Food and Beverage

Citric Acid Uses: A Key Ingredient Shaping the Taste and Quality of Food Products

citric acid in food industry

Citric acid uses in the food industry finds great importance, it is considered a valuable ingredient that offers several benefits. Its natural origin, versatility, and functional properties make it a preferred choice for food manufacturers.

Citric acid is a type of weak organic acid that is commonly present in citrus fruits. It is widely used in various foods and beverages as a natural preservative agent, flavor enhancer, acidulent, and chelating agent which makes it an essential ingredient in the food industry due to its versatility and effectiveness. It also helps extend the shelf life of foods and beverages.

So it plays a crucial role in ensuring the quality, taste, and safety of a wide variety of food and beverage products.

In this article, we will explore citric acid uses in the food industry, examining its various functions and the positive impact it has on the taste, safety, and shelf life of food products.

What is Citric Acid?

Citric acid is a weak organic acid with the chemical formula C6H8O7. It is a soluble white crystalline powder, exists in two forms, anhydrous and monohydrate and it is widely used to add a sour or tangy flavor to foods and beverages.

citric acid structure

Structure of citric acid. Source Mdpi

Over 90% of the world’s citric acid is produced through microbial fermentation such as Aspergillus niger. Beyond the food industry citric acid uses are spread in Various Industries, it finds applications in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and even as a cleaning agent.

Citric acid uses in the food industry

Citric acid provides several benefits in various food products as it acts as

  • Acidulant:

Acidulants provide useful functions in food products such as flavor fixation, flavor enhancement, bacterial stabilization, and maintaining the acidity levels in many food products such as sauces, dressings, marinades, and processed foods

This market study showed the importance and the highest need for acidulants over the years

acidulants market

source: marketresearchfuture

Citric acid is commonly used as an acidulant that is added to various food formulations to provide a tart, sour taste, balance flavors, optimize preservation, and contribute to the taste experience.

Citric acid uses segment dominated the market accounting for 41% of the market.

citric acid as acidulants

source: marketresearchfuture

  • Flavor Enhancer:

Citric acid adds a tangy, sour flavor that elevates the taste of numerous food and beverage products and increases consumer experience. It is frequently employed in carbonated drinks, teas, fruit juices, sweets, desserts, and confections to balance the sweetness.

  • Preservative agent:

Citric acid has antimicrobial properties that help to extend the shelf life of food products by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, molds, and yeast and preventing spoilage in food formulations so it is useful in canned fruits, jams, jellies, sauces, and other processed foods.

Today, one of the most important and common Citric acid uses in the food industry is acting as a natural preservative agent. In the United States alone produces more than 1.6 million tons of it every year.

  • pH Adjuster:

Citric acid is used to regulate and control the pH levels of food and beverage products. It helps maintain stability, enhance flavors, and prevent spoilage in many food products. It is commonly used in sauces, dressings, and carbonated drinks.

  • Chelating Agent:

Citric acid uses in canned food are very common as it acts as a chelating agent, that can bind to metal ions and helps prevent their reactions with food. It preserves color, flavor, and stability in food products that contain sensitive ingredients such as processed food, canned seafood, and canned vegetables.

citric acid in cans

  • Texture Modifier:

Citric acid alters the texture of certain food products. It helps create a gel-like consistency as it lowers pH level that acts to activate pectin, a natural gelling agent. Resulting in a thicker texture and improved gel formation in jams and jellies.

citric acid in jams

It is also used in cheese making to improve the texture and meltability of the cheese.

  • Antioxidant:

Citric acid acts as an antioxidant, preventing the oxidation of fats and oils in processed foods. It helps extend the shelf life and maintain the quality of products like frozen fruits, cured meats, and snack foods.

  • Emulsifier:

Emulsions are combinations of liquids that do not mix, like oil and water, with one dispersed as tiny droplets within the other. Citric acid as an emulsifying agent aids in the creation and maintenance of emulsions. Through its emulsifying properties, it plays a role in enhancing the stability and smooth texture of different food items, such as dressings, sauces, and mayonnaise.

Citric acid uses in ice cream are widely spread as it helps prevent ice cream from separating, as well as preventing crystallization in caramels. It is often added to processed cheeses, canned fruits and vegetables, and other products.

Reference: researchgate

Citric acid uses in Beverages

Citric acid plays a crucial role in beverages such as carbonated drinks, fruit juices, energy drinks, flavored water, and cocktails. Its versatility and benefits make it a widely used ingredient in various beverage formulations.

citric acid in beverage

It enhances flavors, modifies acidity levels, and provides antioxidant properties, it acts as a preservative agent, aids in emulsification and stabilization, and contributes to overall product quality and shelf life.

