Abstract: Model fruit pulp-based gels were prepared by varying mango pulp (0% to 50%), sucrose (0% to 20%), and agar (1% to 3%) and according to a response surface experimental design followed by drying at a low temperature of 40 °C upto 15 h in a tray dryer assisted by a dehumidifier. The moisture content, shrinkage (SHR), and rheological parameters (failure strain, failure stress (FS), firmness, and energy for compression) were determined as a function of drying time. The composition of gel, particularly the agar content had a prominent effect on the characteristics of the dried gel. Detailed descriptive sensory analysis employing principle component analysis (PCA) biplot indicated two distinct groups of attributes; the first group comprised initial and final moisture contents, extent of moisture removal (EMR), and shrinkage. The fracture stress and energy formed the second group. The analysis of variance for failure stress showed that it depended only on the positive linear and quadratic effects of agar (significant at P≤ 0.01 and 0.05, respectively). The theoretically predicted extent of moisture removal at 95.6% could be achieved when the level of agar was 1.2%; pulp and sucrose levels were also close to their lowest levels of 3.6% and 0.04%, respectively.
Practical Application: Scope exists to develop gel-based fruit analogues wherein an appropriate hydrocolloid can be employed along with fruit juice/pulp. To provide a reasonable shelf-life of the developed intermediate moisture containing product, dehumidifier assisted drying is a pragmatic approach that affects sensory and rheological attributes of the dried fruit analogue.