The story of gellan gum begins over forty years ago when scientists discovered bacteria growing in a pond in Pennsylvania, USA. These bacteria produced a jelly-like substance.
At first, they thought it could be used as a gelling agent similar to agar, which is a jelly-like substance obtained from red algae that is used as a thickening ingredient in foods. What they found, is that it could do so much more.
Gellan gum’s properties make it ideal for use as a thickener, suspension agent and stabilizer in many popular food and beverage products. For example, in some dairy-alternative milks (i.e., oat milk or almond milk), gellan gum keeps the beverage’s ingredients stable and suspended, which helps ensure you don’t find lumpy sediment at the bottom of your drink.
Instead of cutting plants out of ponds to get gellan gum, scientists found an eco-friendly way to create gellan gum through fermentation, which is the same process responsible for numerous great foods, including beer, wine, cheese, soy sauce, yogurt, bread and more.
After the fermentation process, gellan gum is dried and milled into a powder so it can be easily mixed into recipes. It can be used alone, or in combination with other ingredients to help manufacturers create a variety of textures.
Japan was the first country to approve the use of gellan gum in 1988. Since then, it has been approved for food, non-food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical use by many countries including the United States, Canada, China, Korea and the European Union.
Looking for more? We’ve compiled answers to frequently asked questions about gellan gum, where you’ll find more information on the ingredient itself, as well as how it’s used in products you can find at your supermarket.