Collagen is insoluble, but the gelatin derived from it is freely soluble in hot water.
Gelatin is the only natural protein of commercial importance, capable of producing clear thermo-reversible gels when combined with water. This property is gelatin’s most important commercial feature. In its gel form, gelatin is also unique in that it is able to melt at body temperature.
However, this unique gelling feature is only one of gelatin’s many qualities, which allow it to be used in a variety of ways—not only food, but other applications as well.
In it everyday food and non-food applications, there is often no satisfactory alternative or substitute for gelatin. The end product would not be available to the consumer without its gelatin content.
Consumers may not even be aware of the presence of gelatin when taking a photograph, enjoying a wine gum, spreading low fat margarine, taking medication in capsule or tablet form, shampooing their hair, applying moisturisers or sun screen, and sometimes even writing a receipt!
Being almost flavourless and odourless, gelatin can be used to mask tastes or odours in areas such as medicinal applications.
In spray drying and micro-encapsulation, gelatin can be used as a carrier of flavours or fragrances, to be released when desired.
Gelatin owes its wide use in the food industry to the fact that it is itself a food.
It is a protein, easily digested, and therefore often used in ‘light’ foods, such as margarines, calorie reduced milk, meat products and dietary aids.