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FMC Health & Nutrition

Alginates, Carrrageenans and Microcrystalline Cellulose


What are they?

Alginate is classified as a hydrocolloid (a water-soluble biopolymer of colloidal nature when hydrated). The first scientific studies on the extraction of alginates from brown seaweed were made by the British chemist E.C. Stanford at the end of the 19th century, and the large-scale production of alginate was introduced 50 years later.

Alginate is a polysaccharide, like starch and cellulose. It is composed of several building units (typically 100–3000) linked together in a flexible chain. Long molecules constructed from identical or nearly identical building units are called polymers, while the building units themselves are called monomers. Polymers of natural origin are commonly called biopolymers

Microbial Bacteria Close Up

Alginate is one of the most versatile biopolymers and is used in a wide range of food, pharmaceutical and specialty applications for:

  • Thickening
  • Stabilizing
  • Gelling
  • Film forming

Today, FMC Health & Nutrition is among the world’s largest alginate manufacturers. Together with our carrageenan and cellulose gel (microcrystalline cellulose) we offer a full range of functionalities and capabilities to assist formulators in creating and launching innovative products and systems, including:

  • Cold soluble
  • Cold setting
  • Heat stable
  • Freeze/thaw stable

Where does it come from?

Microbial Bacteria Close Up

The primary brown seaweed utilized by FMC Heatlh & Nutrition for the extraction of alginates is Laminaria hyperborea. This type of seaweed is harvested along the West Coast of Norway, where the sustainable, renewable crop grows naturally in the clean Arctic waters. The plants are harvested in fairly shallow waters, at depths of 2-15 meters. Special trawlers have been developed to harvest this seaweed, and FMC Heatlh & Nutrition is the only alginate producer in the world that harvests Laminaria hyperborea mechanically.

Marine Colloids® Carrageenan

What is It?

Carrageenan is a naturally occurring family of carbohydrates extracted from red seaweed. From this natural source, FMC Heatlh & Nutrition develops and customizes blends of carrageenans for specific gelling, thickening, and stabilizing properties.

Microbial Bacteria Close Up

How does it work?

Binds Moisture Carrageenan has excellent moisture binding capabilities. This allows formulators to manage water and other aqueous fluids in their systems. Stabilizes Emulsions. Although carrageenan is not a surfactant, it will stabilize existing emulsions. Its thickening and thixotropic properties give integrity to the system and inhibit the oil from coalescing and sepa- rating into an oil phase and water phase.

Suspends Particles The 3-dimensional network which helps stabilize emulsions also functions to suspend particulates. Insolubles will remain uniformly distributed in the bottle for extended periods without remixing or shaking.

Controls Flow Properties Controlling flow properties of food systems is essential from processing to the final product consistency. Carrageenan is thermally reversible, so at high temperatures it will impart minimal viscosity, allowing for easier processing conditions and improved heat transfer. Upon cooling the carrageenan will thicken. With most gelling carrageenans, solutions will begin to solidify and form gels when cooled below 49°C (120°F).

Produces Stable Gels at Room Temperature Most kappa and iota carrageenan solutions will set into a gel structure at ambient temperatures. The gels require heat to melt into a fluid state for reprocessing. Generally, carrageenan should be dispersed in cold water and then heated above the solubility temperature of the carrageenan to obtain maximum functionality. There are several other methods of incorporating carrageenan into complex systems or processes that allows it to offer optimum functionality.

Microcrystalline Cellulose

What is It?

Microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) is derived from naturally occurring cellulose similar to that found in fruits and vegetables. From this natural source, we develop and customize Microcrstalline Cellulose through various unique co-processing techniques. These helps standardize products to meet specific viscosity, gelling, suspension and stabilizing properties.

The raw material for Avicel is purified plant fiber, or alpha cellulose, and it is composed of millions of microfibrils. During processing, the fibrous material is hydrolyzed (depoly- merized) to remove the amorphous regions, leaving only the crystalline bundles.

What it does.

The gel network formed with colloidal MCC offers the following qualities:

Thixotropy Gels made with colloidal MCC readily break down with shear; when the shear is removed, the gel will reform over time with minimal loss to viscosity.

Foam Stabilitycolloidal MCC is a premier foam stabilizer. The microcrystalline network thickens the water phase between air cells and acts as a physical barrier to main- tain the air cells in suspension. Although colloidal MCC does not have significant film forming properties, it does work to increase the film strength.

Stabilize Emulsions colloidal MCC forms a 3-dimensional network of particles when properly dispersed in water. This colloidal network sets up at the oil-water interface to physically prevent the oil globules from coalescing

Heat Stability temperature changes have little or no effect on the functionality and viscosity of a colloidal dispersion. This property is extremely important in the preparation of heat stable products, particularly when acids are present. Colloidal MCC products will hold up during heat processing, including baking, retorting, HTST, UHT processing and microwave heating with minimal loss in viscosity.

Shorten Textures colloidal MCC can be used to modify textures– it can shorten textures or add body without creating a gummy or pasty texture. In food systems this quality results in a cleaner mouthfeel and excellent flavor release. Suspend Particles– the stability and thixotropic rheology of colloidal MCC makes it a useful suspension aid. In an aqueous system, the 3-dimensional matrix sets-up at low use levels to effectively suspend particulates.