You won’t find “wood pulp” listed plainly on any food ingredient labels, but don’t be so quick to turn your nose up at the idea. The powdered cellulose derived from wood pulp already can be found in several shredded or grated cheese products, keeping them from clumping in the packaging when exposed to moisture. And now food scientists are researching how incorporating more wood-based products, mostly pulp and dust, can enhance how other foods feel and keep.
Finnish researchers have found that the hemicellulose extracted from the pulp of birch trees and then added to many yogurts—the actual name of that ingredient is “xylan”—is one way to keep yogurt feeling smooth. And lignin—which can be found in bark—is one way to ensure morning muffins will be buoyant and fluffy.
“Lignin proved to be a surprisingly efficient substitute for whole eggs and egg yolks,” according to the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, which finds not only that wood-based products have applications to a lot of foods, but that people might actually like them better that way. “As technology develops, increasingly sophisticated ingredients can be extracted from wood,” the VTT says.
The use of wood-based food additives already has become more popular for food manufacturers as they experience higher costs for raw materials, such as flour, sugar, and oil, the Wall Street Journal found. And demand for the additives has risen as processed foods become more popular in China and India. But some food manufacturers have been accused of sprinkling the stuff into their products a little too liberally.