Modulating structure for functionality in food products

M. Leser
Nestle Research Center,

Keywords: food materials, food products


The increasing importance of health & wellbeing from a healthcare system perspective urges Food Industry to speed up their research and development work of new innovative products, which allow the consumers to better sustain or promote their personal health and wellbeing. Other key market trends are pleasure, convenience, naturalness of the food, or appealing taste and aroma. In order to develop and produce such tasty, nutritious and healthy food products the creation of new know-how on how to better tailor, design or modulate colloidal food structures, their interfaces or surfaces and their interactions is required. Although foods are complex systems, it becomes more and more evident that applying ‘Soft Condensed Matter’ Physics concepts allows also to better understand structure formation and dynamics in Food materials. The behaviour of soft matter is dominated by one simple fact: it contains ‘mesoscopic structures’ of different length scales (from the nano- up to the millimetre length scale) and of different dynamics. Food materials are extremely rich in examples of soft matter. In many cases the basic building blocks are self assembled structures with complex phase diagrams. The variety of self-assembly structures that can be formed by food polar lipids is as rich as it is for synthetic surfactants: micelles, microemulsions and liquid crystalline mesophases. SAXS, advanced microcopy and interfacial tensiometry measurements clearly revealed the importance of mesophase structure formation also in food materials. However, their sensitivity to environmental changes, such as variations in temperature, ionic strength, pH or to the interaction with other ingredients have to be taken into account when using mesophase structures to generate functionality in food products.