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By Mark Anthony, Ph.D., Technical Editor | 01/28/2008
In the past few years, ingredient trends completed a full merging of taste and health – gone are the days when the consumer will accept anything less than excellent flavor in a good-for-you product. The sudden surge in demand for ingredients such as red and purple fruits and vegetables loaded with antioxidants proves the rule. Just think of where such items as pomegranates and berries are today compared to even a few years ago.
Health-conscious consumers are increasingly enjoying food and drink products to supplement health care. Increased travel is exposing consumers to a wider range of ethnic foods and exotic flavors. The “reward factor,” acting as compensation for a demanding society, inspires more indulgent flavors with an emphasis on intense taste.
“Today’s consumers are open to a wider range of influences than they were 20 or even 10 years ago,” says Scott Mortensen, senior marketing manager of International Flavors & Fragrances Global/North America Beverages (www.iff.com), New York. “They think, act and wish to be treated as individuals which creates increased market segmentation. The range of flavors used in the food and beverage industry has diversified greatly in recent years and will continue to do so.”
According to Mortensen, we can look for old flavors to take on new personae in 2008. “As consumers become more sophisticated in their taste preferences, we see an increase in familiar flavors being defined in different ways. For example, lemon, orange, lime and grapefruit are now expanding into Meyer lemon, yuzu, key lime, kaffir lime, blood orange, Valencia orange, mandarin orange and more.”
Herbs, spices and botanicals can be expected to expand beyond the tea segment and provide a unique taste experience. “While we currently have mint, cinnamon, ginger and honey, this field is moving into rooibos, lemongrass, clove, parsley mint, jasmine, saffron and others,” adds Mortensen. “There’s an entire group of exotic flavors right on the horizon, including tres leches, roasted Jamaican pineapple, tamarind, mojito, plantain, wasabi and many more.
“Fruits with high antioxidant value are poised to break out of the niche segment. Consumers desire for well being will drive the superfruit flavors açai, acerola, mangosteen, goji, jabotacaba and passion fruit into the mainstream over the next few years.”
In what applications are we most likely to see new ingredients appear? According to Mortensen, “Consumer preference is driven by the benefits of electrolyte replenishment and the energy rush. Functional drinks are predicted to grow 40 percent, reaching 9 billion liters by 2011.”
Many consumers caught up in a busy lifestyle are looking for tastier and more convenient ways to take advantage of vitamins, minerals and newly researched phytochemicals, especially when it comes to beverages. That was the reasoning of Lori Mulligan and Lynne Gerhards, founders of Pure Inventions LLC. (www.pureinventions.com), Little Silver, N.J.
Their innovative contributions to nutrition for the New Year arrive in the form of “superfood” extracts that can transform almost any beverage into a potent source of phytochemicals. Concentrating several cups of exotic fruits, cocoa, and green tea into a dropper, the extracts can be added to hot or cold water, creating a healthy alternative to the high-calorie sugar-based drinks currently on the market. They also can be added to a variety of foods such as yogurt or oatmeal for a delicious breakfast or on-the-go snack.
For processors, “superfruit” concentrates can be a valuable nutrient boost. “Achieving sufficient levels of nutrients in food and beverage products in order to make valid health claims, can pose a challenge to processors (i.e. label declaration), says Markus Eckert, vice president of technical (flavors) at Mastertaste (www.mastertaste.com), Teterboro, N.J.
Mastertaste’s new NutraFlavors, available in freeze-dried crystals, spray-dried powders and emulsions, contain juice, extracts and nutrients from fruits like cranberry and grape. They add no artificial colors, solvents, chemically-modified food starches or synthetic preservatives, and deliver high levels of valuable nutrients as an integrated part of the flavor system. “With NutraFlavors, manufacturers can use the great superfruit flavors they incorporate in their products to also deliver the full health benefits of the fruit itself, says Eckert.”
With baby boomers entering their seniority, the big health issues, such as heart health, are driving the creation of many innovative products. According to Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs & communications manager for Cargill Health & Nutrition, (www.cargill.com), Minneapolis, some up-and-coming food issues for the coming year include: heart health, whole grains, weight and energy management.
