emulsifiers in the range of 2-6 are chosen in oil systems and 8-20 are used in water systems.
Emulsifier HLB value
Data ester 8-10
Calcium lactylate 7-9
Sodium lactylate 18-21
Propylene glycolester 2-3
Table 1: Emulsifier and its HLB values
Emulsifiers in aqueous systems work on the principle of interaction with water forming various mesophases based on the concentration of the emulsifier in the system and the temperature of the system. Whereas emulsifiers in oil systems are helped by the dichotomous nature of the emulsifier.
A system of two immiscible liquids coexisting together in a mixture is called an emulsion. There are two types of emulsion ‘oil in water’ and ‘water in oil’ emulsions. Foam is also a emulsion of great interest in the food industry such as in whipped cream. In this the air particles are separated from each other by layers of liquid films. The thin layer of liquid provides the stability to the foam. So when emulsifier is added to a whipping cream the foam formed is dense due to high ratio of liquid and smaller size of air particles with greater stability.
Thus emulsifiers are highly useful as they help in stabilization, freshness extent, foaming, de-foaming etc.
Emulsifiers provided by Chemvera:
Distilled monoglycerides (DMG)
Propylene Glycol Monostearate (PGMS)
Polyglycerol Esters (PGE)
For further information regarding the products at Chemvera you can get in touch at email@example.com