When a company says its ingredient is certified organic, make sure it is "USDA Certified Organic." The European Union and other countries have their own certification programs, but these certifications are not considered valid in a USDA-certified product. In order for the end product to be approved by a USDA certifier and sold as organic in the U.S., every organic ingredient must be approved by a USDA-accredited certifier. You can find a list of these certifiers at: www.ams.usda.gov/nop/CertifyingAgents/
PL Thomas (www.plthomas.com), Morristown, N.J., is one of those that has stepped up, launching organic guar gum, locust bean gum, carob powder and, most recently, an organic rosemary used as a non-synthetic preservative. "With all the regulations, many clients won't even bother with it unless it's certified organic. That's why we're always wanting to do more," says Rodger Jonas, national business manager. PL Thomas also plans on coming out with extracts such as maple, St. John's bread, chicory and horehound.
In fact, organic is getting more flavorful everyday. "Four years ago, people thought organic flavor compounds were impossible but today organic products have many of the same flavor options as conventional," says Tony Moore of Moore Ingredients (www.moorelab.com), Hamilton, Ohio. And the flavors are in plentiful supply, he adds, with the exception of some limitations with blueberry and organic exotics such as mangosteen and goji berri. Mastertaste (www.mastertaste.com), Teterboro, N.J., also has expanded its line of organic oleoresins, extracts, essential oils and concentrates.
Organic is getting more colorful, too. "Colors are used in such small quantities in processing in general, and even smaller in organic, so there just wasn't enough demand. But today more and more people are asking for them," says Helen Greaves, operations vice president at Food Ingredient Solutions, (www.foodcolor.com), Teterboro, N.J.
The first color to come out in organic was caramel, which is in greater use than other colors. Having been in the market for some time, organic caramel manufacturer Sethness Products Co. (www.sethness.com), Lincolnwood, Ill., has worked out supply kinks and has never turned away a food processor for lack of supply, says President Brian Sethness.
Food Ingredient Solutions makes organic reds from elderberry and beet, as well as ground paprika and turmeric for soup mixes or other products that don't require complete solubility. Moore Ingredients recently came out with an organic turmeric and hibiscus, which are water soluble and can be used to create a range of yellows, oranges, pinks and reds. However, many colors are not commercially available quite yet.
Other ingredient challenges have less to do with agricultural availability than with paperwork. For instance, the exotic berry seabuckthorn, a popular high-antioxidant functional food, grows everywhere in Armenia but is still going through the USDA certification process. Acai, another popular wild berry from Brazil, went through the same challenge but now there is a solid supply thanks to companies such as Sambazon (www.sambazon.com), San Clemente, Calif., which made the effort to get it certified.
While waiting for the exotics to become available, processors can incorporate more readily available fruits with some of the same benefits, such as high-antioxidant cranberries. By working to convert farmers, Decas Cranberry (www.decascranberry.com), Carver, Mass., expects to double its organic supply next year.
One of the final frontiers of organic supply seems to functional ingredients -- alternatives to emulsifiers, phosphates (used in meats) and stabilizers, says Lombardi. Prior to National Starch's Novation line of functional native corn, tapioca and rice starches, most organic processors had to use traditional native starches, which don't hold up to processing very well, according to Lombardi.
Ribus Ingredients (www.ribus.com), St. Louis, also answered the call for functionality with Nu-Flow anti-caking agent and flavor carrier, a replacement for synthetics such as silicone dioxide.
Overall, organic ingredient demand is being met with more and more products every day, strengthening the supply chain and forging a path for organic processors to meet the needs of organic consumers.