Creation of new ingredients for the food industry
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Nottingham
Unit of AssessmentAgriculture, Veterinary and Food Science
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Chemical Sciences: Macromolecular and Materials Chemistry
Engineering: Chemical Engineering, Food Sciences
Summary of the impact
The University of Nottingham (UoN) has developed two novel food-allowed
additives based upon xanthan gum. The generation of these structurally
modified forms allow xanthan to be used more efficiently in food
manufacturing applications and provide nutritional and health benefits.
The invention of the new xanthans benefits the global food industry by
facilitating new product development and formulation.
Prof John Mitchell: Professor of Biomaterials Processing (UoN;1974-2008)
Prof Sandra Hill: Professor of Biomaterials Processing (UoN;1990-present)
Dr Imad Farhat: Senior Lecturer (UoN;1994-2006)
Dr Joanne Hort : Associate Professor in Sensory Science
Dr Bettina Wolf: Associate Professor in Biomaterials Science
Dr Tim Foster: Associate Professor and Reader in Food Structure
Dr Colin Melia: Associate Professor (UoN;1988-present)
Thickening agents are widely used in the food industry as additives to
modify texture and taste properties. Xanthan gum is an important food
hydrocolloid thickener, which was approved for use in food in the US in
1969 and the EU in 1982. The current annual market for xanthan gum is
estimated to be US$900M, split approximately equally between food and
non-food use. This hydrocolloid is unique as its molecular solutions show
weak gel properties, providing both suspension and flow behaviour e.g.
allowing the suspension of herbs in a vinaigrette salad dressing. However,
currently used grades of xanthan disperse poorly in water, a problem that
the industry has battled with since the material was first commercialised.
This prevents use of xanthan at high concentrations. Work at UoN has
addressed two important problems that are associated with the use of
Using extrusion technology UoN and CSM (a major manufacturer of baked
products)-sponsored projects [c] showed the production of a
physically modified xanthan [A] that is easily handled and readily
dispersible. The physical modification aids the dispersion of the xanthan,
but does not convert the parent hydrocolloid, as subsequent heating and
cooling converts the dispersion to a solution matching the physical
properties (viscosity and coil-helix transition temperature) of a control
Increasing viscosity with the xanthan gums currently used by the food
industry reduces the sensory perception of taste, requiring addition of
higher amounts of salt or sugar to compensate. Salt reduction is an
important target for many food producers and the use of extruded xanthan
enables an improved tastant delivery, allowing reduced formulation levels.
In work sponsored by Nestle and DEFRA [a] food scientists at UoN
demonstrated that if food is thickened by swollen particles rather than a
solution of a biopolymer flavour/taste delivery is retained at high
viscosities . A new extruded xanthan developed by UoN converts
the polymeric macromolecule into a particulate form , which
gives a product microstructure with improved salt release. Starch (energy
density) reduction is also a growing requirement for industry to combat
obesity and type-2 diabetes. The new extruded xanthan has functional
properties on cooking performance (thickening on heating) and in-mouth
dispersibility for mouthfeel and taste delivery [a & d],
allowing starch replacement. The processing of food biopolymers can be
understood using principles that are well-established for synthetic
polymers. The research, together with the above mentioned grants and the
EU funded STEP-ITN programme [e], has created an understanding of
control of amorphous-crystalline transitions . This has led to
the development of a new form of xanthan, produced by a novel structural
rearrangement of the native helical linkages using melt extrusion cooking,
a processing technology first developed for synthetic polymers (product
A second industry problem, which spans food and pharmaceutical
industries, is that upon dilution (by bodily fluids during mastication and
digestion) structures tend to lose texture and viscosity. In projects
funded by Reckitt Benckiser a second invention [B,C] converted
xanthan gum to a liquid crystalline form [4 & 5]. This
thickens upon dilution as the xanthan concentration decreases .
Subsequent work involving a clinical trial, showed that this product
(Thixate) suppressed appetite following consumption in a test meal. This
led to a UK patent filing for Thixate as a satiety gel [D].
References to the research
Evidence of the international quality of the research is indicated by
publication in international, peer-reviewed journals. Food Hydrocolloids
is ranked in the top 7% of food science journals (based on impact factor).
Since its inception in 1965, Carbohydrate Research has gained a reputation
for its high standard and wide scope which includes all aspects of
carbohydrate chemistry and biochemistry, and the Gums & Stabilisers
series is an important academia-industry conference where new concepts are
debated - the conference series is in its 34th year.
