Movie Theatre Popcorn -300 - ©

‘Air’ The New Trendy Food ‘Ingredient’

We’ve all known, for a long time, that air is an important ingredient in many of the foods we enjoy year-in and year-out. But now, the Foodie Mandarins are decreeing that air will be the next ‘big thing’. It’s all about ‘texture’…

Ice Cream Cones - © via FanPopIce Cream: You couldn’t get a scoop into it if there wasn’t air entrained in the custard!

Air is, obviously, essential in whipped cream, macaroons, marshmallows, ‘puffed’ cereals, puffed snacks (i.e.- Cheesies), popcorn and fizzy soft drinks.

Okay… The airy bubbles in fizzy drinks are really carbon dioxide. And the CO2 comes naturally in boutique beers and sparking wines made the traditional way, as the product of fermentation.

Bread rises because the fermentation of yeast produces carbon dioxide bubbles in the dough. Cakes and parties rise because baking powder reacts with a dry acid like cream of tartar in baking powder producing CO2.

Puffed cereals and popcorn get their airy texture when moisture inside the grains explodes into steam under intense heating. Likewise, moisture in extruded paste shapes puffs them into their final snack form via steam expansion.

And there’s more…

Did you know that churning ice cream entrains air in the custard mix? That expands the volume of the finished product a little, but also makes it servable. Without tiny air bubbles, the ice cream would be literally hard as a rock. You’d never get a scoop into it. And if you could, it wouldn’t have that classic creamy, velvety texture we all love so much.

Pita bread wouldn’t have its pocket if the maker didn’t follow the ‘patting-out’ technique prescribed by tradition. That technique forms robust front and back surfaces while allowing steam inside to expand and form the pocket.

And there are many other examples you’d recognise.

But now…

The folks who profess to set the trends in the foodie universe say that ‘texture’ will be the focus of food experimentation and new recipe development this year.

“Texture is the next thing,” Morgaine Gaye, a global food futurologist based in the UK, told Food Business News. “It’s not just the surface anymore. […] And right now, with everything going on in the world, consumers do not want to be tied down. People are off-loading. They want less. They crave a feeling of lightness, and that’s what you get with air.”

Whether you you connect with her rather new-agey reasoning or not, it’s hard to deny she’s got a point. We’re all still carrying at least some of the emotional burden that COVID dropped on us. A little air in our food might help lift our spirits.

Texturizers already here

Texturizers can be as simple as the CO2 in bread, beer or soda. But they can be as exotic as the molecular chemistry concoctions the out-in-front-of the food forward movement have been using since back in the 90s.

Look for substances such as maltodextrin, polydextrose, Pectin, Guar gum, Xanthan and Isomalt to figure more prominently in the ingredient lists of upcoming ‘new’ foods.

Survey says… ‘Yes’

“We believe texture plays an underappreciated but critical role in how consumers like or don’t like the food they eat,” James P. Zallie, president and CEO of, Ingredion Inc., told last month’s Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference.

Zalli revealed that 70 percent of consumers who took part in a recent survey by his company agreed texture gave foods and beverages a more interesting eating experience. And, “84 percent of consumers associated a lighter texture with healthier options. Think rice cakes or rice crisps, for example.”

An underlying issue

Of course, all those texturizers and air-entrainers are chemicals many of which are not found in nature. Those that are, like pectin, are rarely found in isolation or in anything like a pure form.

They are, in a word ‘additives’. And they should be considered as such when you evaluate the ingredients list of any new food you’re considering buying.

Are they safe? offers a detailed exploration of texturizers (in the molecular gastronomy context):

“Molecular gastronomy is generally considered safe, especially when experimental food creations are consumed in moderation. It further depends on the ingredients used. For example, naturally occurring emulsifiers and hydrocolloids (thickeners), like gelatin or agar agar, are safe to consume.

“On the other hand, cheaper emulsifiers, like soy lecithin, have potential side effects like bloating and nausea. Additional concerns involve the use of certain additives and other ingredients, like liquid nitrogen fumes, xanthan gums, and calcium salts.

“However, each dish only uses a small amount of chemicals, and individuals only consume these dishes once in a while. Therefore, there is a limited exposure to potentially unsafe ingredients and an unlikelihood that long-term side effects will occur.”

My take

Please leave me off the list of folks you plan to invite to any tastings of new air-entrained foods. If they are prepared by commercial manufacturers, they are almost certain to contain the ‘cheaper emulsifiers’ mentioned by That’s just how the manufacturers roll. Minimize costs.

And I just don’t trust them, no matter how small the amount there may be is in my food.

Maggie J.