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Trials prove sensory attributes of sunflower lecithin, says Sternchemie

By Jane Byrne , 29-Sep-2011
Last updated the 29-Sep-2011 at 14:12 GMT

German supplier Sternchemie claims recent in-house trials demonstrate that sunflower lecithin is a viable alternative to IP soy lecithin for chocolate manufacturer, but greater dosages are required to achieve the viscosity and sensory properties of soy formulations.

The fundamental finding of the trials, conducted over 6 months with sister company Herza Schokolade, is that the sunflower version cannot directly replace soy lecithin on a one-to-one comparsion basis in dark chocolate, said Janine Binder, applications technician at Sternchemie.

Soy lecithin, which is a natural emulsifier and can reduce the amount of cocoa butter required in chocolate forumations, is typically included in the range of 0.3 to 0.5%.

But the Hamburg-based firm estimates that there is a need for a greater dosage level when using sunflower lecithin in dark chocolate. “Slightly higher quantities of sunflower lecithin in chocolate are required to get the same flow moisture point as with the soy form,” said Binder.

Test results

The trials, she said, were run using samples of dark chocolate and milk chocolate. In terms of the dark chocolate, she said that the cocoa butter content was 27% and 34%, but 29% in the milk chocolate sample.

In milk chocolate, tests showed that the supplier’s standardized sunflower lecithin LeciStar S 100 gives properties that are essentially identical to soy lecithin. In dark chocolate, the flow moisture point was slightly higher. “However, adding about 0.1% more sunflower lecithin gives the same flow moisture point as with soy lecithin,” added the supplier.

Chocolate samples were blind tasted, with the panel finding “no significant difference in taste between sunflower and soy lecithin”.

Sunflower lecithin forms

Binder told FoodNavigator.com that while Sternchemie currently only has fluid sunflower lecithin in its portfolio, it will be able to offer a de-oiled form in the summer of 2012.

On the fractionated side, the applications technician explained that the supplier has only conducted limited laboratory products trials so developments in this area are some way off.

Soy alternatives

There are many advantages to manufacturers using the alternatives to soy lecithin, said the lecithin specialist.

Unlike soy lecithin, the sunflower based version does not need to be labelled as an allergen.

Also, sunflower lecithin is also guaranteed GM-free, so is kept well away from any genetically modified material – an area increasing concern for soy-derived materials.

Sternchemie notes increasing demand from European retailers for alternatives to soy lecithin, with the supplier reporting greater cross-contamination between GMO and non-GMO soy, with Janine Binder said that that an increasingly narrower supply base of GMO- free soy is also placing an upward pressure on its price.

But sunflower lecithin also contains more by-products that influence the quality so it must be processed before use. Sternchemie said it removes by-products from the sunflower lecithin it receives from oil mills through a cleaning process at its facilities in Poland and Holland.

Binder added that the sunflowers it uses are sourced from Eastern Europe but also from South America.

Sternchemie claims to be one of the first suppliers globally to include sunflower lecithin in its portfolio, and adds that it carries out application specific testing for the industry, wiht its sunflower lecithin range also having bakery product applications.

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