Return to Blog January 29, 2024

Food Gums: Everything You Need to Know


Peek at the ingredients label on your favorite salad dressing, non-dairy milk and myriad other packaged food and beverage products. There’s a good chance you’ll find gum additives.

Food engineers rely on different types of gums to create delicious, stable, and safe consumer products. Even if you’re just noticing the prevalence of gum ingredients in your food, rest assured these ingredients have been a part of the world’s diet for centuries.

First, What Are Gum Ingredients in Food?

Natural food gums have been used for thousands of years as emulsifiers, or thickening agents. Sometimes called hydrocolloids, natural gums are derived from trees, seeds, roots, and seaweed.

Gums also:

  • make food products more visually appealing
  • enhance flavor
  • extend shelf life
  • improve texture

Read more: The Specialty Food Ingredients Market

Common Food Gums and Applications

Over hundreds, even thousands of years, different populations discovered, adapted, and improved natural gums as preservatives or emulsifiers. Most food gums used today are naturally derived and scaled to meet global demand for healthy, delicious food and beverage products.

Tree exudate gums

Tree sap is a rich source of food gums, including gum arabic. Tree exudate gums are ideally suited as emulsifiers in salad dressings or as a congealing agent in solid foods as well. Gum arabic, sometimes referred to as acacia gum for the tree that produces it, dates back to the ancient Egyptians, making it one of the world’s oldest food additives.

Seed gums

Guar gum, carob bean gum, and several other types of gums are made from seeds native to India and Pakistan. Guar gum is the most well-known and widely used seed gum. Its natural resilience to cold makes it ideal for refrigerated and frozen dairy applications like ice cream and yogurt. It’s also used extensively in soups, beverages, and ready-made sauces.

Root gums

Like seed gums, root gums are chemically suited to cold and frozen applications. The standout ingredient of this category is konjac gum, a natural gum used in ice cream and frozen beverages, in which it helps maintain a smooth, delicious texture. It’s also used to make konjac noodles, a Southeast Asian delicacy with growing appeal worldwide. (Konjac noodles are naturally gluten-free, and have a market forecast to exceed a valuation of $9.99 billion by 2028.)

Are Gum Additives Bad for You?

Despite misleading headlines, food gums are organic and natural-allowed ingredients made from organic materials. There is little evidence linking gums to adverse health conditions. There have been less credible sources reporting negative feedback, however, it is important for consumers to understand the differences between “pseudo-science” and factual food science and nutrition. Gums are playing a larger role in consumer products than ever and with good reason: Ingredients like guar gum and carrageenan have helped manufacturers meet the growing demand for organic products in several key market segments, especially functional foods.

Quality Gum Ingredients from Tilley Distribution

At Tilley, we work with suppliers and manufacturers to create exceptional, creatively tasteful products that will remain stable for market consumers.  We also take pride in educating formulators and manufacturers in the food, beverage and pharmaceutical space to make the best decisions for their products.  As North America’s leading distributor of gums and hydrocolloids, we’re uniquely positioned to handle acquisition, quality control and bespoke formulations to improve product outcomes.

See what global reach and industry expertise can do for you; speak with a Tilley representative today to get started.