Source & Processing
Carrageenan is a cell-wall hydrocolloid found in certain species of seaweeds belonging to red algae (class: Rhodophyceae). Carrageenans, extracted from seaweeds harvested throughout the world, have established their position within the food, household, and personal-care industries as uniform gelling, thickening, and texturizing agents of high quality. High-productivity sites are the waters off the coasts of Chile, Mexico, Spain, Philippines, and Japan.
After harvesting the seaweed, the Carrageenans are extracted and simultaneously upgraded through the use of various cationic alkalis. After extraction and purification, the Carrageenan is either alcohol precipitated or drum dried. Alcohol precipitation is considered the best method, since less thermal shock occurs, and the indigenous salts are left behind in the alcohol. All Colony Gums Carrageenans are alcohol precipitated.
Carrageenans are widely used in the dairy industry for their water-binding and -suspending properties. The unique capabilities of Carrageenans to complex with proteins helps prevent wheying off in such products as cottage cheese and yogurt. The gelling properties of Carrageenans are used in cheeses and parfait-style yogurts. Carrageenans are the main component of ice-cream stabilizers.The ability to prevent wheying off and crystallization are Carrageenans’ functions with these products. When chocolate milk or milk drinks are bottled, the cocoa or carob particles have a tendency to fall out of solution. The gel structures that Carrageenans set up help keep the cocoa particles in suspension without adding much viscosity. Additionally, a mouth feel approximating a creamy texture is imparted by the use of Carrageenans in this situation. Most anywhere that a dairy protein exists—for example, whipped cream, soft-serve ice cream, custards, and so on—Carrageenans can be used as a stabilizer.
Besides the already mentioned dairy beverages, Carrageenans can be useful in pulp suspension in fruit drinks. Syrups can be thickened and stabilized with Carrageenans. Another unique application of Carrageenans is in wine and beer clarification. Dry powdered mixes often incorporate Carrageenans for mouth feel and viscosity.
Carrageenans fit in with several types of popular dressings. First, Carrageenans are used to help stabilize regular standard-of-identity salad dressings. Second, dry-mix dressings depend on Carrageenans to help aid in particle suspension and to quickly increase viscosity. A new application of Carrageenans is in oil-less salad dressings. Here, the Carrageenans are used to impart an oily mouth feel and to increase viscosity; they can also be used to make “permanently suspended solids” in no-oil dressings.
Other Food Items
Carrageenans are put to use whenever a gel system is required. Water dessert gels can be made without gelatin by using Carrageenans as the gelling agent. An advantage of this is that prepared gels can have a very long shelf life and are stable at fairly high temperatures. Fish gels and aspics can be made quickly and inexpensively using Carrageenans. Many gel-type candies formerly made with Agar are now using Carrageenans as a total or partial replacement for Agar. At low usage levels, Carrageenans can form a very slight gel for use in relishes and food toppings. Marmalades and jellies, condensed products, and pet-food gels and binders are still other possible uses.
Carrageenans have been used as binders in tableting as well as tablet disintegrators. Syrups can be thickened using Carrageenans. Other applications are as viscosity agents in enemas, as gelling agents in prepared cold packs, and as binders and absorbing agents in sanitary napkins and tampons.
Cosmetics and Personal Care
Toothpastes, especially gel types, have a Carrageenans base. Carrageenans are also used in shampoos, as thickeners, in facialand hand lotions, and facial masks. Solid gel deodorants use Carrageenans as the base for their gel structure.
Water-based paints incorporate Carrageenans as a thickening agent and to help the paint spread evenly.