Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (HPMC)

Capsules which are either made with gelatin or hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (HPMC)
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (HPMC) is one of the cellulose derivatives which makes for an ideal edible packaging. HPMC is used in the food industry and has  many roles – as an emulsifier, stabilizer, film former, protective colloid, suspending agent and of course edible film. The notable properties for it as an edible film are the following:- a  readily available nonionic edible plant derivative shown to form transparent, odorless, tasteless, oil-resistant, water-soluble films with moderate moisture, oxygen, and aroma barrier properties, high TS, and low flexibility 

As we seek an ecologically viable alternative to plastic, HPMC amongst other cellulosic materials might be one of those suitable replacements. Polysaccharides are not only edible but biodegradeable and would readily dissolve in seawater. It appears to be suitable as a lining for generating a coated paper. 

At the IFT 2008 Annual Meeting, scientists from the LSGA-ENSAIA-INPL, Nancy, France discussed the success of reducing oxygen transport across an unspecified paper coated with HPMC by reducing this gas’ transport by 90 per cent. The intention was to protect milk, liquid beverages and foods that were susceptible to oxidation. In one example, they showed that milk containing omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) was protected to a large extent from fatty acid degradation through oxidation because of the application of such a barrier to the paper.

HPMC lends it self well to forming edible coating when mixed with other polymers such as proteins. Whey protein is certainly suitable in this case (Brindle and Krochta, 2008) as demonstrated by the team at the University of California in Davis. They have examined glycerol (Gly)-plasticized whey protein isolate (WPI)-hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) blended edible films for a few years.


Brindle, L.P. and Krochta, J.M. (2008), Physical Properties of Whey Protein–Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose Blend Edible Films. Journal of Food Science, 73: E446–E454. doi:10.1111/j.1750-3841.2008.00941.x

Tehrany, E.A., Jacquot, M., Desobry, S. (2008) Edible packaging based on hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (HPMC). IFT Annual Mtg. June 28 – July 1, New Orleans, LA

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