Sunflower lecithin

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Lecithin is indispensable in the making of chocolate. A natural emulsifier, with just short conching it gives a homogeneous, low viscosity chocolate mass that is relatively easy to work and melts gently. Lecithin reduces fat blooming, increasing the product’s shelf life. It also offers cost benefits, since with lecithin up to eight percent less cocoa butter is needed. Sternchemie, an international supplier of lecithins, has now once again shown in trials that sunflower lecithin is a viable alternative to IP soy lecithin for chocolate manufacture.

Sunflower lecithin is similar to soy lecithin in terms of phospholipid composition. To find out if sunflower lecithin has the same functional properties as soy lecithin in chocolate manufacture, Sternchemie ran practical tests in cooperation with sister company Herza Schokolade. According to Janine Binder, applications technician at Sternchemie, “First we made samples of dark chocolate, with and without added cocoa butter, and milk chocolate. The cocoa butter content was 27% and 34% with the dark chocolate, and 29% with the milk chocolate. We processed some of the samples with our Yellothin 100 IP soy lecithin, and the rest with our LeciStar S 100 sunflower lecithin. We then tested the samples for viscosity, flow moisture point and taste.”

Production testing at Herza Schokolade showed that in milk chocolate the standardised 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. To test the flavour profile, the chocolate samples were blind-tested. With both milk chocolate and the pure dark chocolate, there was no significant difference in taste between sunflower and soy lecithin. “In summary, you can say that you need to use a little more sunflower lecithin in chocolate to get the same flow moisture point as with soy lecithin. In terms of taste, there are no significant differences,” says Binder.

Soy lecithin has a host of uses as an emulsifier and homogeniser. However, the rapid rise in cross contamination between GMO and non-GMO soy is a problem. This creates fertile ground for speculation even before the harvest, which has a significant effect on market prices. For the food industry, this is very disadvantageous. As a result, demand is rising for sunflower lecithin as an alternative. “We are seeing a trend where big supermarket and discount chains are increasingly demanding alternatives to soy lecithin,” explains Michael Heidland, in charge of lecithins at Sternchemie. “One reason is that there is currently no risk of genetic modification with sunflowers or products made from them. Another reason is that sunflower products are hypoallergenic.” Unlike soybeans, each sunflower seed has a shell that must be removed in a separate processing step. Raw sunflower lecithin also contains more by-products that influence the quality, which varies greatly depending on production methods. This makes it necessary to process the lecithin before use. Sternchemie removes by-products from the sunflower lecithin it receives from oil mills by a special cleaning process at its own facilities in Poland and Holland. “With our process technology, we attain such a high product quality that we can use the sunflower lecithin in our oil separators to derive a pure lecithin,” says CEO Andreas Reith.

Source: Confectionery Production