Gums expand their multifunctional role in confections by delivering healthy benefits.

Maureen Akins, lead food scientist for TIC Gums, quickly lists the various functions gums have in formulating confections: foam stabilization; emulsification of oil components; increasing hardness as well as preventing sugar re-crystallization in hard-boiled candies; sealing, be it to prevent oxidation in nuts and/or chocolate; and increasing the strength of the shell in chewing gum.

Gum use, however, continues to evolve as candy and food technologists explore existing properties of such traditional gums as gum acacia, guar gum and gum tragacanth. Although most work has focused on the functional aspects of gelling, thickening, extending and stabilizing, Akins points out that technologists haven’t ignored other, more marketable properties.

“We are seeing product developers experiment with gums to achieve novel textures in confections,” she adds.

Then there’s the health and nutritional characteristics. Consider gum acacia, one of the earliest ingredients - along with sugar - used in confectionery products. Sourced from the branches and stems of acacia trees in the sub-Saharan regions of Africa, the dried sap is an all-natural and renewable ingredient, ideal for addressing clean label demands.

Used in a variety of applications, including gum pastilles (i.e. jujubes), chocolate lentils, gumming, chewing gum coatings, chewy confectionery, compressed tablets and nut coating, gum acacia also can deliver nutritional benefits - specifically, fiber.

Teresa Yazbek Pereira, vice president and sales director of Colloides Naturels, Inc. (CNI) in the United States, cites the company’s two products,Fibregum andFibregum Bio(organic) as examples of the evolution of gum acacia.

Containing more than 90% soluble fiber,Fibregum and its organic counterpart,Fibregum Bio, deliver prebiotic benefits at 6, 10 and 15 g. per day, help decrease the glycemic index of foods and contain no carbohydrates.

That’s not to say they don’t perform traditional functional roles.

In cereal and snack bars,Fibregum stabilizes product texture during storage by controlling water activity, Yazbe Pereira says, explaining that “it effectively binds together all components, such as fruits, cereal and other inclusions, and can replace sugar components, decreasing the glycemic index and increasing fiber level.”

CNI’s newest nutritional product line,Equacia, combines soluble (gum acacia) and insoluble (wheat gluten-free) fibers to deliver a smooth texture, particularly in moulded sugar and sugar-free candies.

Equacia XEwas developed for confectionery users to obtain a gum pastille with soluble and insoluble fibers that has a soft texture without the use of gelatin or modified starch,” Yazbe Pereira says. “It provides a gum confectionery that is long lasting in the mouth, non-sticky, with an improved shelf life and a superior flavor release compared to other gum pastilles made with other texturizers. Pastilles produced withEquacia can be sugar-free and have up to 27% of fiber.”

As the demand for natural, organic and healthier confections continues to grow, gums will expand their role from being a critical functional component to that of a nutritional and health enhancer.