Cargill has created a number of ingredients designed to aid manufactures in addressing these issues. “CoroWise brand plant sterols are an in-demand ingredient for a growing number of foods and beverages. Plant sterols have been clinically shown to lower LDL cholesterol, are backed by an FDA heart-health claim and are recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program.”
Barliv, another Cargill product in commercial development, is a high-purity, beta-glucan soluble fiber from barley. SaltWise sodium reduction system allows food manufacturers to reduce sodium levels by 25 to 50 percent, and the company’s Clear Valley brand of solid shortenings provide high-quality taste and performance with 0g of trans fat per serving.
Americans accept and even expect to see more whole grains and dietary fiber in their daily fare for the New Year. But that doesn’t mean they want to taste the fiber. Cargill’s Oliggo-Fiber is a source of inulin and oligofructose, fructose polymers often referred to as “invisible fiber” because they can be incorporated into almost any food or beverage without affecting taste or texture. “Research indicates that inulin may enhance dietary calcium absorption, particularly among preteens and postmenopausal women, adds Stauffer.
“A typical diet in the U.S. and Europe does not meet the daily recommended intake of fiber and this may be linked to low consumer expectations surrounding the taste and texture of high or added fiber products,” says Harvey Chimoff, director of marketing for Tate & Lyle Americas (www.tateandlyle.com), Decatur, Ill. “Our research shows consumers clearly understand fiber can be good for their health. But we also know a consumer’s eating experience must be about the product they’ve chosen, not the fiber that’s in it.”
Tate and Lyle recently launched its Promitor brand of resistant starch, which “resists” digestion and acts as dietary fiber and a prebiotic that promotes gut health. Promitor resistant starch will help manufacturers increase the fiber content of baked products and snacks (including cereal, crackers, cookies, bread and pasta) or even ice cream and other dairy products, with no impact on taste or texture.
Weight and energy continue to be on the minds of Americans, and it’s a pretty safe bet that consumers, bored with dietary hokum, still want something sweet they can “feel good” about. This is driving increased development of sweetener solutions. Cargill’s Xtend Sucromalt is one such ingredient. Derived from sucrose and maltose, it provides the full energy of both glucose and fructose, but is released over a longer period of time.
“Xtend Sucromalt can replace multiple sweeteners and bulking agents in many formulations,” says Stauffer. “This allows food manufacturers to have a simpler ingredient label and potentially reduce the amount of simple sugars in the formulation.” The company also makes SweetDesign sweetener system which contains 56 percent fewer calories on a weight basis compared to sugar. The one-to-one system enables manufacturers to formulate baked goods to meet multiple targeted claims, depending upon the formula, including sugar-free, no-sugar-added or reduced-calorie.
Protein solutions are also gaining ground. “Whey protein is ideal for physically active consumers who want to optimize protein intake and improve body composition,” says Sharon Gerdes, technical support consultant for Rosemont, Ill.-based Dairy Management Inc./DMI (www.dairyinfo.com). According to DMI, research indicates consuming a high-quality protein like whey, in combination with resistance exercise, can boost the rate at which the body makes lean muscle mass, which in turn may improve body composition.
Smoothies and drinkable yogurt have been one of the fastest growing categories worldwide. An example of how processors can combine the health, flavor and convenience aspects of dairy proteins is exemplified by DMI’s peach yogurt smoothie solution. It features domestic milk-protein concentrate, peach puree, the probiotics L. caseii and L. acidophilus and the prebiotic fructo-oligosaccharide inulin. “Because milk protein concentrate adds viscosity, no additional stabilizers are needed, allowing the peach flavor to come through,” notes Gerdes.
You can’t mention dairy and flavor without thinking of cheese. Givaudan Flavors (www.givaudan.com), Cincinnati, has developed a series of proprietary natural ingredients in the company’s TasteEssentials “toolbox for Cheese Flavors.”
