LFI is carrying out a series of feasibility studies in collaboration with certain universities and members of its NanoWatch Working Group, investigating novel or emerging technologies for preparing oil-in-water, water-in-oil, and multiple emulsions.
An example of a multiple emulsion is a water-in-oil-in-water (Wow) emulsion.
Kathy Groves, Project Leader, LFI, told FoodNavigator: “Wow is where you make the water in oil emulsion first, then you put that into a water phase.
“One of the reasons for looking at Wow emulsion is, if you take a product like mayonnaise, it is about 70 per cent fat. That gives it that viscosity and creamy appearance and creamy mouth-feel when you eat it.”
However, she said that a low fat mayonnaise has about 40 per cent fat, which means it has fewer oil droplets and typically stabilizers and thickeners need to be added.
Groves said that Wow can reduce the fat level to 40 per cent without the need to thicken it because of the water inside the oil, and there will still be a creamy mouth-feel.
Another area of investigation is the potential for controlling the size of oil droplets to allow the reduction of the fat content of foods.
Groves said: “LFI's research has shown that if we reduce the size of fat crystals, we can improve functionality and put less fat in a product.”
LFI, along with the Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network (NanoKTN), recently launched a nanotech focus group which met for the first time yesterday.
This aims to bring to the food industry the information and the potential for emerging micro-and nanotechnologies in food and drink applications. It is also exploring funding possibilities.
Groves said: “The group is an opportunity for the food industry to make its views known on needs for research funding and also legislation in the area of nanotechnology and foods.”
Nanotechnology is usually associated with materials that are less than 100nm in size.
The understanding of the science behind micro and nanostructuring of foods is expected to enable the development of new products.
Implementation of these technologies in food and drink applications is predicted to grow rapidly due to the benefits they can bring for both industry and the consumer in terms of structure and texture control, health benefits, and safety and quality.
The nanofood market has increased from a value of $2.6bn in 2003 to $5.3bn in 2005 and it is expected to soar to $20.4bn in 2015.