acacia gum

Acacia: A Natural and Functional Ingredient

Acacia Gum, the Golden Tears of the Acacia Tree

Acacia Gum, or Acacia, the most recognized natural gum worldwide, is also traditionally known as Gum Arabic. Its importance over the years has increased significantly, as acacia is now valued as a natural ingredient that appeals to health-conscious, ethically-minded consumers, in addition to its many, varied functional and nutritional benefits.

Harvested and processed from the thick, amber-colored sticky sap exuded by the hardy Acacia tree, its long history spans back to ancient Egypt where it was used in the ink-making process. In Sudan and Arabia, it historically functioned as a thickener for beverages, a source of dietary fiber, and a medicine. Currently, it is a common additive to food, beverages, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.

Nexira, the leading expert in acacia, provides a wide range of solutions for these industries and more. Their R&D team continues to improve the functional performance of acacia with an innovative vision to develop new products for high value-added applications.

Sahel, the ‘Gum Belt’

Most of the Acacia produced today has its origins in the sub-Saharan Sahel region of northern Africa, dubbed the ‘Gum Belt’. Approximately 66% of the world’s supply comes from Sudan. Worldwide demand for acacia has grown substantially, with acacia exports from the Sahelian countries having tripled in the last quarter of a century, providing the people of these developing nations with an economic boost in terms of revenue and job creation.

Protecting the acacia tree is crucial due to its ability to stem the tide of desertification, allowing local populations to use the land to grow and sell food. Nexira is committed to safeguarding the region with the SOS SAHEL NGO, and more recently with their inavea™ CARING BY NATURE project, preserving natural resources, supporting local communities and aiming for a carbon-neutral footprint.  Nexira has had a presence in Africa for more than 125 years and has expertise at all levels: raw material sourcing, supply assurance, quality, and traceability.

Secure Sourcing and Processing

Nexira practices environmentally-friendly cultivation [no use of pesticides or fertilizers]. The traceability of each batch of acacia can be proved from the tree to the customer. Acacia is a natural and native GMO-free product, which is neither chemically nor enzymatically transformed. It is manufactured through a stringent physical process: the gum follows a very fine purification in liquid form to remove any organic or mineral foreign matters.  The refined gum syrup, sterilized with a short time/high temperature system, is then spray-dried or instantized, aseptically packed, and delivered in the form of a white powder, which makes it a very soluble substance.

A Clean-Label Ingredient

Sustainably sourced, all-natural acacia is suitable for vegans and vegetarians, and is available in organic, FODMAP-friendly and Non-GMO Project Verified grades, as well as gluten-free and low in calories. This means it can be included on ‘clean-label’ packaging that appeals to a flourishing worldwide market of conscientious shoppers.

These ethical, health-conscious consumers are seeking to improve their own health through lifestyle changes; they are also making choices to improve the world by supporting ethical products and manufacturing processes.

Excellent Source of Fiber and Demonstrated Prebiotic Effect

Acacia possesses many nutritional and health benefits, notably providing support for overall gut health. It provides an advantageous source of fiber* with multiple benefits. Because it has a high soluble fiber content [90% minimum guaranteed], it’s a versatile ingredient that can enrich the nutritional profile of food and beverages.

Acacia fiber is an excellent prebiotic that ferments in the intestines, promoting the growth of ‘friendly’ microorganisms that contribute to gut and bowel health. It helps to increase the production of beneficial strains, such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, two kinds of bacteria that are crucial for keeping the immune system running and our digestive systems operating smoothly.  

Nexira’s inavea™ is an all-natural, GMO-free prebiotic ingredient, offering consumers the appeal of a clean-label, fiber-enriched product that is of 100% vegetable origin.

Acacia may be beneficial to people with LGS [Leaky Gut Syndrome] by helping to reduce inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokines, while promoting the anti-inflammatory ones. [1]  Evidence also suggests that acacia is well tolerated and comfortably digested by the body with no discomfort. [2]

Nutritional and Functional For Food & Beverages

The increased popularity of acacia in the food and beverage industry is due to both its nutritional and functional properties.

