Carrageenan - A Billion Dollar Industry Element

May 2021

Carrageenan is a seaweed extract with interesting and versatile properties. It can function as an emulsifier, stabilizer, or thickener in food products such as ice cream and toothpaste. It also has potential medical benefits in medicines such as vaccines, which need to be suspended in a liquid that does not contain proteins before it can be injected into the bloodstream.

In the food industry, this is where carrageenan can be of great value. It is a filler in ice cream, and also used as an emulsifier for cream-based foods. Carrageenan has been used for a long time to produce various food products which have become so globally popular such as ice creams, frozen desserts, beverages (soft drinks) and many other products. In fact, its applications are limited only by human imagination and ingenuity.

Thus far carrageenan has provided a wide range of benefits to the consumers throughout the world and it is expected that it will continue to be widely used in the future among the food professionals as well. Carrageenan is currently produced in large quantity by the seaweed farming countries of Asia, namely Philippines, Indonesia and other Asian countries. However, the demand for carrageenan in Asian market is increasing day by day.

For example, from 1990 to 1998 the world production of carrageenan was estimated to be about 487,000 t which increased to approximately 567,000 t in 2003 [1]. This is a significant 60% increase during that period and the trend continues. In comparison to total global production figure (about 600 000 tonnes per year), there are about 200 companies world-wide that use carrageenan as an ingredient in their products.

Sometimes called "Irish moss", carrageenan is a type of seaweed that grows in the shallow waters around Ireland. Carrageenan is used as a stabilizer in many products, including chocolate milk, salad dressing, ice cream and whipped cream.

Carrageenan can be found in grocery stores and health food stores as an ingredient or additive to various products. It may also be sourced from online retailers and distributors who specialize in wholesale food items. Carrageenan can be used to make milk substitutes, ice cream, chocolate milk, yogurt substitutes, whipped cream and other foods. Many people use it as a vegan alternative to gelatin. It is known for its ability to gel food with very little sugar.

Most carrageenan products come in a powdered form that is packed into a jar or box. The jar/box will have instructions for use on the package label or on a separate sheet of paper inside the container. Since carrageenan dissolves better when hydrated in warm water (or milk), most products suggest mixing it with water before adding it to your recipe of choice. The foods mentioned above are the most common types of carrageenan-containing products on the market today but that does not mean they are the only ones available. There are also products that use carrageenan as a thickening agent.

Carrageenan is the correct spelling for the food additive. The term "Irish moss" or "Irish seaweed" refers to another type of seaweed that is used in some types of carrageenan products. If you want to use the carrageenan food additive, be sure you have the right product for your needs and avoid confusing it with other types of seaweed.

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