It helps prevent the oxidation of components, such as vitamins and flavor compounds and extends the shelf life of beverages by reducing the risk of spoilage. Approximately 50% of citric acid production is utilized in beverages.

Applications in the Food industry

  • Citric acid uses in Confectionery: It is widely used in the production of candies, gummies, sour candies, and fruit-flavored sweets. It helps prevent the crystallization of sucrose and the formation of dark colors in hard candies. In addition, it adds a sour and tangy taste, balances sweetness, and contributes to the overall flavor profile.

citric acid in candies

  • Citric acid uses in Dairy products: Citric acid is widely used in the dairy industry as it enters the production of dairy-based desserts and frozen treats such as ice cream and yogurt. It also plays a vital role in cheese manufacturing especially in mozzarella as it acts as a catalyst to quickly ferment milk enhancing fermentation and creating cheese more rapidly. It also helps inhibit the formation of protein aggregates, thereby improving the texture and preventing a gritty or grainy mouth feel.

citric acid in cheese

  • Citric acid uses in Bakeries and Snacks: It is used in a variety of baked goods including cakes, cookies, and pastries, to enhance flavors, act as a preservative, and improve the texture and volume of baked goods. It is also used in snacks like chips and crackers to provide a tangy taste.

citric acid in cracks


  • Citric acid uses in Sauces and Dressings: It is a common ingredient in sauces, dressings, and marinades. It acts as a pH regulator, enhances flavors, and helps extend their shelf life by acting as a preservative agent.
  • Citric acid uses in canned and Processed Foods: Citric acid is often used in canned foods such as fruits and vegetables, as well as in processed foods like sauces, soups, and ready-to-eat meals. It acts as a preservative, chelating agent, and flavor enhancer.
  • Citric acid uses in Jams, Jellies, and Preserves: It is added to fruit preserves, jams, and jellies to create a proper pH level for gel formation and improve their texture, enhance flavors, and act as a preservative agent.
  • In Meat and Seafood: It is used in seafood and meat processing to prevent oxidation, preserve color and flavor, and inhibit the growth of bacteria. It is commonly used in cured meats, canned seafood, and fish products.
  • Reference:

Citric acid uses as a Natural Preservative in the Food Industry

Citric acid serves as a preservative agent in the food and beverage industry due to its antimicrobial properties and ability to inhibit the growth of microorganisms.

  • Microbial Inhibition:

Citric acid has the ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeast, and mold. By creating an acidic environment, it reduces the pH level of food and beverage products, making it less favorable for microbial growth. This helps extend the shelf life of these products by preventing spoilage and maintaining their safety.

  • pH Regulation:

Citric acid acts as a pH regulator, adjusting and controlling the acidity levels of food and beverage formulations. Microorganisms thrive in specific pH ranges, and by lowering the pH, citric acid creates an unfavorable environment for their growth. It helps maintain product stability and reduces the risk of microbial contamination.

  • Preservation of Color and Flavor:

Citric acid helps preserve the color, freshness, and flavor of beverage products. It chelates or binds to metal ions that can cause color degradation and off-flavors. By preventing these undesirable reactions, citric acid helps maintain the texture and flavor qualities of the products.

  • Antioxidant Properties:

Citric acid acts as an antioxidant by inhibiting the oxidation of fats and oils in food and beverage products. Oxidation leads to rancidity and deterioration of flavor and odor. By inhibiting oxidation, citric acid helps extend the shelf life of these products and maintain their sensory attributes.

Reference: citric acid as preservative

Safety Information

Manufactured citric acid is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)


Citric acid is greatly appreciated in the food industry because of its many benefits. Its natural origin, versatility, and functional properties make it a preferred option for food manufacturers. It enhances flavors, acts as a preservative, regulates pH levels, and improves the stability of products.

Citric acid offers a significant advantage as it serves as a natural preservative. Its antimicrobial characteristics effectively hinder the proliferation of bacteria, molds, and yeasts, thereby prolonging the shelf life of various food products. By successfully minimizing the chances of spoilage, citric acid plays a vital role in upholding the quality and safety of food.

Citric acid plays a crucial role in preserving the quality, taste, and safety of various food and beverage items. It also contributes to the creation of innovative food products, such as beverages, confectionery, dairy items, and processed foods.

To enhance your food products with Citric acid, we offer a high-quality Citric acid (anhydrous-monohydrate) that meets all industry requirements.



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