Good or Gooey?

When I converted into a 99% vegetarian many, many years ago most people around me expected I’d be challenged by all those fantastic, delicious meet dishes. As a matter of fact, I am more tempted by the trashiest of all candies: wine gum!1 Unfortunately, most of them are based on gelatin as gelling agent2.

Goody good stuff makes gooey vegan wine gums Goody good stuff makes vegan wine gums – but are they really good?

I remember dozens of moments in which I discovered yet another gelatin-free wine gum and briefly dreamed to have have found a solution to the gelatin-problem. Only to discover milliseconds after my first bite that I was totally wrong. Again. None of the gelatin-free stuff came close to the same mouthfeel as the trashy stuff from my childhood.
But few days ago I discovered on the beautiful blog “de hippe vegetarier” that a new brand was making vegan wine gums of all sorts and was about to sell them in many supermarkets in the Netherlands, too! I quickly cycled to the next supermarket and got some of those “Goody Good Stuff” wine gums…

Surprise!

Their texture is plain horrible! Ohhhh no. Another failed attempt to mimic gelatin-based candy textures3. Like most gelatin-mimicking products, “Goody good stuff” uses carrageenan4, but at least their “Koala GUMMY bears” also contain gellan gum (and believe me, those really feel like gooey wax in your mouth). Well, gelatin has a unique combination of two very special properties that give rise to a very characteristic mouth-feel. First, gelatin gels melt at about 35°C, hence in your mouth. And second, gelatin gels can be very elastic. Elasticity properties that at least come close to those of gelatin can meanwhile also be created using different, plant-based gelling agents, such as some types of the before mentioned carrageenan (although the Goody good stuff gellies are still a little softer than the ‘original’ versions). However, the melt-in-mouth effect is essentially gone. As a consequence the wine gums feel very unpleasantly gooey and slimy during eating. Nowhere near their –unfortunately animal-based- gelatin counterparts.
So please please please dear food scientists and hydrocolloid researchers: Do something! Invent a perfect plant-based replacement for gelatin! Pleeease.

Footnotes
  1. All those really trashy wine gums: colorful, sticky, artificially flavored, and best if covered with extremely sour stuff. []
  2. And gelatin, as you will probably know, is extracted from animal bones. Not vegen. Not vegetarian. In many cases not halal… []
  3. I don’t want to be unfair. The idea behind this company is great and I think a good way to go. By this I mean that it is a wonderfull strategy to replace common junk food by more sustainable (e.g. plant based) alternatives. Only, that -to me- this product is not yet an alternative. At max it is a bad substitute and hence only suitable for those that really really really want to avoid gelatin and can’t live without wine gum (and can live with the inferior mouth feel). []
  4. Probably some type of kappa-carrageenan, they are fairly heavily investigated at the moment. []

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