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Food Industry

Food surfactants are materials that are used for preparation of many food products, such as emulsions, suspensions, and gels. Common foods containing surfactants are listed below:

  • Ice cream
  • Peanut butter
  • Baked goods
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salad dressings
  • Chocolates
  • Margarine
  • Infant formula
  • Processed meats
  • Chewing gum
  • Frozen deserts

Food Industry

Roles of Surfactants in Food Industry

Surfactants are amphiphiles containing both hydrophobic and hydrophilic moieties that confer ability to accumulate between fluid phases such as oil/water or air/water, reducing the surface and interfacial tensions and forming micelles/emulsions. Due to their unique chemical structure, surfactants strongly affect the stability of colloid systems and can interact with all the main components of flour (starch, gluten and lipids). Surfactants act as lubricants, emulsify oil or fat in butters, build structure, aerate, improve certain qualities of the final product, extend shelf life, modify crystallization, prevent sticking, and retain moisture.

As a whole, with surfactants, it is possible to make certain types of food, and it ensures that finished products and ingredients hold their emulsion during transport and storage. Food surfactants have become an invaluable part of modern food manufacturing, with the growing demand for convenient products with longer shelf life.

Here we list some main roles of surfactants in food industry:



  • In most cases, the hydrophilic part of food surfactant is of glycerol, sorbitol, sucrose, propylene glycol or polyglycerol and lipophilic, hydrophobic part is formed by fatty acids derived from fats and oils.
  • There are no universally recognized categories of emulsifier types or structure; however, some have broadly categorized emulsifiers into 3 classes: (1) low molecular-weight emulsifiers (or small-molecule surfactants), (2) amphiphilic biopolymers, and (3) solid or colloidal particles.
Thickening Agent

Thickening Agent

  • Surfactants can be used as food thickening agents which are widely used to modify rheological and textural properties as well as to enhance the quality attributes without affecting other properties like taste.
  • The major functions of food thickening agents are improvement in moisture binding capacity, and structural modification and altering flow behavior properties.


  • Surfactants can be used as food stabilizers which are used to preserve a product’s structure.
  • Common food stabilizers include preventing oil/water emulsions from separating (e.g., salad dressing); preventing ice crystals from forming in frozen food (e.g., ice cream); and preventing fruit from settling (e.g., jam and yogurt).
Defoaming Agent

Defoaming Agent

  • Surfactants can be used as defoaming agents which are designed to minimize or mitigate foam production. They are used to destroy foam buildup and/or prevent foam formation.
  • Benefits of our defoaming agents: Effective in low concentrations, Long-lasting, Reduce waste, Increase productivity, Reduce production costs, etc.

Principles for Using Food Surfactants

As a series of food additives, food surfactants shoule observe the following rules:

  • The food surfactants being used should present no risk to the health of the consumer.
  • Food surfactants should be helpful in the processing, packaging, transport or storage of food, and should not be used to disguise the effects of the use of faulty raw materials.
  • All food surfactants shall be used under conditions of good manufacturing practice.

Above all the use of food surfactants is justified only when such use has an advantage, does not present a hazard to health of and does not deceive the consumer, as well as serves at least one technological function and need, and only where these objectives cannot be achieved by other means which are economically and technologically practicable.

Alfa Chemistry is a professional supplier of food surfactants. For high quality surfactants, professional technical service, use suggestion and latest industry news, please feel free to contact us.