“These ingredients enable manufacturers to provide consumers with specific cheese characteristics, such as emmental or Camembert, in a variety of products like sauces, dressings, process cheese, seasonings and snacks,” says Andreas Haenni, head of the savory segment at Givaudan. “We respond to consumers’ health concerns by providing the right taste for low-fat products, fortified products, soy products or dairy analogs. And we can help food producers achieve cost stability and consistency in a flavor profile by replacing dairy commodities with concentrated flavors.”
Many of the new year’s offerings will build on recent successes. Soy, one of the most utilized health ingredients is one example. According to Tom Woodward, vice president of business development for Devansoy, Inc. (www.devansoy.com), Carroll, Iowa, some of the trends we are now seeing and will likely continue to see with regards to soy foods, are added products, including: fiber, omega-3, omega-6, flax and new fruits or fruit combinations, for example mango and mixed berry.
“In general, we’ll see brands adding ingredients that compliment the health benefits of soy foods. Brands might add vitamin/mineral packages to soy, which is already high in protein, and position these products as ‘well rounded’ and healthy additions to the diet,” Woodward explains.
In the New Year, fiber will come in many forms, and while you can’t always make it invisible, you can certainly make it interesting. Hemp may be an ancient plant, but its use as food is only recently popular, at least in the western world. “Hemp is controversial given its botanical association to marijuana,” admits Chris Steinmetz, managing director at French Meadow Bakery (www.frenchmeadow.com), Minneapolis.
Hempseed, however, which comes from a different strain of the plant, is finding its way in to many basic foods.
The nutritional profile of hempseed, not the “party chatter,” inspired items such as hemp bread. “Hemp is truly a super food and delivers high levels of fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids,” says Steinmetz. “Including hemp seeds and hemp flour in our breads has enabled French Meadow Bakery to offer truly functional breads.”
Organic isn’t new, but 2008 will see far more organic choices. Pacific Natural Foods (www.pacificfoods.com), Tualatin, Ore., recently launched eight premium ready-to-eat organic soups made entirely from USDA certified-organic beef, chicken and pork. “The organic meats featured in the new soups are expected to be a strong appeal to consumers,” says Kevin Tisdale, director of marketing for the company.
“According to the research [The Natural Marketing Institute, January, 2005], 65 percent of consumers want a guarantee that all meat products are free of added growth hormones and antibiotics, and that animals are humanely raised,” Tisdale adds. Also in the organic offerings is a line of “Light Sodium Soup options” that range in sodium from 280 mg to 380 mg and contain 90 to 110 calories per 8-oz. serving.
New products in the coming year will certainly feature innovative processing techniques. “We're (a nation of) snackers. We’re tired of having to choose between unhealthy fried and undelicious baked chips,” says Cici De La Montanya, media maven for Popchips (www.popchips.com), Rancho Dominguez, Calif. Popchips are a new take on potato chips and corn chips.
“Rather than frying or baking our chips, we use heat and pressure to pop chips out of potatoes, organic white corn and whole-grain brown rice. We found that by popping our chips, we could have all the flavor of fried chips with half the fat, fewer calories and no trans fats, artificial colors or flavors,” says De La Montoya.
The Greek physician Hippocrates compiled a list of over four medicinal hundred herbs and their uses, and is credited with the quote “Let your food be your medicine.” As consumers becoming more educated and health conscious, they will demand healthier choices. It is also clear that they don’t want healthy food to taste like medicine, and that is where the challenge lies for the modern food industry.
“The need to include WONF [With Other Natural Flavors - used to designate ingredients used to enhance flavor and which are derived from natural sources, such as fruits] or natural ethnic flavor designations is being driven by market demands for organic or organic-compliant products,” says Simon Poppelsdorf, vice president of flavor R&D for Northbrook, Ill.-based Bell Flavors and Fragrances (www.bellff.com).
“It’s almost like a ‘perfect storm,’ because to be authentic and natural, we not only need the material of the named fruit but also it must be in a form that can be used in flavors - mostly water-soluble and clear.”
For marketers, the ability to take advantage of a named fruit appeals to the need to have more trendy and consumer-favored ingredients on the label.
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