Acidulants are substances (organic or inorganic) which release hydrogen and a salt part in water solution. When the concentration of hydrogen ions goes up then the acidity of the whole system is increasing and the pH is decreasing. Human saliva is slightly acid (pH approximately 6.8) and when we consume sour food or drinks, our taste receptors interact with the acids present in the food or drink and this sensation is recognized by us as sourness.

Many foods, like most fruits, contain natural acids such as citric acid, malic acid and tartaric acid and these are responsible for the authentic taste and flavor of the specific fruit. Many naturally preserved foods (fermented foods) also contain a composition of various acids and the sour taste sensation is commonly a signal for good quality food. Acids are used by food producers in order to achieve the required pH, to buffer, to influence taste and flavor, to keep color and texture of foods. Acids also play an important role in the natural preservation of foods.

Wine spritzer with fruit extracts

Different types and functionality acidulants in food

Acetic acid (E260) – the most commonly known organic acid, naturally present in many fruits and fermented foods.

Citric acid (E330) – is an organic acid (first isolated from lemon) naturally occurring in many fruits, produced commercially by microbial fermentation of carbohydrate substrates.

Malic acid (E296) – is an organic acid (first isolated from apples) naturally occurring in many fruits and present in human metabolism (Krebs cycle), produced commercially by a synthesis.

Fumaric acid (E297) – is naturally present in live cells chemical compound (various fungi), produced also in human skin when exposed to sunlight and also present in some fruits and vegetables.

Lactic acid (E270) is a human body organic acid (first isolated from sour milk) naturally occurring in many fermented foods and produced commercially by microbial fermentation of carbohydrate substrates.

Tartaric acid (E334) is an organic acid naturally occurring in many fruits (first isolated from cream of tartar “wine stone”), produced commercially as a natural grade during wine production.

Succinic acid (E363) is a naturally occurring dicarboxylic acid found in most fruit and vegetables.

Phosphoric acid (E338) is an inorganic acidulant obtained by chemical reaction from phosphorus rock.

Roasted chicken dinner platter

Use of acidulants in various applications


In most of beverages, citric acid is the first choice to be used as acidulant. The main reason is the specific, relatively mild to slightly sharp sourness and refreshing effect on most of fruit flavors. Malic acid is used when strong flavor enhancement is expected and mostly in combination with citric acid.

Phosphoric acid is commonly used in “cola” type beverages to bring specific taste profile and strong effect on pH. In alcoholic beverages, mostly in fruity coolers and low alcohol drinks malic acid is commonly used.


Malic acid as well as fumaric acid provide more persistent sourness than other food acids at the same concentration. Malic acid enhances fruit flavors and boosts the impact of high intense sweeteners. Buffered systems of various acids can be used to control sugar inversion and crystallization as well as gel texture of hydrocolloids (special impact on pectin).

Savory foods

Acidulants play mostly role as a shelf life regulators (pickled fish, processed meat) and can improve processing efficiency as well as help to stabilize quality of fermented meat and cheese product. Acidulant combinations are widely used in spice blends that are dusted on snack foods and used in variety of processed meat, fish and seafood. Succinic acid is used as a typical umami taste enhancer providing at low concentrations required taste impact.


Please check carefully the laws and regulations applicable for you. Please keep in mind that you are responsible for compliance with any applicable legal and regulatory requirements.

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