Slower melting ice cream in pipeline

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Photo of three melting ice-cream cones

News from the University of Edinburgh

Childhood memories of sticky hands from melting ice cream cones could soon become obsolete, thanks to a new food ingredient.

Scientists have discovered a naturally occurring protein that can be used to create ice cream that is more resistant to melting than conventional products. The protein binds together the air, fat and water in ice cream, creating a super-smooth consistency.

A smoother texture for ice cream

The new ingredient could enable ice creams to keep frozen for longer in hot weather.

It could also prevent gritty ice crystals from forming, ensuring a fine, smooth texture like those of luxury ice creams.

The development could allow products to be manufactured with lower levels of saturated fat - and fewer calories - than at present.

Developing a new protein

Researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Dundee developed a method of producing the new protein - which occurs naturally in some foods - in friendly bacteria. They estimate that ice cream made with the ingredient could be available within three to five years.

We're excited by the potential this new ingredient has for improving ice cream, both for consumers and for manufacturers said Professor Cait MacPhee, from the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Edinburgh.

Significant benefits

The protein works by adhering to fat droplets and air bubbles, making them more stable in a mixture.

Using the ingredient could offer significant advantages for ice cream makers. It can be processed without loss of performance, and can be produced from sustainable raw materials.

Manufacturers could also benefit from a reduced need to deep freeze their product, as the ingredient would keep ice cream frozen for longer. The supply chain would also be eased by a reduced need to keep the product very cold throughout delivery and merchandising.

The protein, known as BslA, was developed with support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

It has been fun working on the applied use of a protein that was initially identified due to its practical purpose in bacteria, said Dr Nicola Stanley-Wall, from the University of Dundee.

The smart protein could soon be used not just in ice cream but for home and personal based products.

Applying the technology commercially

Dr Peter Deakin, of Edinburgh Research and Innovation at the University of Edinburgh, said: With some truly exciting results in hand, we are now actively seeking partners interested in applying this technology commercially. We believe this product offers a genuine alternative to existing surfactants, from a sustainable source, with improved performance in a range of applications.

The ice cream story has been widely covered in the press both nationally and internationally from the UK to Australia.

Reference: PN 44-15