Emulsifier List
About Us
Contact Us
Your Position : Home > Blog

Characteristics and Selection of Food Emulsifiers

Emulsifiers play a crucial role in the food industry by stabilizing emulsions, enhancing taste and texture, and extending shelf life. They serve as indispensable additives for elevating product quality and market competitiveness. This blog explores four key characteristics of food emulsifiers and offers guidance on selecting the best emulsifier for baking.

Four Characteristics of Emulsifiers


1. Emulsion System 

In food systems, emulsions with two incompatible phases are often encountered. In order to make the two phases uniform and stable, a third component that reduces the interfacial energy - an emulsifier - needs to be added. Emulsifiers are surfactants whose typical function is to emulsify. The phase in the emulsion that exists in liquid form is called the dispersed phase (or internal phase, discontinuous phase); the other phase is connected into one piece, called the dispersion medium (or external phase, continuous phase). Common emulsions are composed of water and oil. After the emulsification of the two phases by the emulsifier, they will form an oil-in-water (O/W) system or a water-in-oil (O/W) system. For example, milk is an O/W system. Artificial cream is the W/O system.

2. Emulsifying Power of Emulsifiers

The emulsifying ability of food emulsifiers is related to the lipophilic and hydrophilic abilities of the emulsifier molecules. It is often expressed by the hydrophilic-lipophilic balance value, referred to as the HLB value. That is, it reflects the balanced relationship between the lipophilic ability of the lipophilic group and the hydrophilic ability of the hydrophilic group in the emulsifier. Emulsifiers that are highly hydrophilic produce (O/W) emulsions, while emulsifiers that are highly lipophilic produce (W/O) emulsions. The HLB values of various emulsifiers are reference data for selecting emulsifiers.
emulsifiers in food

3. HLB Values of Emulsifiers

The HLB value of commonly used food emulsifiers is 0 to 20. Generally speaking, the HLB value of an emulsifier with 100% lipophilicity is 0, which means it has the greatest lipophilicity and no hydrophilicity; the HLB value of an emulsifier with 100% hydrophilicity is 20, which means it has the greatest hydrophilicity and no lipophilicity. The HLB value ranges from 0 to 10. The smaller the value, the greater the lipophilicity. The HLB value ranges from 10 to 20. The larger the value, the greater the hydrophilicity. The emulsifier with a small HLB value is a water-in-oil emulsifier, and the opposite is an oil-in-water emulsifier.

4. Application Characteristics and Influencing Factors of Emulsifier HLB Values

Emulsifiers play a series of surface-active functions in solutions such as emulsification, wetting, dispersion, solubilization, foaming, and defoaming. The relationship between the HLB value of nonionic emulsifiers and their applicability is shown in the table below.
HLB Value Nature in water Applicability
1-3 Not scattered Defoaming agent
3-6 Slightly scattered W/O type emulsifier (optimal 3.5)
7-9 After vigorous whipping, it becomes milky and dispersed. humectant
8-18 HLB value 8-10, stable milky dispersion O/W type emulsifier (best 12)
13-15 HLB value 10-13, tends to be transparent and dispersed Detergent
15-18 HLB value 13-20, in the form of dissolved transparent colloid liquid Solubilizer

Due to the HLB value's omission of molecular structure specificity, the properties and efficacy of emulsifiers are also dependent on the types, molecular structures, and relative molecular weights of their hydrophilic and lipophilic groups.

In terms of structure, emulsifiers with hydrophilic groups positioned at the end of the lipophilic chain exhibit better hydrophilic properties than those with hydrophilic groups closer to the middle of the lipophilic chain.

Concerning relative molecular weight, emulsifiers with higher molecular weights show better dispersion capabilities than those with lower molecular weights. For straight-chain emulsifiers, significant emulsification characteristics manifest with more than eight carbon atoms, and emulsifiers with 10-14 carbon atoms exhibit better emulsification and dispersion properties.

Therefore, when it is necessary to select the most suitable emulsifier, the HLB value alone is not enough. Multiple factors should also be considered and combined with certain experiments to make the selection.

Choosing the Right Emulsifier for Baking

Emulsifiers are molecules with hydrophilic and hydrophobic ends, playing a crucial role even in small quantities. Their main functions in pastry include forming intercrystalline structures with water, enhancing or reducing interactions with proteins, forming complexes with starch, and promoting or inhibiting fat crystallization.

Common food emulsifiers used in baking include mono- and diglycerides, polyglycerol esters, sucrose esters, DATEM (diacetyl tartaric acid ester of monoglycerides), propylene glycol esters, lecithin, acetylated monoglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, and calcium stearoyl lactylate.
emulsifier in baking

To simplify understanding, numerical values are used to quantify the performance of specific emulsifiers, making their efficacy more tangible.
Name HLB Value Degree of Interaction with Protein Complexation Index with Amylose
DATEM e472e 8.0-8.2 100 49
Sodium Straroyl Lactylate(SSL) 8.0-10.0 95 72
Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate (CSL) 5.0-6.0 95 65
Glyceryl Monostearate (GMS) 3.0-5.0 15 87-92
Polysorbate 60 15 -- 30

From the above table, we can deduce that monoglycerides (GMS) exhibit the highest complexation ability with straight-chain starch, indicating their superior anti-aging capabilities. On the other hand, diacetyl tartaric acid ester of monoglycerides (DATEM) demonstrates the strongest interaction with proteins, highlighting its exceptional strengthening capacity.

The Bottom Line

CHEMSINO Firm, situated in China, specializes in supplying and manufacturing food emulsifiers. If your business requires food emulsifiers, feel free to reach out to us for complimentary samples and price quotes. The emulsifiers we sell online have Hala, Koser, and other relevant certifications. Therefore, you can trust in the quality of our products.
Start Earning Substantial
Profits in Your Country Today!