Shelf-life matters in the world of baking and sale of bread products. Especially for large companies that bake and distribute their products on a regional or national level, lengthening the shelf-life of their products can make or break their businesses. That’s why knowing how to use anti-staling agents is so important, resulting in better quality products and higher profits.

This is a topic of special interest to the milling and baking industries since staling and limited shelf-life can severely damage their bottom line. But what is staling, what types of anti-staling agents exist, and how do they work? We answer these questions and more.

What does staling mean?

Staling is the chemical and physical process by which bread and other baked goods lose their moisture and become dry. This affects both the bread crumb and crust of the product, resulting in a distinct firming and hardening of the texture and a change to the original flavor profile.

On some level, we’re all familiar with this process, experiencing a loaf of bread left out too long that becomes dry and leathery to the touch. But what causes this?

How does staling happen?

Staling occurs in a process known as starch retrogradation. This happens on a microscopic level, and you can see it with the help of specialized tools like differential scanning calorimetry and X-ray.

Starch retrogradation occurs after baking as the gelatinized starch (amylose and amylopectin) cool and begin realigning to their pre-baked structure.  This shrinking and recrystallization results in a harder crust and firmer crumb texture.

anti staling agents

Types of anti-staling agents

One way to delay staling once a product is keeping it in an air-tight container at room temperature. Engrain specializes in slowing down that process right from the beginning — from right inside that bag of bread or pastry

The most effective thing you can do to delay staling is to add anti-staling agents to the flour. Let’s look at a few common options in terms of anti-staling agents and the food science behind why they work so well.


Enzymes are a natural way to slow down starch retrogradation and recrystallization. Various enzymes can slow down starch crystallization, resulting in a fresher, tastier product.

The most common anti-staling enzymes include:

●   Maltogenic amylase

●   Fungal alpha-amylase

●   Amyloglucosidase

●   Lipase

●   Xylanase

These and similar enzyme agents slow down staling by breaking down the starch during processing and baking. They modify amylopectin, the starch component responsible for staling. This breaks down the starch chains and discourages them from forming ordered structures.

Of course, some enzymes do this better than others, which is why it’s a good idea to talk with an expert. For example, maltogenic amylase works to remove the end units of amylopectin, while other varieties of enzymes are more random in disrupting the starch granules.

Another amylase known as xylanase is especially useful in breadmaking. It can increase uptake of water in the dough, contributing to the proper hydration of gluten during the mixing and fermentation process. This results in softer loaves of bread.

Knowing how each enzyme works can help you achieve the desired result in each formulation you use.

Experts have also noted that enzymes have benefits beyond just delaying staling. They also promote overall softness, moistness, tenderness, and resilience — characteristics that make baked goods especially delicious!


Emulsifiers  are lipid compounds that work as a surfactant to improve function and strength of the oil:water interface in a dough. This effect can increase water absorption of flour and improve moisture retention in baked goods, delaying starch retrogradation.

Common emulsifiers include:

●   Sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate (SSL)

●   Distilled Monoglyceride (DMG)

●   Diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides (DATEM)

●   Lecithin

The theory behind why these work so well lies in their structure. The straight-chain structure of the fatty acids in emulsifiers is effective at forming complexes with the gelatinized starches in the flour, which prevents them from crystallizing.

Besides preventing staling, there are additional benefits to using emulsifiers. For instance, in bread manufacturing, certain emulsifiers increase loaf volume, by increasing gluten strength to increase gas holding capacity while improving mixing, handling and fermentation tolerance.

Other anti-staling agents

Besides enzymes and emulsifiers, other products have anti-staling effects. These include:

●   Humectants. These are primarily used to control moisture. They’re known as hygroscopic substances, meaning they bind the moisture in the food and absorb moisture from the surrounding air. In effect, this moisture slows the retrogradation of amylopectin and delays the staling of bread.

●   Antioxidants. These work particularly well in high-fat baked goods, where they can balance out lipids and prevent them from going rancid. The one concern about using antioxidants is how well they survive the baking process since many struggle to survive high temperatures.

●   Hydrocolloids. Also known as gums, these non-starchy carbohydrate polymers stabilize baked goods by enhancing viscosity or gelling in foods. You can derive these gums from several sources, including various plants and seaweed.

Benefits of using anti-staling agents

Anti-staling agents help businesses big and small every day. Consider a few ways that these products can help your business.

Extended shelf life

Shelf life is the biggest benefit of anti-staling agents. Delaying the retrogradation of starches keeps products on the shelf longer and gives them more opportunities to sell.

After all, shelf life is essential to your profit as a business. Whether you’re sending your products locally or they need to travel quite a distance to a distribution center, the longer they last, the more profits you can enjoy.

Improved texture and taste

Say goodbye to dry and flavorless pastry products! Because you’re delaying the crystallization of the starches in your pastry flour, you’ll see a marked improvement in your product’s taste and texture.

Reduced waste

Experts estimate that around 119 billion pounds of food are wasted annually in the United States alone — and stale bread and bakery products make up a large part of that number.

When your products last longer, it cuts down on waste. You’ll find yourself throwing out fewer stale products and keeping more on the shelves. This allows you to be much more efficient in your production process.

Increased customer satisfaction

When using an anti-staling agent, you can be confident that no matter where your product ships, your customers will take it off the shelf and enjoy it. It will have the ideal texture and taste profile that customers love.

This creates happy customers and can result in higher profits and better business relations with your buyers.

Examples of anti-staling agents in pastry flour products

Anti-staling agents are nothing new — bakers have used them for years to keep their products fresh and tasty. For example, most brands producing dinner rolls, hot dog buns, tortillas and other typically “soft” bread use enzymnes and emulsifiers to maintain that soft texture.

Of the gums, guar, xanthan and acacia are common examples of anti-staling agents As a hydrocolloids, these products is frequently used in gluten-free bread products to strengthen and stabilize the dough.

Extend the shelf-life of pastry flour with hydroSOFT Cake Technologies

Anti-staling agents are an essential part of a baker’s toolkit. And the results speak for themselves: better products, happier customers, and more profits.

Are you interested in learning more about these anti-staling products and how you can integrate them into your work?

Join the companies that already rely on Engrain’s hydroSOFT Cake Technologies to improve the quality of your bakery products. These products are specially designed to extend the shelf life and improve the quality of bread and pastry products.