If you’ve seen a 1970s-themed movie, or rather grew up in the 60s or 70s, you’ve seen them before: colorful, mesmerizing, some might even say comforting. We are talking about lava lamps.

Lava Lamp is a decorative lamp that was invented in 1963 by the English entrepreneur, Edward Crown Walker, the founder of the Mathmos lighting company. This lamp consists of a special colored wax compound inside a glass container, and the rest of it contains a clear or semi-transparent liquid.

Then this container is placed in a box containing an incandescent light bulb. The heat of the lamp temporarily reduces the density of the wax and the surface tension of the liquid. The heated wax rises through the surrounding liquid, cools and loses its buoyancy, and returns to the bottom of the container. This cycle is reminiscent of the lava cycle. That is why it is named like this.


lava lamp


In these lights, the heated water and wax mixture simply does not mix, no matter how many times the swirling bubbles of wax float to the top of the bulb and then back down again. What is the reason?

Oil and water do not mix naturally and spontaneously. But what if something could help combine these repellents? Fortunately, when it comes to food, that precious thing exists and our taste buds are forever grateful. Welcome to emulsifiers!

An emulsifier in foods is any of a number of chemical additives that cause suspension of one liquid in another liquid, such as oil and water mixtures in margarine, confectionery, ice cream, and salad dressing.


What is an emulsifier?


Emulsifiers are FDA-approved food additives that help blend products containing immiscible food ingredients such as oil and water.

You can find emulsifiers in many prepackaged and processed foods, including mayonnaise, margarine, meats, ice cream, salad dressings, chocolate, peanut butter and other nut butters, stable frostings, cookies, crackers. Find cream sauces, breads, ice creams and baked goods.

Emulsifiers can be man-made or natural. Many types of emulsifiers that are used today are naturally derived types called hydrocolloids. Hydrocolloids act as thickening agents and support the structure, texture, flavor, and shelf life of various food products, and are often referred to as gums because of the texture and consistency they provide.

Hydrocolloids include emulsifiers made from plants, animals, and aquatic sources. Plant hydrocolloids include locust bean gum, carrageenan, pectin, and starch, while animal types include chitosan made from crustacean shells.

Hydrocolloids such as xanthan gum can also be obtained from microbial sources and even food products themselves such as mustard, oil, salt, egg yolk and vinegar can also act as emulsifiers.


Emulsifier performance


Without emulsifiers such as hydrocolloids, you can expect to see a layer of fat on the surface of food!

On the other hand, emulsifiers reduce the stickiness of food and help food to have a uniform texture and taste. Ice cream is a great example of how emulsifiers reduce stickiness in some foods, so that each scoop of ice cream isn’t as sticky and hard as chewing a chocolate toffee.

A number of emulsifiers are derived from algae, including algin, carrageenan and agar.

On the other hand, lecithins, such as those found in egg yolks, are also used as emulsifying agents.


Some other emulsifier additives:

Distilled Monoglyceride

Sodium carboxymethyl cellulose

Sodium Pyrophosphate

Trisodium Citrate

How emulsifiers work


The basic structure of an emulsifying agent consists of a hydrophobic part, usually a long-chain fatty acid, and a hydrophilic part, which may be charged or uncharged. The hydrophobic part of the emulsifier dissolves in the oil phase and the hydrophilic part dissolves in the aqueous phase and forms a dispersion of small oil droplets.

Thus, emulsifiers form and stabilize oil-in-water emulsions (such as mayonnaise), distributing oil-soluble flavoring compounds evenly throughout the product. They also prevent the formation of large ice crystals in frozen products (such as ice cream) and improve the uniform volume and delicacy of baked products.

Emulsifiers are closely related to stabilizers, which are substances that maintain the emulsified state. The consistency of food products may also be improved by the addition of thickeners, which are used to add form to sauces and other liquids and texturizers. These various additives serve a dual purpose: they make food more appetizing by improving its appearance and consistency, and they also increase its keeping quality (i.e. increase shelf life).

Emulsifiers, stabilizers, and related compounds are also used in the preparation of cosmetics, lotions, and some drugs, where they serve much the same purpose as in foods, namely, to prevent separation of ingredients and extend shelf life.


How are natural emulsifiers used in foods and beverages?


Three of the hydrocolloids used are guar gum, gellan gum and carrageenan :


Applications of emulsifier


  • Guar gum can be used to emulsify, thicken, and stabilize ingredients in food products, even those that require cold temperatures during manufacturing. Guar gum helps create and maintain a smooth and uniform texture in low-calorie dairy products and plant-based milk. Gellan gum, which is produced by a natural microorganism, is commonly used as a gelling agent. It can be used to create liquid gels that are incorporated into a wide variety of natural dairy and soy-based products.


  • Gellan gum can also be used as a thickener, binder and stabilizer and stabilizes water-based gels such as some desserts and beverage jellies.


  • Derived from red seaweed, carrageenan helps thicken foods and gives them a gel-like consistency. Carrageenan is commonly used in dairy and dairy substitute products, especially flavored milk and soy milk. This emulsifier binds with proteins in animal and vegetable milks to stabilize their liquid components. Processed meats can also contain carrageenan.


How do I know if emulsifier is safe?


Research shows that emulsifiers, especially those that are naturally derived, are safe. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regularly and carefully reviews the safety of all food additives. Guar gum, gellan gum, and carrageenan were approved by the FDA for use in foods between the 1960s and 1970s and now have a generic designation as safe.

Although emulsifiers are used in small amounts, their abundance in packaged foods has led many to question whether they can cause harm.

FDA reviews the safety of approved food additives based on the best and most up-to-date research. For example, in 2017, the FDA reviewed and approved the safety of carrageenan when concerns about its safety were raised. While carrageenan is still considered safe, some research suggests that it may cause or exacerbate existing gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation.

Guar gum and Gelan gum have been questioned to a lesser extent, but were also approved in 2020.

In contrast to the potential risks, some research suggests that hydrocolloids may even have health benefits. These results have shown that some hydrocolloids lower cholesterol levels, improve insulin action, act as prebiotics, and are a good source of fiber.


Gostaresh Tejarat Sadr Pazh Company provides all kinds of food additives, which include well-known emulsifiers, with excellent quality and reasonable prices to dear producers and buyers. To buy all kinds of food additives, contact the collection experts through our contact us page.