The Production Process of Xanthan Gum: An In-Depth Guide

In the food industry, there are several products that are used to improve the outcome of what is being produced. Besides the food itself, you have components that help to improve general food characteristics, focusing on things like form and even longevity. 

Xanthan gum is one such component, serving as an additive that helps make food thicker. In this article, we will look into how xanthan gum is made, as well as a few other important things you need to know about this food component. 

What is Xanthan Gum?

As a material, xanthan gum is actually a polysaccharide. This means that it is a highly complex carbohydrate material that comes with sugar molecules as its components. The material is made through a highly complex fermentation process, where Xanthomonas campestris – a bacterium – is used to break down sugars. 

Like we said earlier, xanthan gum is primarily used in the food industry. Here, it serves as a thickening agent as well as an additive to traditional food. Its ability to form a viscous gel when you mix it with water means that it can seamlessly stabilize liquid-based products, making it especially useful in making things like dressings and sauces. 

At the same time, xanthan gum is an ideal product for optimal texture enhancement. By offering a smooth and creamy consistency, the material is able to significantly optimize the mouthfeel and texture of food products, while also preventing ingredients from coming apart. Essentially, food uniformity can be improved, and quality can be maintained.

Chemical Composition and Properties

So to get a bit technical, let’s examine the composition of this material as well as what it offers. 

Like we said earlier, xanthan gum is a complex polysaccharide. The  material is built through repeating units of glucose,glucuronic acid, and mannose. As these carbohydrates are fermented, you get the final xanthan gum material. Below is a proper breakdown of the chemical composition of the material:

Primary Chemical Structure

The backbone of xanthan gum will be the glucose, glucuronic acid, and mannose that are built into repeating units. That said, you should keep in mind that there are also side chains in the structure of xanthan gum – they consist of different sugar molecules such as acetyl groups and others.

Xanthan Gum’s Molecular Weight 

One of the major properties of xanthan gum is its high molecular weight. In most cases, the material’s weight ranges somewhere between a few hundred thousand to a few million Daltons, and this large molecular weight is one of the contributing factors to the material’s ability to thicken and stabilize food.

The Hydrophilic Nature: 

Another interesting property of the material is that it is very hydrophilic. This means that xanthan oil has an especially strong affinity for water. When you deposit the material in water, it forms a viscous gel that is able to soak up and hold a lot of water on its own.

Working As A Pseudoplastic 

Xanthan oil also exhibits a considerable pseudoplastic behavior. When stress becomes much, the material’s viscosity drops as well. As such, mixing and pouring products containing xanthan gum is considerably easy. 

Thickening & Stabilizing Food 

The primary function of xanthan gum is to work as a thickening and a stabilizing agent in different food products. The same viscous gel we mentioned earlier provides the texture and mouthfeel that food products like dressings and sauces need, while the gum also offers stability to emulsions and prevents the ingredients in liquid-based products from separating. 

Stability In Different Temperatures

With xanthan gum, you have a material that is able to remain stable across a broad spectrum of temperatures. So, whether you’re dealing with cold or hot food, rest assured that this gum is able to work perfectly and provide the properties you seek.

pH Environments Don’t Matter

At the same time, xanthan gum also offers stability in different pH levels – from highly acidic to highly alkaline environments. With this versatility, the material works perfectly in different food formulations. 

Excellent Ingredient Compatibility 

You can use xanthan gum with a broad range of ingredients that work in food processing – salts, sugars, proteins, you name it. Plus, the material is easily mixed and dispersed with other ingredients to get the consistency and texture that you need in food products.

Common Applications Of Xanthan Gum 

Generally, the xanthan gum material has found a lot of application in different industries. Its unique properties and characteristics make it especially useful, especially in the following capacities: 

Use In The Food Industry 

Xanthan gum’s food industry applications are the most prominent for it. The material is used as a stabilizing, thickening, and emulsifying agent, being added to different food products to improve their mouthfeel and texture. 

From sauces and bakery products to dairy and even several processed foods, xanthan gum helps to ensure proper stability and texture, and it goes a long way in making them attractive to consumers. 

Personal Care Products

The material also helps in formulating cosmetics and personal care products. Here, it once again acts as a thickener and a stabilizer, forming a major component of shampoos, creams, lotions, and so much more.

