Thursday, November 03, 2011: 04:39:18 PM

Food Processing Trend

Growing significance of crystallisation in food processing today

Experienced and expert handling of the crystallisation process can help in reducing wastage of food, which is a method crucial in various food processing industries

Scientific techniques like crystallisation have gradually emerged as crucial processes in the food processing sector, especially due to the growing demand for processed food. Crystallisation mainly has two major purposes – one, to separate out the solid phase from a composition and also to separate out two different components from a mixture if both are valuable. It is also important to note that crystallisation techniques can go a long way in determining the taste and texture of foods and sometimes the purpose of crystallisation can be beyond just separation and solely for the above mentioned purposes.

 
Dr VH Potty, renowned food technologist and chairman of Mysore based Diversified Food Technologies, explains, “In a typical formulation of a chocolate product, cocoa mass with additions of cocoa butter and sugar is mixed, tempered and moulded to give the final product with a snappy texture. It is the cocoa butter and its crystalline structure that decide the final eating quality of the product. Cocoa butter has six different crystal structures, each with a different melting point range between 17°C and 36°C and the technology and expertise involves creating a homogeneous crystal structure which melts at 34°C. This is accomplished by melting the mass to 45°C and then slowly cooling to 27°C to form a predominant mix of type IV and V crystals. Final procedure involves heating the product from 27°C to 31°C to eliminate type IV crystals, leaving only type V with a melting point of 34°C. The chocolates as known to day to connoisseurs cannot be made with any other fat and attempts to replace cocoa butter will definitely end up with products with biting and eating characteristics some what different from normal chocolates.”
 
The process of crystallisation in food processing mainly involves the following steps:
  • Development a supersaturated state
  • Nucleation – Formation of the nuclei of the solution/substance
  • Propagation – growth of the crystals
  • Maturation – reaching the state of the complete/perfect growth or continuation of growth
 
Thorough experience and expertise needed
 
According to food expert Meena Ganguli, “Crystallisation has uses even in our daily lives. For example, sugar crystals, candies and caramel coated rice crispies used for decoration of desserts needs crystallisation techniques. Making ice-cream creamier with lower melting point also involves some knowledge of the crystallisation process.”
 
One of the biggest advantages of the crystallisation process is that crystals formed are always pure in nature. They are homogenous and most of the impurities are only formed on the surface and can be washed away easily. The process of crystallisation is also important for producing sugar from sugarcane and therefore the knowledge of the process needs to be imparted to farmers and processors in rural India. This could go a long way in reducing wastage. Overheating or under-heating during the initiation of the nucleation process can lead to formation of lesser crystals and the texture may not be satisfactory as well.
 
Though the concept of crystallisation has been around for ages, emergence of new substances as food ingredients has increased its significance even more today.
 
Tias Chakraborty

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