The mechanism of pectin gelation depends on the degree of methoxylation. High methoxyl pectin gels due to hydrophobic interactions and hydrogen bonding between pectin molecules. Low methoxyl pectin forms gels in the presence of di- and polyvalent cations which cross link and neutralise the negative charges of the pectin molecule. Monovalent cations normally do not lead to gel formation with high methoxyl pectin solutions free of divalent cations, especially Ca. The present study found that alkali (NaOH or KOH) added to high methoxyl pectin leads to gel formation in a concentration-depended manner. It was also found that monovalent cations (Na and K) induce gelation of low methoxyl pectin and the time required for gel formation (setting time) depends on the cation concentration. The results indicate that a combined char-e neutralisation and ionic strength effect is responsible for the monovalent cation-induced gelation of pectin. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.