Learn more about tapioca
Tapioca is a cost-effective and easy-to-use ingredient that perfects texture in food products without impacting flavour. It can be used in both food and beverage products to give an ideal functionality that customers love. Continue reading to discover where it’s grown and how it’s used.
The origins and uses of tapioca
Tapioca is an ingredient derived from cassava root, also known as yuca. Originally discovered in South America, cassava has been cultivated in parts of Southeast Asia and South Africa because the climates are ideal for growing.
Cassava grows underground like other tubers and is harvested by hand. The root has a dark, fibrous exterior resembling a sweet potato. This skin is removed to expose a white interior. In its raw form, cassava is toxic and must be processed (e.g., soaked, boiled, cooked) to be safely consumed. Cassava root can be eaten as a side or used as an ingredient. The top of the plant is also edible.
Difference between cassava, tapioca and yuca
Depending on geography, the cassava plant and root may be referred to as ‘yuca.’ Cassava roots can produce either cassava flour or tapioca starch. Cassava flour incorporates the entire tuber, whereas tapioca starch is produced using only the starch from the root. Both can be used as an ingredient in home kitchens as well as industrial manufacturing.
Turning cassava root into cassava flour and tapioca starch
Before it can be used as an ingredient, cassava root goes through a series of steps, starting with cultivation. After its growth cycle, farmers harvest the roots, which go through a series of washes. Roots are peeled, mashed into a pulp and then soaked. When processed, the entire tuber (cassava flour) or the starch (tapioca). Like other starches, tapioca starch differs from tapioca flour in that the protein is removed from the base material. Learn more [link to tapioca starch page; URL TBC] about how Ingredion manufactures its tapioca starches and multi-functional flours.
Characteristics of tapioca starch and cassava flour
Tapioca starch and cassava flour have the following characteristics, which are on-trend for health-conscious consumers:
- Supports ‘natural’ claim enablement1
- Simple, recognised ingredient2
- Gluten- and grain-free
- Contains insoluble fibre
When used in foods and beverages, tapioca starch and cassava flour add viscosity and texture, resulting in an enhanced mouthfeel. They have an inherently neutral flavour profile that can be used in sweet and savoury formulations. Tapioca starch and cassava flour appear white in colour but become mostly transparent when incorporated and do not have a significant impact on the colour of the finished food or beverage. They also create a glossy appearance in high-moisture applications.
Formulating with tapioca
Food manufacturers around the world use clean label (functional native) and modified tapioca starch in many formulations for their versatility and functional performance. Multi-functional tapioca flours excel in extreme manufacturing conditions. These ingredients perform well in a variety of food and beverage products across all temperatures (i.e., refrigerated, frozen, shelf-stable).
Reasons to formulate with tapioca starch
Tapioca starch is appealing to manufacturers for many reasons:
- Margin management: Compared to more volatile raw materials and commodities, tapioca starch has a stable supply. Its texture can help reduce other ingredients like dairy to drive formulation cost effectiveness, while its neutral taste can enable reduction of other ingredients without impacting the enjoyment of eating.
- Functional performance: Both functional native and modified tapioca starch withstand temperature swings between freezing to thawing, making it ideal for both shelf-stable and frozen food products. These ingredients can also extend shelf life, thereby reducing waste.
- Nutritional appeal: Fat- and cholesterol-free, cassava can appeal to consumers who want to lose weight or control diabetes. Its creamy texture can enable the reduction of dairy and other fats to improve nutritional profiles. Cassava contains resistant starch, which means it acts like fibre during the digestive process. When used in higher quantities, cassava is calorie-dense and can help improve weight gain outcomes and food security.
- Label appeal: There is no gluten, grain, nut or dairy in tapioca starch, which supports allergen-free labelling and celiac needs; ketogenic and paleo lifestyles; and kosher, halal and vegan requirements.
1 Manufacturers should consult regulations specific to all target markets. Of the countries that regulated “natural” products in March 2019, these ingredients meet the legal criteria of the UK and France, as well as the EU, and also the technical specifications defined in the global ISO/TS 19657. This information is intended to support the efforts of our customers to develop and implement an appropriate labeling strategy for products containing Ingredion ingredients or additives. In all respects, the ultimate decision on how to identify and label ingredients or additives on food packages remains with our customers. We urge you to carefully review the relevant regulations and to seek appropriate legal counsel as you determine the labelling requirements applicable to your products.
2 ATLAS, Ingredion Proprietary Consumer Research, 2023
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