Until recently, the therapeutic plant aloe vera has been dried naturally in the sun - a fairly crude process with limited uses - or has undergone an extensive preparation for freeze drying for pharmaceutical use. A new process from GEA Niro bridges the gap between those processes to provide a high quality powder that is suitable for use in personal care, nutraceutical and food products.
As a part of GEA Process Engineering Inc., the Columbia, Md.-based company already supplies freeze drying technology that produces high quality aloe vera powder for use in pharmaceutical products. Spray drying will provide an option for those looking to use the final dried product as a functionality-enhancing agent for yogurts, dressings, drinks, face creams and cosmetics.
The process requires the aloe vera cactus leaves to be processed so the moisture-absorbing pulp can be micro-disintegrated and spray dried efficiently. First, the leaves are filleted to remove the hard outer shell. What is left - the inner tissue - is made up of 98 percent water and 2 percent tissue matter that behaves like a sponge. This means that when the aloe vera has been spray dried, it will act as a thickening agent and provide texture and volume to the end product without adding calories.
In the GEA Niro process, the aloe vera fillet is put through a shredder and a milling machine to create a feed that can be atomized. The feed pulp is heated to less than 122°F (50°C) and dosed with enzymes that break down the cellulose chain in a reaction tank, reducing viscosity. The fibers then are segregated, and those less than 200 microns continue in the process. Aloin, used as a bittering agent in beverages and as a pharmaceutical laxative, is extracted. The remaining pulp then goes on to be pasteurized, creating a gel. After evaporation to increase the total solids of the gel, it is spray dried into a fine, free-flowing powder.
Robert Djernaes, Food Sales Group manager for GEA Niro, explains that the new process will make aloe vera more accessible to a range of industries. “The spray dried powder is ideal for use in all products, and the spray drying process has lower operation costs compared to freeze drying,” he says.