Return to Blog March 22, 2022

What is Sodium Alginate Used For?

Tilley News
Colorful glazed and frosted donuts prepared using sodium alginate.

Sodium alginate is used in several important applications across the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. It’s an important ingredient for manufacturers working to create quality products with a specified texture.

In many use cases, sodium alginate is the best ingredient to use as a gelling agent and/or binder.  Soft gels in particular are where sodium alginate is most useful.

Most Common Sodium Alginate Applications

Sodium alginate’s ability to create soft gels without heating is what makes it unique.

The market for alginates is growing rapidly due to demand in food applications and further acceptance by consumers. Demand for sodium alginate in print and dye applications may be dwindling, but widespread demand in other industries has alginate sales growing at 5% annually in part due to rising demand in food applications and growing acceptance by consumers.

Commercial variations of sodium alginate can be broken into food-grade and non-food grades.

The food ingredient form can be found in applications like:

  • Gummy and Gel Confections
  • Ice Creams
  • Pastries and Baked Goods
  • Meat Products including Analogs
  • Plant Based Meats
  • Restructured Foods – Onion Rings, Noodles and French Fries
  • Cosmetics – Lotions, Creams, Hair Products (Shampoos), and Toothpastes
  • Pharmaceuticals – Gel Capsules

Is sodium alginate a good fit for your next product? Learn more about our custom formulation process. To get started, contact our technicians.

Sodium Alginate in Medicine

Versatility and safety are prized characteristics in pharmaceuticals. Sodium alginate is used in formulations for antacids, which may be the commercial application that many consumers are familiar with.

That is just a narrow use, however, with sodium alginate also being used in:

  • Dental molds
  • Pills and tablets (including aspirin)
  • Medicinal gels, creams and ointments

How Is Sodium Alginate Made?

The basic structure of sodium alginate makes it a linear polysaccharide derived from alginic acid which is a naturally occurring compound that lines the cellular wall of brown algae seaweed. Sodium alginates are manufactured by ion exchange to form the sodium salt of alginic acid which helps to dictate viscosity and gel strength.  Researchers have already discovered ways to influence the resulting alginate products by introducing different inputs, which has led to the ability to make increasingly customized alginates to meet specified customer needs.

What Is Organic Sodium Alginate?

The USDA’s National Organic Program lists sodium alginate as an organic-allowed ingredient because food-grade sodium alginate is derived entirely by natural processes. This means that sodium alginate can be used in products labeled as organic. (The FDA regulates a maximum level of “organic-allowed” ingredients, including sodium alginate, that can be used in products labeled as organic).

The Highest-quality Ingredients and Top-notch Service

At Tilley, we’re excited about the dynamic functionalities of sodium alginate and how it can be used across a variety of industries that we serve. In addition to a strict quality assurance process, our in-house technicians develop bespoke products designed to meet your specific needs.

To learn more about our food-grade sodium alginate as well as our full product catalog and laboratory capabilities, contact a Tilley representative today.