Use In Drugs & Pharmaceuticals 

In the pharmaceutical industry, xanthan gum is used as a binder and suspending agent for oral liquid formulations – as well as tablets. Its job is to ensure that active ingredients are properly dispersed, and that medications are more easily swallowed. 

Additional Industrial Uses 

Beyond just making food and cosmetics, xanthan gum also has several other industrial uses. For instance, it works as a rheology modifier and a thickener for paints, drilling fluids, and adhesives. It also helps to control fluid loss in oil and gas operations, and so much more.

Pet Food Development 

Makers of pet food and treats can use xanthan gum to improve the taste and shelf life of their products, creating uniform textures and holding the ingredients together.

The Raw Materials For Making Xanthan Gum

So we already pointed out the fact that xanthan gum is made through carbohydrate fermentation. However, what exactly are the ingredients that are used to produce the material: 

The Main Carbohydrate

Before anything else, you need a primary carbohydrate source as the major substrate for fermentation. This carbohydrate could be sucrose, glucose, corn syrup, or some other sugars that serve as the feedstock for the bacteria.

Xanthomonas campestris

This is the bacterium that comes in and carries out the fermentation process itself. It  naturally produces xanthan gum as it grows and metabolizes.

Additional Nutrients

Besides the carbohydrate source, the fermentation process can also include nutrients that are necessary for the bacteria to grow and metabolize. These nutrients could be sources of nitrogen like ammonium salts or perhaps a yeast extract.

Buffering Agents

To ensure that the pH is within the right range, you can add buffering agents to the fermentation medium as well. This way, you have the right pH for bacterial growth and the production of the gum itself.

Some common buffering agents include citrate and phosphate buffers.

Oxygen 

Another important requirement is oxygen. The presence of oxygen helps to optimize aerobic fermentation, allowing the bacteria to act even more quickly. Proper aeration will ensure that there’s enough oxygen supply, and that the bacterium’s action is more grounded.

Antifoaming Agents

As the name suggests, antifoaming agents help to prevent any foaming as part of the fermentation process. If there’s foaming, oxygen transfer can be slowed down, and the fermentation process might not be so efficient. With antifoaming agents, you promote a more stable fermentation environment overall. 

The Fermentation Process

When it comes to actually making xanthan gum, probably the most critical step is that of fermentation. Like we said earlier, this is the step where you cultivate Xanthomonas campestris in a nutrient-rich medium, and it plays a key role in the development of the final product. 

Generally, the fermentation process goes thus: 

Start With Inoculation

The first process will involve inoculating a small amount of the bacterium culture into a sterile fermentation vessel that has a growth medium in it. For this to happen, the bacterium will need to be grown in a lab or a seed culture, with the conditions being very controlled. 

Preparing Your Medium

Next, you prepare the fermentation medium by dissolving the  carbohydrate in water. This creates a solution that is rich in nutrients, then you can add extra nutrients, elements, and agents to the medium to help the bacterium grow and support the production of the gum. 

Sterilize Your Medium 

You will need to sterilize your fermentation medium to take out possible contaminants that could affect the bacterium’s growth. In most cases, you do this by heating the medium or with the use of filtration methods.

Go Over The Processes Again

Next, you will need to repeat the inoculation and fermentation processes again. However, the inoculation will be done to the sterilized medium with the Xanthomonas campestris culture, after which you conduct fermentation. 

In the fermentation vessel, you will have aeration systems and agitators that will help ensure optimal oxidation and mixing. As the carbohydrates are metabolized by the bacteria, you will get your xanthan gum in the form of a polysaccharide exopolysaccharide.

Maintain Your Process & Control It 

All through the process, you will need to keep an eye on several of the major parameters – pH, temperature, the growth of microbes, oxygen levels, and more. This way, bacterial growth can be optimized, and you can also produce as much gum as possible. 

If the need arises, you can always make adjustments to these parameters.

Get Your Gum Out

Once you’re done with the fermentation process, you can harvest the xanthan gum from the broth. All you have to do is separate the bacterial cells from the medium and recover your gum. 

Dry & Clean Your Gum

With your gum now out, you can purify it to take out any contaminants. Then, the  purified xanthan gum is dried to cut down on its moisture content and help you arrive at the final dry powder form that you can use in commercial applications. 