1. Sereno, N.M., Hill, S.E. and Mitchell, J.R. (2007) Impact of the
extrusion process on xanthan gum behaviour. Carbohydrate Research
Volume: 342 Issue: 10 Pages: 1333-1342 DOI: 10.1016/j.carres.2007.03.023
2. Ferry, A.L., Hort, J., Mitchell, J.R., Cook, D.J., Lagarrigue, S. and
Pamies, B.V. (2006) Viscosity and flavour perception: Why is starch
different from hydrocolloids? Food Hydrocolloids Volume: 20 Issue:
6 Pages: 855-862 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2005.08.008
3. Paes, S.S., Sun, S., MacNaughtan, I.R., Ganster, J., Foster, T.J. and
Mitchell, J.R. (2010) The glass transition and crystallization of ball
milled cellulose. Cellulose 17(4), 693-709. DOI 10.1007/s10570-010-9425-7
4. Boyd, M.J., Hampson, F.C., Jolliffe, I.G, Dettmar, P.W., Mitchell J.R.
and Melia, C.D. (2009) Strand-like phase separation in mixtures of xanthan
gum with anionic polyelectrolytes. Food Hydrocolloids Volume: 23 Issue: 8
Pages: 2458-2467 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2009.07.008
5. Lad M.D., Samanci, S., Mitchell, J.R. and Foster T.J. (2012) Viscosity
development during competitive hydration of starch and hydrocolloids. Gums
and stabilisers for the Food Industry 15, RSC, 126-136.
6. Foster, T.J. and Mitchell J.R. (2012) Physical modification of xanthan
gum. Gums and Stabilisers for the Food Industry 16, RSC Publishing, 77-88.
Underpinning research projects:
a. 2003-2006: Relationship between rheology, mouthfeel and flavour
perception of starch. PI John Mitchell. Sponsor Nestle, £60,000.
b. 2002-2003: Influence of Alternative Product Formats on Key Ingredient
Functionality. PI John Mitchell. Sponsor CSM, €85,000.
c. 2003-2004: Characterisation of Biopolymer Blends. PI John Mitchell.
Sponsor CSM, €60,000.
d. 2005-2009: European Polysaccharide Network of Excellence (EPNOE). PI
John Mitchell. Sponsor EU FWVI, €150,000.
e. 2008-2012: Shaping and Transformation in the Engineering of
Polysaccharides (STEP-ITN). PI Tim Foster. Sponsor EU FWVII, €860,000.
f. 2001-2004: The phase behaviour of xanthan based biopolymer mixtures.
PI C Melia (Pharmaceutical Sciences, UoN) - Sponsor Reckitt Benckiser /
FMC Corp £65,000.
A. Farhat, Hill, Mitchell, Scharf, Sereno and Stolz, Water-dispersible
xanthan gum containing comnposition, WO2006/065136.
B. Foster, Mitchell and Lad, Xanthan gum and swellable particulate
containing composition and uses thereof, WO2010/122332.
C. Boyd, Mitchell, Melia, Jolliffe and Dettmar, Thickenable compositions,
D. Foster, Park and Gaunt, Satiety gel, GB1311027.5.
Professor Mitchell received the Food Hydrocolloids Trust Medal at the
2008 International Hydrocolloids conference held in Singapore, and Foster,
Mitchell and Lad received the IChemE Award for Innovation and Excellence
in the Food and Drink sector in 2009. Runner-up in the Food and Drink INet
Innovation award (2009 & 2012). Foster was awarded an EPSRC Centre for
Innovative Manufacturing in Food (2013-2018) worth £5.62m, in
collaboration with University of Birmingham and Loughborough University.
Details of the impact
The use of thickening agents in packaged food materials is widespread and
as the global market for pre-packaged foodstuffs is worth in excess of
US$3 trillion, developments in thickening technology are of considerable
economic benefit to manufacturers and processors. The range of thickeners
that is in current use is generally based upon polysaccharides (starches,
vegetable gums including xanthan gum), or proteins (collagen, gelatin).
Thickeners are selected depending upon their suitability in specific
applications, related to differences in texture, appearance, taste and
responses to chemical and physical conditions. The research of UoN has
resulted in the creation of two new forms of xanthan gum (Hydraxan and
Thixate) which will benefit industry by overcoming problems with
unmodified xanthan gum, and enabling the formulation of foodstuffs with
enhanced taste, texture and nutritional properties. This research has been
enabled by the close partnerships that the University has with the
As a result of the recognised expertise of the Food Science group at the
University of Nottingham, CSM supported three research projects to a value
of £500k over the period 2002-2004 with a focus on optimum delivery of
functional ingredients. UoN had a long-established interest in developing
a new class of food additives/ingredients using expertise on extrusion and
hydrocolloids and this led to the development of Hydraxan. Production
trials with Dupont (a major ingredient manufacturer) held in 2008, were
successful. In a statement, the Senior Principal Scientist, Hydrocolloids
Science at Dupont stated that 'In 2008 Danisco (now DuPont) entered
into an agreement with Nottingham University to evaluate proprietary
technology relating to a novel formulation of Xanthan gum, cf. the
patent application which is jointly owned by the University
WO/2006/065136 regarding 'Water-Dispersible Xanthan Gum Containing
Composition". The objectives of the trials were to demonstrate that the
novel readily dispersible xanthan could be made from DuPont xanthan, to
see if the process could be scaled up and to provide kg quantities of
the material for further application trials. These objectives were met
in full" (Source 1).
