The University of Birmingham is home to the largest Chemical Engineering-based food research group in the UK. Its work focusses on food formulation - a new method of food science - and it conducts ground-breaking research into the structure of foods, flavour delivery and food hygiene.
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By developing new formulation engineering methods and techniques, the team is creating cutting-edge and novel approaches to food processing and the development of healthier, higher performance products.
Research includes developing engineering techniques to produce low-fat and low-calorie chocolate, and to reduce salt in products like cheese and sauces.
This work, carried out in partnership with leading companies, both informs and responds to industry demand for healthier alternatives to conventional food products.
It has been fundamental in enabling industry to develop processes, such as controlling and manipulating fat crystals at the point oil and water meet, and to produce zero-fat spreads which are stable on storage but break down when consumed to give the physical properties and flavour release expected from margarine.
Recently, an enhanced understanding of the molecular events occurring during fluid gel formation has allowed the production of small, spherical and reasonably soft particles which resemble oil droplets, and research on the physical chemistry and microstructure of shell formation around oil droplets has reduced the hidden fat in foods.
Work on fat-reduced emulsions has led to patented technology for both chocolate and bakery fats, while research into engineering processes and the better understanding of the physics of particles involved in the segregation of sugars and water or salt and water has led to a technique to allow significant salt reduction in snacks.
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