The ingredient, with worldwide production estimated at 35,000 tonnes a year, is currently widely used as gelling agents in jams, confectionary, and bakery fillings, and stabilisers in yoghurts and milk drinks.
Researchers from Denmark and England recently highlighted the possibilities of this ingredient and proposed that 'designer' pectin will become increasingly common in the future (Trends in Food Science & Technology, Vol. 17, pp. 97-104).
The functionality of pectin is dictated by the chemical fine structure, and the majority of the pectin used currently comes from citrus peel and apple pomace. Other sources of the ingredient have remained largely unexploited because of certain undesirable structural properties.
This is slowing changing, however, with increasing numbers of reports surfacing indicating the potential of other sources.
Indeed, tapping into the trend for alternative sources of pectin, researchers based in Belgium and Cameroon, reported that pectin from banana skin could find application as a gelling agent.
Writing in the journal Food Chemistry, lead author Thomas Happi Emaga from Gembloux Agricultural University (Belgium) and the African Research Centre on Bananas and Plantains, reported the ideal extraction conditions of the pectin for potential food uses: pH 2.0 for one hour at 90 degrees Celsius.
(Food Chemistry, doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2007.10.078, T. Happi Emaga et al.)
At the end of October, Italian researchers reported findings from their investigations of cocoa husks as an alternative, environmentally friendly, and cost-efficient source of pectin for food.
Researchers from the Institute of Material Science and Chemical Engineering at Torino Polytechnic reported that mincing the husks for one hour and then extraction under acidic condition (pH 2.5) produced the best yields of about eight per cent.
(Food Chemistry, doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2007.09.006, C. Mollea et al.)
Also in October, FoodNavigator.com reported on research from a Cameroon-France collaboration exploring the potential of ambarella peel as a source of pectin. Extracts from the tropical fruit, also known as golden apple (Spondias cytherea), were comparable to pectin from lime.
The scientists, from Cameroon's University of Yaounde I and Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation, and France's INRA (UR1268), stated that the ambarella pectin compared well to lime pectin extracted under the same conditions, thereby "indicating their commercial significance".
(Food Chemistry, Vol. 106, pp. 1202-1207, B.B. Koubala et al.)
The same research team also reported the potential of mango peel to offer a novel source of pectin. Writing in the journal Food Hydrocolloids, Koubala and co-workers reported that an ammonium oxalate extraction process produced the best results with higher yields, high molecular mass, and intrinsic viscosity.
They report that the extracted pectins were highly methylated, and form gels with large amounts of sugar (more than 55 per cent) and acid.
(Food Hydrocolloids, doi: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2007.07.005, B.B. Koubala et al.)
Scientists in Russia also reported in April that pectin extracted from pumpkin and then modified using an enzyme could offer an interesting alternative for jams and confectionery.
"Although the potential stocks of these raw materials enables the main pectin producers (USA, Germany, Denmark) to plan an annual increase of pectin production of approximately 3.8 per cent, searching for new pectin-containing raw materials is an important task of science and industry," wrote the researchers from the Saratov State Agarian Vavilov University and the Moscow State University of Applied Biotechnology.
"Pumpkin pulp seems more promising for pectin production in Russia and it would be appropriate to verify the hydrolysing action of the early used enzyme preparation on this non-traditional pectin-containing raw material," they added.
(Food Hydrocolloids, doi: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2007.04.002, N.M. Ptichkina et al.)
Despite a wealth of research exploring potential new sources, Dr. Steve Bodicoat, marketing and innovations direction for CP Kelco, told FoodNavigator.com at the recent FiE in London: "We do experiment with other sources of pectin, like potato, for example, but we see more potential in citrus."
"There is scope to improve citrus pectin," he said.