Immobilization of gluten in spherical matrices of food-grade hydrogels

Marloes A. Reus, Georgios A. Krintiras, Georgios D. Stefanidis, Joop H. ter Horst, Antoine E. D. M. van der Heijden

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The aim of this paper is to produce spherical encapsulates of wheat gluten in a food-grade biopolymer for preparing sheared meat analogs, to prevent instant fibrilization of the gluten during a pre-mixing step. The hydrogel should release the gluten inside the Couette Cell, as a result of the higher temperature and shear in the process. Both sodium alginate and κ-carrageenan were used as encapsulants. Spherical particles of hydrogel-gluten mixtures were produced by means of a dripping method using an encapsulator. While the particle properties of κ-carrageenan surpassed those of alginate in terms of controlled release of the core, the particle production using the encapsulator was more complicated. With κ-carrageenan, a layer of oil on top of the cross-linking bath fluid, as well as through the outer orifice of a concentric nozzle were required to obtain a good sphericity of the particles. For the alginate particles the use of oil was not necessary. Gluten loadings of 7% w/w were achieved with 1.5% w/w alginate and with 2% w/w κ-carrageenan. The water content of the particles can be easily controlled by a subsequent partial drying step. A mixture of Soy Protein Isolate and particles was sheared in the Couette Cell. Controlled release of the gluten from the alginate particles was not achieved properly by temperature or shear. The controlled release of the gluten was achieved at the processing conditions only with κ-carrageenan. Some fibrilization was observed in the sheared product, but the macrostructure was not yet well developed. However, an optimization of the shearing process for the use of the particles may lead to an improved structure for the meat analogs. Practical applications: This paper investigated the effect of encapsulation in hydrogels on the fibrilization behavior of wheat gluten upon contact with water. A cheap and easily scalable dripping technique was used to create spherical particles in which the gluten did not fibrilize, although the coating material consists of ≥95% of water. Upon reaching the process conditions in the shearing device, the gluten is released and able to form fibers. The results show that hydrogels can mechanically protect the core and act as a delivery structure. The protective and carrier functions of the hydrogel can alternatively be used for cores like food additives (e.g., vitamins) or even to pharmaceutical ingredients, not only for the production of meat analogs, but also in other food applications.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Food Process Engineering
Early online date24 Jan 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jan 2017


  • spherical encapsulates
  • wheat gluten
  • biopolymer
  • food-grade
  • sheared meat analogs
  • fibrilization
  • hydrogel
  • sodium alginate
  • κ-carrageenan
  • controlled release

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