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Zeta Potential Analysis of Coconut Milk

The most enduring challenge in the food and beverage industry is achieving an objective measure of quality for subjective attributes such as flavour and texture. This is complicated by broad-ranging and enduring societal changes that have forced manufacturers to re-think their product recipes and improve their plant-based offerings. At the outset of 2019, the charity Veganuary reportedly received record numbers of sign-ups to adopt a vegan diet for the month. Forbes has also reported that a growing third of the US population are actively trying to adopt a flexitarian diet, which means significantly reducing their consumption of both meat and dairy. This has been fuelled by the work of non-profit organisations and entrepreneurs engineering plant-based meat and dairy substitutes with a familiar mouthfeel and taste.

Particle size and zeta potential analysis is regularly performed on existing and emerging dairy- and meat-free ingredients to assess their subjective qualities and shelf-life performance. Zeta potential analysis is particularly important for characterising milk substitutes such as almond and coconut milk emulsions. These colloidal systems are subject to flocculation and coalescence over time and may require the addition of stabilising agents to increase or decrease the electro-kinetic potential of the product.

This blog post will explore the importance of zeta potential analysis for dairy-free cream and milk products extracted from coconuts.

Zeta Potential Analysis of Coconut Milk

Coconut milk beverages are both soy- and gluten-free, since they are extracted from the flesh of mature brown coconuts. This flesh is heated in water and strained to remove any textural inconsistencies and unwanted particulates from the end-product. The liquid is then left to settle which causes creamier particles to migrate to the surface and form a semi-solid mass known as coconut cream. Zeta potential analysis of this raw intermediate product can be used to optimise the straining process and improve the yield of both coconut cream and milk, both of which are broadly used as dietary supplements and dairy-replacements.

The thinner liquid beneath the cream typically separates into independent phases of thick and thin viscosities. These are usually sold as a single product, which is why commercial coconut milk often separates while in storage and must be stirred or shaken prior to use. Introducing mechanical agitation to the product re-disperses the fatty particles and nutrients in the mobile phase, which is mostly comprised of water. This phenomenon can be explored through viscosity and zeta potential analysis, which measures the stability of colloidal systems based on the differential charge between the dispersant and dispersive phases of an emulsion.

Reducing the extent and severity of colloidal phase instability may be achieved by adding nutritionally valuable stabilisers, or additives that are biologically inert. This first requires raw coconut milk and end-product beverages to be subject to routine zeta potential analysis to measure the rate of coalescence in typical storage or conditions. It may also be important to measure particle migration and phase separation in simulated use conditions, such as elevated temperatures or under pressure. Coconut milk is broadly used to cook rich, dairy-free dishes. It can also be used as an alternative to whipped cream, which is typically charged with nitrous oxide (N2O).

Performing zeta potential analysis on coconut milk can support R&D into a broad range of novel recipes and product formulations designed to emulate existing food and drinks. This can support the global trend towards improved sustainability in the meat and dairy industry.

Zeta Potential Analysis with Meritics

Meritics is the UK’s leading supplier of scientific instruments for particle size and zeta potential analysis. We offer an extensive selection of analytical tools for the food and beverage sector which can help manufacturers adapt to new macro trends driven by consumers worldwide.

If you would like more information about performing zeta potential analysis with Meritics, simply contact us directly.

[Source: Forbes]