Organic Foods Help Environmental Responsibility

Another reason to reformulate for organics: environmental responsibility.

By Mark Anthony, Ph.D., Technical Editor

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Cargill’s organic glucose syrup Zerose (formerly known as Eridex) is a versatile sweetener derived entirely from organically grown wheat and hydrolyzed with natural enzymes. Food and beverage manufacturers can use it to develop USDA-certified organic consumer products that taste sweet and are non-caloric.

Zerose does not promote tooth decay, and can be used in an array of applications, including bakery, dairy, beverage and confectionery. “These sweeteners enable developers to manage viscosity, body, mouthfeel, freezing point, texture and sweetness, and have a non-masking flavor and transparent appearance,” says Nicole Reichert, a spokesperson for Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc. (www.cargill.com).

Cargill also provides Wilbur organic dark chocolate with 48 percent cocoa solids and Wilbur organic milk chocolate with 33 percent cocoa solids, made from cocoa beans sourced from Central America. Both come in the form of elongated wafers and can be used in a variety of confectionery applications.

It’s important to note some synthetic ingredients can be used in organic-labeled foods. “Without synthetic ingredients, organic labels would be limited almost exclusively to foods like milk, flour, fresh produce and meats,” says Barbara Heidolph, market development manager for ICL Performance Products (www.astaris.com), St. Louis. Despite consumers’ interest in organic products, they won’t give up convenience, she adds, noting ICL’s phosphates enable manufacturers to deliver the foods their consumers are demanding.

“Not only are processed organic foods more convenient for the consumer, they also provide the sensory characteristics, quality and safety consumers are accustomed to purchasing,” Heidolph says.

Organics are causing quite a stir, and a bit of a controversy as their demand is increasing at a faster rate than that for conventional foods. An article published in the July 2006 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found the total content of anthocyanins to be higher in conventionally grown grapes than in the organic production. Yet, an Italian study published in March 2006 issue of the European Journal of Nutrition showed just the opposite, that organic red oranges have higher amounts of phytochemicals (phenolics and anthocyanins), ascorbic acid, total antioxidant activity and bioactivity than integrated red oranges.

So, as with many food-health debates, the jury is still out. But it is safe to say organics got a boost after last year’s food scares involving tainted, apparently lowest-possible-cost, ingredients. All signs point to growing demand for organic products, for organics is not only about food; it never was.

Note to marketing … and procurement

There are plenty of image imperatives behind organic products. Producing them requires less of an effort at reformulating than in simply finding sources of organic ingredients … and that’s becoming easier by the day.

After last year’s food ingredient scares, more consumers trust organics as a source of wholesome ingredients. Simultaneously, most companies are touting their environmental awareness. Organic products have an implied status of environmental stewardship and less reliance on chemicals, which may be equated with less reliance on foreign oil and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

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