Acacia is extremely useful to manufacturers, playing many diverse roles, including:

  • Encapsulation agent
  • Stabilizer for colloidal systems
  • Texturizer in sugar and polyol mediums
  • Binder for sugar and polyol-compressed products
  • Emulsifier for oil in water emulsions
  • Carrier in supplements

The baking industry has found multiple uses for this versatile ingredient. Acacia allows manufacturers to enhance the smoothness of cookies and muffins, and to reduce breakage of delicate products such as crackers. It boosts texture and pliability in tortillas and flatbreads and improves the crispiness of toasted baked goods. Acacia can help to stabilize the moisture in frozen products.

Acacia is a natural soluble fiber that acts as a binder, replacing some of the digestible sugars, which helps reduce the calories and glycemic index in snacks and cereals. It is a key ingredient in pan-coating powders used in the making of confectionery, and can also be used in the coating of candy centers, such as nuts and chocolate.

In the manufacturing of ready-to-drink beverages, acacia can improve the overall mouthfeel, a characteristic that is particularly important in low-sugar drinks that lack viscosity. It helps to disperse oil soluble ingredients in water-based mediums, stabilizing both the flavors and colors of beverages.

Because acacia is a non-digestible carbohydrate, it can be used to lower the glycemic index rating of food and drink products by replacing at least 30% of sugars.

Oral Health

Acacia is a desirable ingredient for manufacturers who want a suitable, ‘tooth-friendly’ ingredient for their formulations because it is a non-fermentable carbohydrate, meaning it doesn’t feed bacteria or cause a drop in plaque pH levels.  Using acacia gum to replace fermentable carbohydrates may contribute to healthy teeth, by maintaining mineralization.[3]

Lower Cholesterol

In addition to its many other benefits, certain clinical studies have shown that acacia may help to lower cholesterol levels. The results of these studies indicated that during a control period, the administration of acacia gum to the study subjects resulted in a reduction in serum total cholesterol levels. The ‘good cholesterol’ [HDL] remained unchanged but the VLDL + LDL cholesterol levels decreased markedly after ingestion of acacia gum.[4]

Nexira is the world leader in acacia gum, natural ingredients, and botanical extracts. Our R&D team provides our partners and customers with ongoing support, providing tailor-made solutions for the development of new formulations. Innovation is at the core of Nexira’s customer service.

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References

[1] David Daquet, Iris Pinheiro, An Verhelst, Sam Possemiers, Massimo Marzorati, Acacia gum improves the gut barrier functionality in vitro. Agro FOOD Industry Hi Tech – vol 26[4] – July / August 2015 : 29-33.
[2] Cherbut C, Michel C, Raison V, Kravtchenko T & Severine M [2003] Acacia gum is a bifidogenic dietary fiber with high digestive tolerance in healthy humans. Microbial Ecol Health Dis 15, 43-50.
[3] Commission implementing Regulation [EU] 2016/854 of 30 May 2016 authorizing certain health claims made on foods, other than those referring to the reduction of disease risk and to children’s development and health and amending Regulation [EU] No432/2012.
[4] Sharma RD. Hypocholesterolemic effect of gum acacia in men. Nutrition Research 1985; 5:1321–6.

In the USA, acacia gum benefits from a GRAS [Generally Recognized As Safe] classification [CFR 184.1330]. The joint FAO / WHO expert committee on food additives recognizes acacia gum as a food additive [INS 414] that can be used with no specified ADI [Acceptable Daily Intake].
* Dietary fiber status of acacia gum must be checked according to local regulation.
This communication is not intended to the final consumer. It provides scientific information for professionals only. Communications to the final consumer have to be checked according to local regulations in force, since the conditions of use are beyond our control.