The development of natural cyclodextrins (CDs) for various industrial applications (agroalimentary, cosmetic or pharmaceutical) constitutes a continuous challenge. For the integration of these agricultural plant products in the creation of super-absorbent biodegradable and hypoallergenic materials (water-retaining agents, cosmetic hydrating and texturing, pharmaceutical and horticultural products) to replace synthetic polymers, we have developed chemical methods to access regioselectively C-6-derivatized maltooligosaccharides starting from CDs. These compounds are highly suitable for further chemical modifications and are expected to give access to a new class of polymeric materials with potential applications such as water-retaining agents in the disposable nappies industry. For the structural analysis of carbohydrates, electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) offers precise results, analytical versatility and very high sensitivity. We report herein the rapid and convenient follow-up of chemical reactions, the purity evaluation of intermediates and final products, and the structural characterization of derivatized maltooligosaccharides, obtained by acidic cleavage (acetolysis) of halogenated and esterified CDs, using ESI-MS in combination with the high-resolution (HRMS) and tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) capabilities of a quadrupole orthogonal time-of-flight (Q-TOF) mass spectrometer. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.