Organic Acids

Organic Acids

Organic Acids

Organic acids play a pivotal role in the food industry, contributing to the flavor, preservation, and overall quality of various products. Among the prominent organic acids utilized in confections are malic, citric, fumaric, tartaric and lactic acids.

These acids are characterized by their carboxyl functional group, making them distinct from inorganic acids. 

In confections, four organic acids stand out as the most common used:

  • Citric Acid: Derived from citrus fruits like lemons and limes. Imparts a tangy and sour flavor, enhances fruit flavors, acts as a preservative, and adjusts pH.
  • Malic Acid: Found in apples, cherries, and grapes.  Adds a tart flavor, enhances fruitiness.
  • Lactic Acid Produced during bacterial fermentation, often in dairy products. Provides a mild sourness, contributes to a creamy taste.
  • Tartaric Acid: Naturally found in grapes.  Adds a tart taste, stabilizes egg whites in certain confections.
  • Fumaric Acid: Present in certain fruits like fumitory and bolete mushrooms. Contributes a tangy flavor, enhances sourness, and adjusts pH.
  • Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C): Naturally present in fruits and vegetables. Acts as an antioxidant, enhances fruit flavors, and can adjust acidity.
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Source and Processing

Organic acids can be extracted from natural sources or produced through various fermentation and chemical processes. The choice of method often depends on factors such as economic feasibility, scalability, and the specific requirements of the industry. Here's a general overview:

  • Natural Sources: Fruits and vegetables.
  • Fermentation: Microbial Fermentation: Lactic acid, for example, is often produced through the fermentation of sugars by lactic acid bacteria. Strains of the fungus Aspergillus niger are often employed to ferment sugars into citric acid on an industrial scale.
  • Chemical Synthesis: This method is often employed for acids like fumaric acid, where it can be produced through the isomerization of maleic acid.
  • Byproduct of Other Processes: For example, tartaric acid is a byproduct of winemaking, where it forms crystals in wine barrels.

It's important to note that the source and production method chosen can impact factors such as cost, purity, and sustainability. The food industry often emphasizes natural sourcing and sustainable production methods when possible, to meet consumer preferences and regulatory requirements.

Main function in Confections

Organic acids collectively serve as multifunctional ingredients in confections. Their primary roles include pH regulation, flavor enhancement, and preservation. By modulating acidity levels, these acids contribute to the overall sensory appeal of confectionery products.

Molecular Structure

Malic acid, belonging to the alpha-hydroxy acid family, possesses a dicarboxylic structure (C₄H₆O₅). 

Citric acid, a tri-carboxylic acid (C₆H₈O₇), is renowned for its widespread occurrence in citrus fruits. 

Fumaric acid, another dicarboxylic acid (C₄H₄O₄), contributes a tangy flavor to confections.

Lactic acid, classified as a hydroxy carboxylic acid (C₃H₆O₃), is unique for its role in fermentation processes. It imparts a mild sourness.

Tartaric acid is a naturally occurring organic acid with the molecular formula C₄H₆O₆. It is a dicarboxylic acid, meaning it contains two carboxyl functional groups (COOH) within its structure.


Hygroscopicity: Organic acids, depending on the type, exhibit varying degrees of hygroscopicity. 

Crystallization: Crystallization tendencies vary; however, in general, organic acids can crystallize under certain conditions, impacting the texture of confections.

Solubility: The solubility of organic acids is a critical factor affecting their distribution in confections. Most organic acids are water-soluble to a significant extent.

Shelf Stability: Organic acids contribute to the preservation of confections by reducing the pH and inhibiting the growth of spoilage microorganisms. This enhances the shelf stability of products.


In the United States, compliance with FDA regulations and adherence to GMP are imperative for the use of organic acids in confections. Certified colors, meeting FDA standards, must be employed to ensure the safety and quality of confectionery products in the market. Regulations that apply to the most common organic acids are:

  • 21CFR582.1069 Malic acid.
  • 21CFR184.1033 Citric acid
  • 21CFR184.1061 Lactic acid
  • 21CFR184.1099 Tartaric acid
  • 21CFR172.350 Fumaric acid
  • 21CFR182.3013 Ascorbic acid

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