Carrageenans are extracted by a number of different processing technologies, and form a range of natural products from red marine seaweeds of the Rhodophyceae group. Carrageenans are effective ingredients, widely used in the food industry as gelling agents, thickeners, emulsifiers or stabilisers and have the designation E-407 and E-407a.
Its origin comes from a traditional use in Ireland as a milk thickener extracted from a seaweed know locally as Irish Moss, Chondrus crispus. The limited availability of this type of seaweed and the increasing demand for carrageenan called for an expansion into other seaweeds such as Eucheuma (E. Cottonii and E. spinosum) and Gigartina.
The exact chemical structure of carrageenan depends on the species of seaweed and processing conditions used. The molecular structure of carrageenan is compatible with a range of extractions, refinements and treatments, which gives a range of products with substantially different properties. The carrageenan types are traditionally classified as the following classes, each with their particular molecular structure and unique performance in the final product:
• Kappa carrageenan: binds water to form strong, rigid gels.
• Iota carrageenan: binds water, but forms dry and elastic gels - shows thixotropic behaviour and freeze/thaw stability.
• Lambda carrageenan: is less likely to form a gel structure, but gives high viscosity. It is soluble in cold water.
Hispanagar is one of very few companies worldwide to manufacture a complete range of commercial carrageenan types, including the different fractions (Kappa, Iota and Lambda), products made by different salt treatments (Na+, Ca++, K+), products from both alcohol and gel press precipitation and those with different degrees of refinement: Secogel, Secolacta and Secovis lines.
The unique versatility of this hydrocolloid has made it suitable for a variety of applications where a stabiliser, thickener or gelling agent is required, mainly in the food industry, where carrageenan is ideal to provide a specific texture as well as to optimise the structure of the final product.
• Dairy products (custards, chocolate milk, gelled milk products, ice creams, sorbets, instant dessert mixes, chocolate mousse, cottage cheese, cream cheese, instant puddings and fruit yogurts)
• Meat, poultry and fish products (cooked ham, pork loin, pork shoulder, pork tongue, meat paste, chicken, turkey, canned meat, ground meat, sausage, black pudding, fish gels and fish pastries)
• Water based products (dessert jellies, low calorie marmalades and jams, tart glazes, cake icings, bakery fillings, puddings, syrups, gummy candies, gelatins)
• Sauces and drinks (concentrated fruit juices, soups, seasoning sauces, salad dressings)
• Non-food products (tooth paste, cosmetics, air fresheners, shampoos).
In addition to this broad range of the highly refined extracts, Hispanagar now also offers a number of semi-refined carrageenan types (Processed Eucheuma Seaweed or PES). Hispanagar also markets some very cost-effective and highly functional blends which include both regular carrageenan and PES.