And it’s not just small companies. Frito-Lay launched a whole new brand, Flat Earth, that uses not only numerous vegetables (rice flour, pumpkin, tomato, potato flakes) but also fruit (dried apples, peaches, mangoes, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries) to make chip-like crisps. Each flavor has a half serving of fruit or vegetables in each ounce.
Granolas are of relatively recent origin, partly inspired by nutritionists cajoling Americans to increase their intake of whole grains. But the use of whole grains does not guarantee a healthy product. Many granola-like preparations fail the ultimate test of healthy snacks: nutrient-dense ingredients simply prepared.
“We believe food should be minimally processed and made with all-natural ingredients you can actually pronounce. That's why we use real whole grains, generous portions of hearty nuts and tasty fruits sweetened with honey and other natural ingredients,” says Ryan Therriault, senior manager-brand marketing and innovation for Bear Naked Granola, Norwalk, Conn. The company was founded on the idea of granola for active lifestyles, and has especially endeared itself to athletes.
Instead of athletes, “What kind of nutrients are moms looking for today?” asks Mike Mellace, president/CEO of Snacktrition, Carlsbad, Calif. “We held a focus group to answer just that. We looked into research done by the USDA, and what we found was the lack of fiber and calcium in the American diet. This was the basis for all of our product development, from the proprietary roasting process that adds fiber and calcium to the snacks to the packaging for convenient snacking.”
“We didn’t want to develop a ‘supplement’ for a meal, but what we did make was a healthy, convenient way to add calcium or fiber to your diet throughout your day and between sensible meals.”
Healthy civilizations around the world make use of a variety of grains, not only the ones with which we are familiar. FutureCeuticals Inc., Momence, Ill., recently introduced AncienTrim, a product that delivers ancient grain nutrition (amaranth, barley, buckwheat, durum, millet, chia, quinoa and spelt) in a formulation-friendly powdered blend.
People throughout the world have been eating these grains for thousands of years. However, these grains have had limited applications in anything but cereals and baked goods due to texture and dispersibility concerns.
“AncienTrim overcomes the formulation challenges of traditional grains due to a patented production process developed by the USDA in cooperation with FutureCeuticals,” says Kay Kapteyn, product manager. The AncienTrim process creates a dispersible, hydrophilic powder rich in ancient grain amino acids and heart-healthy fiber that incorporates easily into smoothies, soups, pasta, beverages, bars and baked goods.
The need for innovation
One characteristic of the modern diet is innovation. As true to the original a snack product may be, there is always a market for unique items. There is perhaps no better demonstration of this principle than the growth of prebiotic and probiotic foods.
“The gastrointestinal tract is a neglected part of our body. Everything that we eat passes through this ‘tube,’ which is home to millions of bacteria, both good and bad,” says Ram Chaudhari, executive vice president and chief scientific officer for Fortitech Inc., Schenectady, N.Y.
“The interaction of ‘good bacteria’ with our immune system aids us in resisting infection and disease, but the environment in which they live needs to nurture their existence.
Probiotics are an excellent addition to the gut environment. But because they create formulation and stability challenges, there are many other nutrients that contribute to good gut health that are more easily adaptable to a variety of product applications with limited formulation and stability issues.”
As a result, Fortitech is focusing much research into prebiotics such as inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides and lactulose, as well as soluble and insoluble fibers, enzymes antioxidants and minerals – all of which can work their way into healthier snacks.
Another currently hot technological topic is the replacement of salt and sodium in snacks. One year ago, Cargill Inc., Wayzata, Minn., introduced the SaltWise family of sodium reduction systems. They allow food manufacturers to reduce sodium levels by 25 to 50 percent in their product formulations while delivering the punch of salt.
Applications, including prepared foods, frozen meals, meat and poultry, soups, sauces and dressings and salted snacks.
Similarly, Wild Flavors Inc., Erlanger, Ky., offers SaltTrim, which also can reduce up to half the salt in a snack without affecting the taste. SaltTrim blocks the negative tastes of potassium chloride while keeping the true taste and mouthfeel of salt. When combined with potassium chloride (as part of the replacement formulation), SaltTrim contributes dual health benefits to snacks by reducing the amount of salt intake as well as providing potassium supplementation. It is temperature-stable, kosherable, and available in “natural” and “natural & artificial” versions.
The movement to make snacks healthier includes an increase in valued nutritional ingredients such as vitamins and soy. Unfortunately, the addition of these ingredients can cause off-notes. Wild’s Resolver Technology works through specially designed natural flavors that block the taste receptors’ ability to taste bitterness and astringency.