Four Things You Need to Know About Food Starch

Food Starch: What is it, what is it used for, and moreMark Frenzel JRW Regional Sales Manager Birmingham, AL Texas

Q: What is starch?

A: A starch is the part of the plant where its energy is stored in the form of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are made up of long chains of glucose molecules. Since glucose is one of the main energy sources in biology, the plant stores it in this very condensed form to save space. The most common sources of starch used in food processing are corn, sorghum, rice, potato, or cassava (tapioca).

Starch from various sources contain different ratios of these long-chain glucose molecules called amylose and amylopectin. The ratio of amylose to amylopectin can affect the functionality of the starch for use in different food applications.

Q: What are starches used for?

A: Managing moisture is one of the primary functions of starch in foods. Below are examples of common applications in food products:

  • Yield Enhancement/Cost Optimization
    • Meat and Poultry Products
      (Retaining added water/purge prevention)
  • Thickening, Stabilization, Body, Gelling, etc.
    • Sauces & Gravies
    • Soups
    • Confectionery
    • Fillings, Yogurts, & Puddings
  • Texture Enhancement
    • Meat & Poultry Products
    • Bakery
    • Batter & Breading
    • Snack Chips/Crackers

Q: What is a “native” starch?

A: The term “native” refers to starch in its un-modified form. Most native starches can be used in “natural” or “clean label” product formulations.

Q: What is “modified” food starch?

A: The term “modified” refers to physical or chemical modifications that are made to improve the performance of a starch from its native form. Modified food starches are often more stable and optimized for use in a wider range of temperatures, pH, and processing conditions. Modified starches are not typically used in natural product formulations (as per USDA), and may or may not be used in “clean label” products.

Things to consider when selecting the best starches:

  1. What is the desired result? What are you trying to achieve?
  2. What are your processing conditions? (pH, temperature, processing conditions, etc.)
  3. What other ingredients are you already using in the formula?

There are dozens of different food starches that are tailored to work in a variety of different applications.

Work with your ingredient supplier to help find the optimal fit for your process. Click here to talk with us.

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