Work to scale up production has been a key focus of work with Hydraxan in
the commercial sector. The patent was granted in 2010 in several
countries, including the UK, and on 9th October 2012 was
exclusively licenced to Biopolymer Solutions Ltd, an East Midlands SME.
The technology has been given a boost as a result of further recent DEFRA
LINK funding "Development of physically modified hydrocolloids for
enhanced taste perception" (start date March 2012) and work is currently
being carried out by CP Kelco, a US company with major expertise on
xanthan. In a statement (2013), the Distinguished Research Fellow of CP
Kelco said "Over the last six months we have collaborated with the
staff at the University of Nottingham to understand Hydraxan; a new form
of xanthan developed by the University. CP Kelco intends to collaborate
with the University of Nottingham and the French company Clextral for a
large scale trial in early 2013. This trial is intended to provide a 100
Kg or larger sample of Hydraxan for commercial trials. The Hydraxan
process developed at the University is intended to provide a different
texture as compared to the unprocessed xanthan gum. Our work with
rheological properties and optical microscopy indicates that a Hydraxan
solution is composed of varying amounts of molecularly dispersed polymer
along with another phase of swollen but still associated particles or
soft bits of gel. Compared to other composites, Hydraxan is unique since
the composite is formed of a single material; some of the thickening
comes from molecularly dispersed xanthan and some comes from highly
swollen small particles" (Source 2). Further process scale
up work with Clextral (a major extruder manufacturer) (Source 3)
to levels of 50kg/hr was successfully completed in January 2013. 250kg of
xanthan was processed showing that the structural transformation
discovered by the University had occurred in the process and that product
structures can be tuned by varying the process conditions. Work on
performance in sauces is being driven by Dovedale Foods, another East
Midlands SME, who are streamlining production processes, making high
quality production accessible to the SME community (SMEs make up 90% of
the UK food manufacturing sector).
Although the use of Hydraxan is at an early stage the food industry
considers it to have major potential in both human and animal foods. A
statement from the Physical Chemistry and Gels Manager at Mars Petcare
confirmed that "There are a number of factors that inhibit higher usage
of unmodified xanthan in our processes and products. This modified raw
material would help significantly to overcome those issues and that is
why we are interested to pursue it further" (Source 4).
The catalyst for the development of Thixate was a request by Reckitt
Benckiser (a pharmaceutical/healthcare company) to use UoN expertise on
hydrocolloids to understand an observation of the unusual behaviour of
xanthan in a major product system (underpinning research project f).
While the initial work [C] has not yet been exploited the patented
opportunity would have value in over the counter markets worth $33bn. The
initial work was extended to the very important and novel area of
xanthan-particulate blends — termed `Thixate'. It has been possible to
integrate the two innovations by blending the "current" molecular xanthan
with the novel particulate form prepared by the extrusion process. Patents
have been filed by UoN on the work and in-product studies are currently
being undertaken by Eminate (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University
of Nottingham). This collaboration has led to a third patent being filed
and negotiations are underway for uptake by Dupont (Source 1). In
a statement (2013), the Managing Director of Eminate stated "Over the
last 24 months, Eminate has been working with Dr Tim Foster at the
University of Nottingham to develop one of his patents (related to
xanthan) into a commercial product. Building on the underpinning
research work completed by Dr Foster and his research group on the
fundamental science, the Eminate-led team has now developed a series of
prototypes in a product range under the brand name Thixate. This range
is a series of foods and drinks which contain the Thixate ingredient as
described in the patent and have been shown to provide consumers with a
feeling of satiety and reduced calorie intake at the next meal" (Source
5). Additional opportunities expanding the thixate technology into
controlled release of nutrients and drugs have been identified, which
product range is one of the core components of Eminate's commercial
strategy, providing "commercially-viable, innovative ingredients for
health" (Sources 5,6). The Thixate technology will be
applied to use of concentrates for distributed manufacture of food, closer
to the consumer; to cut down on waste and decrease distribution costs of
foods containing high volumes of water. Work in this area resulted in the
IChemE Award for Innovation and Excellence in the Food and Drink sector in
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Senior Principal Scientist Hydrocolloids Science, Dupont Health and
Nutrition. Provides corroboration for the trial production of
Hydraxan for further applications. 2013.
- Distinguished Research Fellow of CP Kelco. Provides
corroboration for the commercial production of Hydraxan in partnership
with Clextral. 2012.
- Vice President Technology, Clextral, a division of Groupe Legris
Industries, France. Provides corroboration for the commercial
production of Hydraxan. 2013.
- Physical Chemistry and Gels Manager, Mars Global Petcare. Provides
corroboration of the potential uptake of Hydraxan by industry.
- Managing Director of Eminate Limited. Provides corroboration
for the commercial production of Thixate and the potential use food
ingredient to provide consumers with feeling of satiety and reduced
calorie intake. Confirms the inclusion of Thixate technology in the
commercial strategy of the company. 2013.
Presentation by Research and Commercialisation Director, Eminate. Provides
corroboration that Eminate, a wholly owned subsidiary of UoN, are
focused on Thixate as a product for licensing and market as a satiety