Gelatin Know-How: Gelling Power

08, 2021
4 min

Gelatin is one of the most versatile food ingredients available. Yet despite its popularity, we’ve noticed that the industry’s understanding of the fundamental properties of gelatin has begun to erode during the last few years, and that its true potential remains unexploited. That’s why we want to refresh your knowledge, and remind you of the unrivalled technological properties of this amazing product. So let’s kick-off with gelling power...

Not all gelatins are the same

An important technological characteristic of various gelatin grades is their gelling power, which is defined by its Bloom value. According to the method established by American scientist Oscar T. Bloom, the gelling properties of gelatin are expressed in Bloom grams (the firmness of a 6.67% gel after 17 hours of storage at 10°C).

The Bloom values of commercial gelatin are between 60 and 300g. A product’s firmness depends on the Bloom value and on the concentration of the gelatin being used. The gelling properties are also dependent on the gelling time and temperature, as well as melting temperature and viscosity. So as you can see, the technological details of gelatin are highly complex. The characteristics of gelatin are fundamentally determined by the molecular weight distribution. The gel strength is primarily related to fractions with a molecular weight of about 100 000 g mol-1, while the viscosity is mainly determined by the molecular weight in the range of 200 000 to over 400 000 g mol-1.  

From water to gel

In systems with a high water content, gelatin immobilizes the water phase and thus increases the viscosity by forming a gel. Without the use of gelatin, products would not obtain the desired texture and may even remain liquid. Especially in dairy products, gelatin prevents the product matrix from shrinking, which would cause unsightly and undesirable syneresis. Therefore, the gelling properties of gelatin are often associated with increased water retention and product stability. In systems with a low water content, the gelling power is responsible for the stable yet elastic texture of the products throughout their shelf life.

Particularly popular in confectionery: jellies and gummies

Many people associate gelatin with its most “classic” application: gummy candies. This is true indeed: the ingredient’s gelling property is arguably its best known and most important quality. Another prime gel formation example, and a major application in terms of market volume, is table jelly. Although other gelling agents are available, none of them can match the texture of table jellies and gummy candies made with gelatin. Their characteristically clear, elastic, gum-like texture can only be achieved by using this hydrocolloid. Additionally, many consumers appreciate the smooth mouthfeel that gelatin-based gummy candies or table jellies provide. They rapidly absorb water in the mouth, gently melt at body temperature and provide ideal flavour release profiles.

Tailored to market needs

By using different gelatin variants with varying Bloom values, or by working with different gelatin concentrations, a product’s elasticity and firmness can be adjusted to achieve specific results. This allows manufacturers to design textures according to the preferences of a specific geographical region or culture, ranging from soft to firm products and/or a short or long bite. Be it the US, Asia or Europe, each market has its own requirement when it comes to the properties of its product. Whatever the preference in bite or texture is, gelatin is usually the key ingredient.

If you want to know more about the versatile and fascinating world of gelatin, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our technical experts today.