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Pectin engineering for control of texture/rheology of fruit and vegetable based products


Key words pectin, pectin methyl esterase, PME, polygalacturonase, PG, pectate lyase, PL, demethoxylation, depolymerisation, fruits, vegetables, texture, rheology
Latest version 2010/12/13
Completed by KU Leuven LFT

How does it work?

Primary objective This technology allows creating desirable textures and rheological behaviour of fruit and vegetable based food products, through intelligent design of processes, based on knowledge of pectin content as well as presence and kinetics of pectolytic enzymes. This way, the desired texture and rheology of products can be achieved without or a lesser use of additives such as stabilizers and thickeners.
Working principle Pectin is a cell wall polysaccharide present in higher plants. It has a major effect on the texture of fruits, vegetables and derived products. Pectin can be subject to a number of enzymatic and non-enzymatic conversions during ripening, storage and processing. These conversions change the structural characteristics of pectin, which fundamentally alters its functional properties (1,2).

Methyl esters of pectin can be hydrolysed through non-enzymatic as well as enzymatic demethoxylation, the latter being catalysed by pectinmethylesterase (PME). Demethoxylation results in formation of negatively charged carboxyl groups, which can crosslink in presence of calcium ions. On the other hand, the pectin backbone can be degraded through depolymerisation reactions. Such reactions can occur during heating of pectin containing products. Moreover, several enzymes, such as polygalacturonase (PG) and pectate lyase (PL) catalyse depolymerisation reactions. Pectin demethoxylation and/or depolymerisation radically change the texture and structure of fruit and vegetable based products. Intelligent choice of ingredients and process design, based on knowledge of kinetics of the respective conversions and presence of enzymes, allows boosting desirable and/or eliminating undesirable pectin conversions (3). In addition, exogenous enzymes can be added. As a result, textural and rheological properties of the product can be controlled without the use of additives. Some examples:

  • Texture improvement of thermally processed carrots by subjecting the carrots to a specific pre-treatment during which endogenous PME is activated. Such pre-treatment can involve low temperature blanching or a high pressure pre-treatment (4)
  • Texture improvement of processed strawberries by vacuum infusion of strawberries with exogenous fungal PME and calcium (5)
Additional effects By changing texture and rheology of food products, pectin engineering may have an influence on the bioavailability of nutrients (6).
Important process parameters time, temperature, pressure
Important product parameters pectin content and structure, presence of pectic enzymes, kinetic properties of pectic enzymes, product pH

What can it be used for?

Products Fruit and vegetable based products of which the texture is to a large extent governed by the state of the pectin
Operations Thermal processing, high pressure processing, ...
Solutions for short comings Reducing the amount of additives (stabilizers and thickeners), exploiting the endogenous potential of ingredients.

What can it NOT be used for?

Products Products which do not contain plant-based foods or plant-based foods in which texture is not governed by the state of pectin
Operations High shear operations like intensive tube flow, shearing by intensive mixing as pectin can be destroyed also by shearing (mechanical energy).
Other limitations For each type of fruit and/or vegetable used, information on the presence of pectic enzymes and their kinetics is needed in order to allow optimisation of process conditions. (For many fruits and vegetables, such information is available in literature)
Risks or hazards No


Maturity Some applications are available at industrial scale. For example, enzyme preparations for infusion into porous fruits such as apple and strawberry are commercially available.

Other applications are still at research stage.

Modularity /Implementation Depends on the specific application
Consumer aspects In general, consumer acceptance is expected to be high, since the technology may reduce or eliminate the need for additives (stabilizers and thickeners)
Legal aspects No information available - please check local legislation
Environmental aspects Intelligent process design, aiming at maximal exploitation of endogenous potential of ingredients, may decrease the amount of waste streams

Further Information

Institutes KU Leuven LFT, Wageningen UR - FBR, IFR, INRA
Companies Novozymes, DSM
References 1. Sila, D.N., Van Buggenhout, S., Duvetter, T., Fraeye, I., De Roeck, A., Van Loey, A., Hendrickx, M. (2009). Pectins in processed fruits and vegetables: Part II-Structure-function relationships. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 8, 86-104.

2. Van Buggenhout, S., Sila, D.N., Duvetter, T., Van Loey, A., Hendrickx, M. (2009). Pectins in processed fruits and vegetables: Part III-Texture engineering. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 8, 105-117.

3. Duvetter, T., Sila, D.N., Van Buggenhout, S., Jolie, R., Van Loey, A., Hendrickx, M. (2009). Pectins in processed fruits and vegetables: Part I-Stability and catalytic activity of pectinases. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 8, 75-85.

4. Sila, D.N., Doungla, E., Smout, C., Van Loey, A., Hendrickx, M. (2006). Pectin fractions interconversions: insight into understanding texture evolution of thermally processed carrot. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 54 (22), 8471-8479.

5. Fraeye, I., Knockaert, G., Van Buggenhout, S., Duvetter, T., Hendrickx, M., Van Loey, A. (2010). Enzyme infusion prior to thermal/high pressure processing of strawberries: Mechanistic insight into firmness evolution. Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies, 11, 23-32.

6. Parada, J., Aguilera, J.M. (2007). Food microstructure affects the bioavailability of several nutrients. Journal of Food Science, 72 (2), R21-R32.

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Created by LiesbethV on 27 April 2011, at 14:07