The days of dripping cones and chocolate stained white t-shirts could soon be gone forever.

Scientists have discovered a way to create firmer ice cream which stays frozen for longer, thanks to a protein which helps ingredients stick together.

The protein, which binds together the air, fat and water in ice cream , naturally occurs in a Japanese breakfast food known as ‘natto’.

But researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Dundee have discovered that by adding the protein to ice cream , a scoop stays intact for longer.

The protein could also stop ice cream from crystallising when frozen, instead leaving a smooth creamy consistency.

The development will mean that manufacturers could create ice cream using less saturated fat resulting in desserts with less calories.

Scientists exploring ways of using the protein believe that ice cream made with the ingredient could be available on the market within three to five years.

Natto, which is made from fermented soy beans, is often eaten with cooked rice. It is high in protein with a sticky and stringy texture but has a pungent cheese-like smell.

The protein which occurs in the soy beans, called Biofilm surface level A (BslA), helps fat droplets and air bubbles cling to one another.

As well as making eating ice cream more enjoyable for punters, the findings will be welcomed by manufacturers because BslA will keep products frozen for longer.

The development will also benefit the supply chain as delivery drivers will be under less pressure to maintain products at such a low temperature.

Scientists believe that the protein, which acts as an elastic-like film, could also be used in the future as a coating substance.

The protein was developed with support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Researchers at both universities had previously discovered that BslA was an effective waterproofing agent which could keep bacteria in perfect conditions without any liquid permeating its surface.

Professor Cait MacPhee, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, who led the project, said: ‘We’re excited by the potential this new ingredient has for improving ice cream , both for consumers and for manufacturers.’

Fellow researcher Dr Nicola Stanley-Wall, of the University of Dundee, added: ‘It has been fun working on the applied use of a protein that was initially identified due to its practical purpose in bacteria.’

Courtesy Daily Mail