People have been savoring the sweet delight of processed fruit for centuries. Originally cultivated in Middle Eastern countries abundant with natural sugar cane, jams and jellies made their journey to Europe courtesy of returning crusaders. By the late Middle Ages, they had become staple delights across the continent. It’s noteworthy that the term “jelly” is derived from the French “gelée”, meaning “to congeal.”
American settlers relied on honey, molasses, or maple sugar for preserving fruits. Historical milestones such as Jerome Smucker’s (OU Kosher certified) initiation of apple cider pressing in 1897 and Paul Welch’s 1917 grape puréeing patent illustrate the evolving appeal and uses of fruit products.
The market today offers a plethora of choices. While classics like grape jelly and strawberry jam continue to reign, there’s a significant movement towards exotic flavors and healthier alternatives.
Today pectin is a critical component in the food industry and has seen remarkable market growth. The advancements in methods to extract pectin along with a growing trend in health awareness and clean labels have made this natural gelling agent a perfect fit for this demand.
Beyond just jams and jellies, pectin has found its way into confectioneries, desserts, dairy, and beverages.
Emerging niche market trends include:
- Clean Label Movement: Modern consumers seek products with familiar and natural ingredients. The use of pectin resonates with this demand due to its plant-based origin.
- Dietary Specializations: Along With the rise in vegan, paleo, and keto diets, pectin-based products can be tailored to meet these specific dietary requirements.
- Functional Foods: Beyond its gelling properties, pectin has been acknowledged for potential health benefits like lowering cholesterol and promoting gut health.
- Kosher Alternative to Animal Based Gelatin: Pectin has emerged as a vital alternative to animal-derived gelatin in kosher food production. Recognized for its gelling properties, pectin does not carry the religious and dietary restrictions associated with traditional animal gelatin.
New pectin extraction technology has broadened the pectin’s applications for pectin and include:
- Food Thickening and Gelling Agent: Pectin is often used as a gelling agent in jams, jellies, and marmalades, where it helps to set the fruit mixture and give it a firm, spreadable texture.
- Stabilizer: It serves as a stabilizer in yogurt, desserts, and some beverages, preventing the separation of ingredients and ensuring a smooth texture.
- Dietary Fiber: Pectin is considered a beneficial source of dietary fiber and is used in some dietary supplements. It can aid in digestion and may help to lower cholesterol levels.
- Fat Replacement: In some low-fat or fat-free products, pectin is used as a fat replacer to provide the desired texture and mouthfeel without adding fats.
- Pharmaceutical Uses: Pectin can be used in medical applications, such as in lozenges or as a thickening agent in medications to improve their consistency.
- Cosmetic Applications: Pectin may also find applications in cosmetics as a thickener and emulsifier, helping to stabilize the product and enhance the application on the skin.
- Specialty Diets: For those requiring gluten-free products, pectin serves as a useful substitute for gluten in baked goods, giving them a desirable texture.
- Wine and Juice Clarification: In the beverage industry, pectin is used in the clarification process of wines and juices, helping to remove unwanted solids and materials.
- Vegan Cooking: Since pectin is plant-based, it is often used in vegan cooking as a replacement for gelatin, which is derived from animals.
Leading this innovation are companies like Cargill, Danisco and Ingredion, all OU Kosher certified and known for their pioneering extraction methods and commitment to sustainable raw material sourcing.
In 2021, Cargill opened a 150 million pectin plant in Brazil. Cargill’s pectin portfolio reflects this familiar ingredient’s evolution. “The technology has really blossomed,” explains Underwood. “Our ability to extract the pectin from citrus fruits has come leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. And now we’re able to manipulate the structure of pectin, both physically and chemically, to better target stability and gelling. It’s very exciting.”
These discoveries have led to exciting product innovations which appeal to today’s discriminating and health-conscious consumer. “Not that long ago, there were few options. But these recent advancements have opened the door for using pectins in new types of beverages and desserts,” said Underwood.
Ingredion renowned for its wide range of ingredient solutions added new texturizers to its US portfolio of functional, clean label ingredient solutions.