Emulsifiers, or surface-active agents,  play a crucial role in the confectionery industry, serving as essential ingredients that ensure the stability and quality of various products. These substances, often overlooked by the consumer, are responsible for creating and maintaining harmonious blends of water and fats in confections, contributing to texture, taste, and overall product appeal.

An emulsifier is a molecule that has both hydrophobic (water-repelling or oil-loving, sometimes called lipophilic) and hydrophilic (water-loving) components on the same molecule. This particularity will help stabilize two phases that usually do not mix together.

Depending on their nature they could be more water or more lipid soluble, which will be derived mainly from the size of their hydrophilic or lipophilic group. 

Some emulsifiers are Mono- and Diglycerides, Glycerol Monostearate, lecithin (from soy, or sunflower), Polyglycerol esters (PGPR) polysorbate, among others.

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Source and Processing

Emulsifiers can be derived from various natural sources, including plants, animals, and synthetically produced sources. Common natural sources include soybeans, sunflower seeds, and egg yolks. Extraction methods involve processes like mechanical pressing, extraction with solvents, or fermentation.

The production of emulsifiers often entails esterification reactions between fatty acids and glycerol or other polyols. This process can occur through chemical synthesis or enzymatic catalysis. Subsequent purification steps ensure the removal of impurities, resulting in a refined emulsifier suitable for use in confections.

Main function in Confections

Emulsifiers serve as stabilizing agents in confections, preventing the separation of water and fat phases. This is particularly critical in products like chocolate, where a smooth texture and consistent mouthfeel are desired while reducing viscosity to aid in manufacturing processes. Additionally, emulsifiers contribute to the dispersion of fat globules, enhancing flavor release and overall product homogeneity.

Emulsifiers are also used for lubrication and ant sticking in some confections such as candies, licorices, caramel among other. 

Molecular structure

Emulsifiers are typically composed of hydrophilic (water-attracting) and lipophilic (fat-attracting) components. Commonly, they are fatty acid esters of glycerol, with additional functionalities such as polyglycerol esters or sorbitan esters. These structures enable emulsifiers to bridge the gap between water and fats, facilitating the formation and stabilization of emulsions.


Hygroscopicity: Emulsifiers may exhibit hygroscopic properties, attracting and retaining moisture. 

Solubility: The solubility of emulsifiers is crucial for their effective dispersion in confectionery formulations. This property influences how well they interact with other ingredients, contributing to the overall stability of the product.

Shelf Stability: Emulsifiers enhance the shelf stability of confections by preventing fat bloom (fat migration to the surface) and sugar bloom (crystallization of sugar on the surface). This ensures that products maintain their intended quality throughout their shelf life.


In the United States, emulsifiers used in food products are subject to regulatory oversight by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These substances must adhere to Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) guidelines, and their usage levels must comply with established limits. Food manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that the emulsifiers employed in confections meet these regulatory standards to guarantee the safety and quality of their products.

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