Gelatin is a substantially pure protein food ingredient, obtained by the thermal denaturation of collagen (1), which is the structural mainstay and most common protein in the animal kingdom. Today, gelatin is usually available in granular powder form, although in Europe sheet gelatin is still available.

There are two main types of gelatin. Type A, with isoionic point of 7 to 9, is derived from collagen with exclusively acid pretreatment. Type B, with isoionic point of 4.8 to 5.2, is the result of an alkaline pretreatment of the collagen. However, gelatin is sold with a wide range of special properties, such as gel strength, to suit particular applications.

Gelatin (2) forms thermally reversible gels with water, and the gel melting temperature (<35°C) is below body temperature, which gives gelatin products unique organoleptic properties and flavor release. The disadvantage of gelatin is that it is derived from animal hide or bone (not from horses as is a common perception), so there are problems with regard to kosher and Halal status. Vegetarians also have objections to its use. Competitive gelling agents, such as starch, alginate, pectin, agar, carrageenan, are all carbohydrates from vegetable sources, but their gels lack the melt-in-the-mouth and elastic properties of gelatin gels.

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