Scientists in Britain have discovered anti-melting properties in a protein that naturally occurs in a Japanese breakfast food known as ‘natto’.
The University of Edinburgh announced the finding on Monday, declaring “childhood memories of sticky hands from melting ice cream cones could soon become obsolete”.
Natto is made from fermented soy beans and has a powerful cheese-like smell, strong flavour and slimy, stringy texture.
British scientists studying the protein called biofilm surface level A (BsIA), said it helped fat droplets and air bubbles cling to one-another, making them more stable in a mixture and “creating a super-smooth consistency”.
It is estimated the slower melting ice-cream could hit the shelves in the next three to five years.
University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy Professor Cait MacPhee said the protein could be processed without loss of performance, and can be produced from sustainable raw materials.
“We’re excited by the potential this new ingredient has for improving ice-cream, both for consumers and for manufacturers,” she said.
But not only would the protein slow the melting process, it also helps ice cream stay frozen for longer, which would reduce the need to keep it at very low temperatures when it is stored and transported.
Previous studies of BsIA showed it was an effective waterproofing agent.