Scientists in Scotland have developed a new ingredient that makes ice cream more resistant to melting, giving consumers more time to enjoy the treat on a warm day.

The protein, which occurs naturally in some foods, could also offer benefits to manufacturers and suppliers because there would be a reduced need to keep the product very cold throughout manufacturing, storage and delivery.

According to researchers at the universities of Edinburgh and Dundee, the protein binds together the air, fat and water in ice cream. It works by adhering to fat droplets and air bubbles, making them more stable in the mixture.

As well as making the product slower to melt, the protein creates a smoother texture, with no ice crystals.

What’s more, the development could lead to new products that contain lower levels of saturated fat and fewer calories. The research team replaced some of the fat molecules used to stabilize oil and water mixtures, cutting the fat content.

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

It can be produced from sustainable raw materials, and processed without loss of performance, the researchers explained.

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

The scientists estimate that ice cream made with the ingredient could become available within three to five years.