Quality Control and Regulatory Compliance

When working on making xanthan gum, there are several important things you need to keep in mind. One of those is quality control. 

The entire process of making xanthan gum can be pretty finicky. And with proper quality control, you can essentially make sure that you don’t end up having any issues overall. With that in mind, here are a few critical quality control steps that will come in handy for you. 

Test All Raw Materials

Before you even start with fermentation, you need to make sure that the carbohydrates, the nutrients, and other components are tested. This allows you to ascertain their quality and suitability for the process. 

Ensure Sterility

The entire sterilization process will also be important if you hope to come out with a final product that is of the ebay quality. So, make sure to validate  the process and monitor the sterility of the fermentation vessel and medium constantly as the process goes on. 

Manage Your Microbial Culture

Given the important role it has to play, you want to make sure that the Xanthomonas campestris culture used in this process is of the best quality. So, you need to test and monitor the culture for purity and viability so as to ensure consistency in your fermentation.

Watch The Entire Process

Remember that the fermentation process will rely on several critical parameters – from oxygen levels to pH and so much more – to go right. Your job will be to keep an eye on these parameters and ensure that there are no deviations from optimal process conditions that could end up affecting the growth of the bacteria or the production of the gum. 

Collect & Analyze Samples

At regular intervals, get samples of the fermentation broth and process them. Techniques such as High-Performance Liquid Chromatography, Gas Chromatography, and viscosity measurements can help you to monitor how the fermentation is going and make assessments of the product quality. 

Harvest & Recover Your Produce

You will also need to implement quality control measures during the harvesting and recovery of your gum from the fermentation broth. From monitoring the efficiency of separation to testing the purity of the gum you get, keep an eye on this final product really well. 

Keep Exhaustive Records

As you can imagine, having an eye on everything will require keeping records of how the process is progressing. Record the numbers, take note of remediation strategies, and note everything that was done as the process progressed.

Limitations and Drawbacks of Xanthan Gum Production

The process of making xanthan gum is one that gets talked about a lot, mostly because of how important it is. However, this process can also come with several drawbacks and limitations. Some of those include the following: 

It’s Pretty Expensive

The overall process of making xanthan gum can come at a pretty high cost – especially compared to other thickeners used in food production. This is mostly because you need special processes and quality control measures, all geared towards making the perfect gum. 

For now, research and development methods aimed at optimizing fermentation conditions are being done. The goal is to be able to increase yields, thus cutting down on costs significantly. 

You Need To Spend Enough Time

Also, the fermentation process tends to be pretty time-consuming. In most cases, you’d need to invest a few days to properly produce xanthan gum, meaning that you’ll end up dealing with increased cycle times and dropping productivity. 

We recommend that you do your ebay to optimize the fermentation parameters to tackle this. When pH, agitation, and more are well optimized, you can increase productivity and shorten production times significantly. 

Controlling Foaming & Viscosity 

Like we said earlier, one of the biggest issues during the fermentation process is foaming. It will interfere with the transfer of oxygen and reduce the growth of your microbe, thus reducing the general efficiency of the process. 

This is why you need to add antifoaming agents to the fermentation medium to help control the formation of foam and improve the efficiency of oxygen transfer. Furthermore, proper control and monitoring systems can be implemented to limit things like aeration and agitation. 

The Risk Of Contamination

When unwanted microorganisms get into your product, then they drop product yields, reduce purity, and will ultimately compromise the quality of your product. 

Once again, this is why you need to have the right quality control steps. Sterilization needs to be taken seriously, and you need to properly monitor your microbial cultures and fermentation conditions to minimize the risk of contamination. 

The Process Isn’t So Eco-Friendly 

In many cases, you will find that the production of xanthan gum will have environmental implications – from high energy consumption to waste generation and more. 

You can try to mitigate this by adopting sustainable practices such as using renewable energy sources and optimizing the usage of water. Also, the use of alternative fermentation feedstocks and bioprocessing techniques that don’t use so many resources can help improve sustainability in this process.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, xanthan gum has become a mainstay in the food manufacturing process. Its ability to help optimize thickening and improve the texture of food means that it is a much-needed part of the general manufacturing of food. 

If you’re a manufacturer and would like to learn more about xanthan gum, feel free to reach out to us at Sainty Tec.

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