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10 ways powdered emulsifiers can outperform gels

The best of today’s emulsifiers have a lot to offer bakers and cake producers.

Invented more than 30 years ago, activated, powdered emulsifiers are quite unlike ordinary food ingredient emulsifiers. Where the latter are usually carried on shortening, powdered emulsifiers are activated on starch in a highly sophisticated extrusion process. And they have a lot more to offer industrial bakers, optimising quality, moistness, mouth-feel and shelf-life, as well as production performance.

In this post, I’ll describe ten reasons why powdered emulsifiers typically outperform their traditional counterparts.


(1) Less complexity

Compared with gels, shortenings or other emulsifiers in paste form, powdered emulsifiers simplify production, reducing the number of process steps. Since no pre-hydration or pre-emulsification step is needed, they can be added directly to the cake batter in a fully automated process. So, adding emulsifiers during cake production now requires only a few minutes of preparation.


(2) Lower dosages

Powdered emulsifiers have a higher emulsifier content than typical cake gels, requiring lower dosages to achieve high-quality results.


(3) Faster production

Want to produce baked goods more quickly? Powdered emulsifiers act extremely rapidly in a batter, enabling you to speed up your production lines. The extra speed is primarily due to the impressive surface area (a 20-kilogram bag boasts a surface area as large as six football fields), which delivers fast uptake and rapid incorporation of air.


(4) Fewer failures

No one likes a failed production batch. They’re hard on the bottom line and can delay valuable deliveries to your customers. Powdered emulsifiers make potentially contradictory or undesirable effects less likely to occur – and far easier to manage if they do. That’s because powdered varieties are comprised of just one active emulsifier and one food ingredient (rice flour).


5) Less waste, easier storage

Scraping all of a cake gel emulsifier out of its container can delay your production process. And there’s always some amount left inside that just gets thrown out. In contrast, powder seems to really want to leave its bag – leaving only the tiniest of amounts behind.

While we’re talking about physical handling of gels versus powders, it’s worth noting that powdered emulsifiers take up less storage space, partly because less is needed for the same effect, and partly because they stack more easily than do buckets of gel.


6) Leaner label

Why have more ingredients listed on your label than you need to? With one active emulsifier and one food ingredient, there’s plenty of white space left to please consumers and health authorities or lobbyists.


7) Leaner product development, easier procurement

What if your R&D department could cut down on what it takes to develop a wide range of new products? Activated, powdered emulsifiers are unique in that they can be used to make just about anything – with a built-in ability to handle challenges such as low fat, low sugar, high temperatures and more. It’s like having the Swiss knife of emulsifiers always at hand. And, because the same emulsifier works with many different types of cakes, for example, procurement is nicely simplified, too.


8) Leaner on the planet

Powdered emulsifiers are a win for the environment, too. Why? The list is a very long one.
For example, they:

  • Are plant-based – and palm oil versions are available in volume with RSPO sustainability certification
  • Save electricity, as they don’t need temperature-controlled storage
  • Contain fewer chemicals (most gel forms require a range of additives such as ethanol and propylene-glycol to meet functional specifications)
  • Are available from entirely carbon-neutral production plants
  • Arrive in bags, not large plastic containers, which results in less waste and requires fewer resources to recycle
  • Reduce transportation loads because there’s no water component being carried along with the emulsifier
  • Enable you to use less energy in production, thanks to rapid functionality
  • Provide greater dosage accuracy, further reducing emulsifier and cake product waste


9) Longer, less-demanding shelf life

Because of the way in which whipping active component of powdered emulsifiers is fixed to the starch particles during the extrusion process, these products are extremely stable both in their functionality and their useful storage lives. In fact, a powdered emulsifier is likely to remain useful – without any refrigeration – for as long as 18 months!

That brings plenty of upsides: For example, you can buy larger volumes of powdered emulsifiers than with gel forms, purchasing when pricing is favourable and avoiding any seasonal variations in gel quality, too. And you’re less likely to have to dump old stock if you’ve misjudged demand (the hot 2018 summer in Europe, for example, caught plenty of cake producers off guard).


10) Healthier foods

In recent years, the world’s health authorities have been working to eradicate the health risks associated with PHO (partially hydrogenated oils). That’s where powdered, palm oil-based emulsifiers step up, enabling a non-PHO recipe to be created with a very similar mouthfeel and texture to the PHO-containing original. Powdered emulsifiers work extremely well with liquid oils, creating even more delicious cakes without PHOs and which are low in saturated fats.

The realisable benefits of using activated, powdered emulsifiers will, of course, depend on the recipe, processing conditions and individual ingredient pricing. But with so many advantages over traditional emulsifier gels, it’s certainly worth investigating their potential!

About the author

Arne Pedersen

Arne Pedersen has been Global Product & Application Manager for Bakery & Confectionery at Palsgaard’s Danish headquarters since 2005. Originally a certified baker and food technologist, Arne has more than 20 years of experience working with product development and product management in the bakery and confectionery industry. His email is