IRELAND – Food ingredients specialist Kerry Group has developed a cost-effective alternative to locust bean gum (LBG), the natural stabilizer used by ice cream makers to increase viscosity and prevent ice and lactose crystals from forming in hard-pack ice cream.

The solution, named Sherex Supreme, according to Kerry, delivers the same benefits of natural stabilizers but at up to 50% off the cost.

The product is comprised of LBG, guar gum, and mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids – ingredients that are already present on many ice cream labels, meaning there would be limited to no impact on labeling.

Sherex Supreme is reportedly derived from splitting and milling the seeds of carob trees functioning as a natural plant-based emulsifier and gelling agent and requires minimal processing, meeting requirements for clean labeling.

All of this has contributed to its rising popularity among both dairy and plant-based ice cream producers, but supply has not kept up with demand as it takes 10 years for a carob tree to bear the LBG-producing pods.

This has pushed the cost of carob gum exponentially, with Kerry stating it has risen by 800% in the past five years alone.

The supply-demand imbalance has prompted a search for alternatives, with tara gum touted as one such option, but the availability of that natural additive is also limited.

Tricia Hayes, Kerry’s global senior director – emulsifiers, texture systems, and gum acacia, explained: “Kerry’s Sherex Supreme is a texture system that delivers the creamy mouthfeel, good aeration, desired viscosity and controlled meltdown that consumers expect from ice cream while offering up to 50% cost savings versus standard texture systems.

 Most importantly, Sherex Supreme maintains the indulgent rich ice cream taste so prized by consumers.”

Hayes noted that Sherex Supreme decreases both dependence and pressure on LBG raw material supplies, mitigates price inflation for ice cream products, and helps protect market share for manufacturers, all with no changes to the label or manufacturing process.

 Kerry claims it tested the new texture system’s performance on premium, budget, and standard hard-pack ice creams, where Sherex provided the taste and texture attributes of traditional ice cream.

For example, when examining properties such as viscosity, particle size, mix stability, overrun, and sensory appeal, the company found its solution ‘achieved or exceeded the desired results in all three categories.

Blind testing also showed nine out of 10 panelists found no difference in sensory qualities such as texture, mouthfeel, aftertaste, and smoothness.

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