Nestlé teams up with Swiss avalanche researchers to study ice cream

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 27th March 2012

Nestlé has announced it is collaborating with the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, in Switzerland, to examine the microscopic ice crystals found in both snow and ice cream.

In a media release, Nestlé said its new collaboration aims to help solve a universal problem for all ice cream manufacturers: how to maintain the product’s original texture and structure for longer.

The research relies on the only x-ray tomography machine in the world that allows long-term observation of tiny particles in a substance at temperatures of zero to minus 20 degrees Celsius.

Dr Hans Jörg Limbach, a scientist at the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland said, “Ice cream is an inherently unstable substance. As part of its natural ageing process, the ice will separate from the original ingredients such as cream and sugar.

“When you store ice cream in the freezer at home for a prolonged period, ice crystals begin to form in the product. This is water from the ice cream itself,” he added.

The x-ray machine allows Nestlé to record the size and shape of ice crystals and air bubbles in ice cream under home-freezer conditions.

Dr Jorg Limback said, “X-ray technology is normally used at room temperature, but this machine works within exactly the right range for frozen food. Previously, we could not look inside ice cream without destroying the sample in the process. This method is non-invasive and does not disturb the product.”

The study found that as some ice crystals grow in size they fuse together, creating bigger crystals which cause the texture of the ice cream to coarsen.

“We already know the growth of ice crystals in ice cream is triggered by a number of different factors,” added Dr Jorg Limback. “If we can identify the main mechanism, we can find better ways to slow it down.”