Leavening agents

Companies working in the bakery industry handle a variety of mixtures in the creation of consumer products. Businesses handling doughs, batters, and solutions for expansion must have an understanding of correct ingredients to provide proper results.

Baking powders are crucial in the preparation of baking products, as the ingredients help to generate CO2 and make foods rise or expand when they enter the oven. Leavening agents are a crucial part of the baking powder pushing air/gases throughout food products so that they take on desirable volume and texture.

Different ways to achieve food rising

Food manufacturers can rely on three main types of leavening systems for the creation of baked products: biological, mechanical, and chemical means.

Biological Leavening

Biological leavening agents undergo a fermenting process in accordance with yeast products. Producers of beer, bread, and wine allow yeasts (single-cell organisms) to absorb sugars for the production of carbon dioxide gases.

Mechanical Leavening

Food industry professionals may also rely on mechanical means for the production of baked goods. This process calls for whipping or stirring air bubbles into a mixture for further expansion.

Chemical Leavening

Brenntag supplies chemical leavening agents for food product expansion. These baking powders are a controlled method for releasing carbon dioxide throughout recipes, as they react with levels of moisture and heat. Chemical leavening agents within original recipes react with baking soda, acids and phosphates for rising. Chemical leavening agents undergo decomposition and neutralization reactions that contribute to expansion, color, flavor, crumb structure, and more.

Chemical leavening processes are faster acting than biological and mechanical methods and give the product developer control over the characteristics of food end products.

Chemical leavening using baking powders

A baking powder consists of a base and an acidic part (this is the leavening agent). The base is often sodium bicarbonate (E500).

The leavening agents are responsible for creating reactions subject to presence of water, heat, or acids in the formulation. The choice of leavening agent allow for a rapid or slow rate of rising action and short preparation procedures, which makes it easier to produce products of the same character in larger numbers. Instead of products bubbling in the oven, leavening agents cause baked goods to successfully inflate without bursting for cakes, cookies, and more.

Leavening agents have an important role in providing a good release of CO2 during baking. The release of CO2 results in the desired crumb structures, of the air pockets color and the overall sensoric aspects.

Sodium bicarbonate (E500) - Sodium bicarbonate is commonly known as baking soda across food industries. The white crystalline ingredient exists as a fine powder that reacts with acids in recipes. Sodium bicarbonate should be mixed accordingly with dry food ingredients as the compound reacts with water.

Ammonium bicarbonate (E503) - Ammonium bicarbonate releases CO2 above 60°C. Ammoniumbicarbonate does not need leavening agents

Potassium bicarbonate (E501) - Companies searching for low-sodium alternatives to baking soda can bake with potassium bicarbonate.

Different types of leavening agents

The most used types of leavening agents are:

  • SAPP10; SAPP15; SAPP 20; SAPP40 (Sodium and pyrophoshate)
  • MCPM (monocalcium phosphate)
  • GDL (Glucono Delta Lacton)
  • SALP (Sodium aluminium phosphate) not permitted in EU
  • Cream of tartar
  • Citric acid
  • Fumaric acid
  • Lactic acid

For example leavening agent SAPP (Sodium acid pyrophosphate Na2H2P2O7) is very often used in the fine bakery. The type of SAPP also has an influence on the speed of CO2 release. This has an effect on CO2 release in the dough before baking and in the oven during the baking process.

There are many SAPP types, for example SAPP10, SAPP20, SAPP28, SAPP40.

  • SAPP10 makes a slow reaction with sodium bicarbonate and gives during a longer time CO2. This makes it more suitable for a product with a long baking time like a cake. This will give the cake a nice appearance and higher volume.
  • SAPP40 is a very fast acting leavening agent used in a baking process with a short baking time. The speed and how the leavening agent acts in time is called ROR (rate of reaction). Also a combination of different types of leavening agents is possible in a baking powder.


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.

Get in touch

Learn more about the leavening agents we can offer you for your products. Contact us and our Food Experts are there to support you.

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