BLOG: Plant-Based Beverages: An Untapped Opportunity for Natural, Functional Fibers (Part 2)

By August 8, 2018News

Hazelnut, oat and almond plant-based milksCitri-Fi natural citrus fiber’s ease of use and superior functional benefits within beverages like juices, RTD, plant-based drinks and powdered mixes makes this an ideal solution versus other hydrocolloids and/or stabilizers on the market.

Author: Nesha Zalesny, Fiberstar Technical Sales Manager


Citri-Fi® Benefits versus Other Stabilizers/Texturants

Citri-Fi is a natural citrus fiber created from a patented process free from chemicals. The process opens up the fiber to create high surface area which provides high water holding capacity and emulsification properties. In some beverage applications, Citri-Fi is used in conjunction with gellan gum. This natural fiber’s tight oil and water holding prevents separation over shelf life and the gellan matrix provides the excellent suspension properties which maintains the high quality in beverages.

In a gellan-based system, Citri-Fi is a great alternative to locust bean gum and acacia gum. This natural citrus fiber provides the emulsion properties and creamy mouthfeel without the price volatility affecting the other two gums.

Citri-Fi has several advantages over other texturizers. The first is labeling. Citri-Fi labelling includes citrus fiber, dried citrus pulp or citrus flour. This natural fiber is non-GMO and produced free from chemicals unlike some of the other hydrocolloids on the market. Because Citri-Fi is processed using only water, most of which is recycled back into the juicing industry, this natural ingredient tells a good sustainable story.

Secondly, Citri-Fi provides a natural mouthfeel and body to beverages. The mouth is actually one of the most sensitive instruments for measuring viscosity. Studies have shown that most people can sense a viscosity difference of less than 10cP; as a result, mouthfeel is a crucial aspect to most beverages. Citri-Fi is a particle, not a long chain hydrocolloid, so it has a much shorter, very natural mouthfeel. I like to think of it as a cotton ball. This 3D structure is how Citri-Fi delivers a drag viscosity that is very different from the viscosity delivered by other gums. Gums tend to have a slimy mouthfeel even at the low usage level.

Finally, Citri-Fi is a natural emulsifier. A lot of non-dairy milks suffer from a lack of creaminess that dairy milk drinkers expect. Because Citri-Fi tightly traps water and oil, this natural fiber will emulsify any added fat formulators may want to add to give that creamy mouthfeel. Formulators could potentially make a non-dairy milk with similar fat levels as dairy milk while still achieving a clean label.

Citri-Fi Functional Mechanism: How it Works

Citri-Fi is comprised of the natural pectin, cellulose, hemicellulose and protein native to the citrus fruit. These components have hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties. The mechanical process used to make Citri-Fi opens the fiber up, exposing a lot of surface area for binding sites which attract both oil and water. The oil coats the surface of the fiber binding to the hydrophobic sites, while the hydrophilic sites bind water. As a result, Citri-Fi forms very stable emulsions that do not break over time.

Using Citrus Fiber in Non-Dairy Beverages

Citri-Fi use levels can be as low as 0.1% for a very light mouthfeel to 0.5% for a thicker mouthfeel. If there are dry ingredients available to blend, we recommend dry blending Citri-Fi with the dry ingredients and processing normally. Citri-Fi is thermo-stable, so it can be processed using traditional HTST or UHT methods. We recommend high-pressure homogenization to open the fiber even further and make the most of the surface area. This will provide a significant increase in both oil and water holding. As a result, this can create thicker textures and increased stability over time.

If no other dry ingredients are available, we recommend using a coarser mesh size and high shear in the batching tank with possibly an induction funnel to incorporate the fiber slowly into the liquid. Citri-Fi functions similarly to other hydrocolloids in that it begins to hydrate the moment it encounters water. This makes forming fish eyes fairly easy with finer mesh material. The larger particles have less surface area to bind water during initial batching, but once it is homogenized, it functions the same as a finer mesh particle. Technical service can help formulators select the best grind size for their manufacturing equipment.

Other Beverage Applications

Citri-Fi is a great clean label stabilizer for many beverages. It can be used in dry mix beverages such as high protein meal replacement shakes as the sole stabilizer. At higher levels, it can be used to both stabilize the shake and make a fiber claim. It can be used as a flavor carrier in citrus-based beverages by plating the flavor oil directly on to Citri-Fi, then blending this with the other dry ingredients.

Citri-Fi can be used in RTD beverages as well. As mentioned previously, this functional fiber can be used to replace locust bean gum  or gum Arabic in gellan gum blends.  Citri-Fi is a natural emulsifier which makes it an ideal replacement for these gums, especially when fat is present. Historically, price volatility does not affect this natural fiber compared to other gums on the market.

Citri-Fi can also be used as partial pulp replacement in nectar type beverages. Some of the tropical fruits can be rather expensive to use. Replacement of some of this pulp with citrus pulp while still maintaining the organoleptic properties of the beverage is an area where Citri-Fi excels. This holds true for vegetable-based juices or cocktail mixers as well.

Citri-Fi is an ideal ingredient for beverage systems because of its multifunctionality.  It adds a nice natural mouthfeel to juices and non-dairy milk systems.  It emulsifies fat so formulators can add a small amount of healthy fat into non-dairy milk to add creaminess and health benefits. It is a sustainably sourced and processed material that does not experience price volatility like other gums.

For more information, please contact Fiberstar’s technical service manager –