Replacement Ingredients Ease Concerns of Worried Consumers

For every ingredient challenged by consumers, ingredient suppliers have an alternative.

By Mark Anthony, Ph.D., Technical Editor

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Maxarite, DSM’s newest yeast extract, is specifically designed for bakery and dairy applications. It delivers an improved taste perception by masking off flavors that often may result from lower sodium content. Maxarite can reduce sodium content in processed cheese, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, bread and cereals by up to 50 percent.

Leavening ingredients that rely on sodium acid pyrophosphate are another “hidden” source of sodium. ICL Performance Products LP, St. Louis, replaced sodium acid pyrophosphate with potassium and calcium phosphates. One result is new Levona Brio, part of the Levona family of zero-sodium and calcium-enriched leavening agents, which enable food manufacturers to formulate baked products that may be able to incorporate both “low-sodium” and “a good source of calcium” messages for baking powders, cakes, biscuits, muffins and tortillas.

Much ado about sweeteners

Nothing on the consumer hit list has been more controversial than sweeteners. Still reeling from the low-carb craze, and with the highly promoted but logically challenged case for blaming the obesity epidemic on high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) fresh on their minds, consumers are hard pressed to figure out how best to sweeten foods.

What’s on the sweet hit list today? Sucrose, former member of the “deadly whites,” according to some authors, has seen resurgence in popularity at the expense of HFCS. What seems to be emerging as most acceptable in beverages are drinks that are either purely fruit juice sweetened of those that are simply less sweet, about 30-70 calories per serving.

Zero carb beverages are still selling strongly, though it is hard to argue that the public has a love affair with artificial sweeteners. And now, the picture is about to get more complicated. One sweetener on no consumer hit list seems to be the sweet-tasting leaf stevia that has been until recently only available as a supplement. That is about to change.

Wisdom Natural Brands, Gilbert, Ariz. was the first to bring the herbal sweetener to the market. Under the product name SweetLeaf Sweetener, it was an all-natural and calorie-free sweetener derived from the naturally sweet plant, native to Paraguay. Its sweet leaves are 30 times sweeter than sugar, and the pure glycosides that are extracted from the stevia leaves are 250 to 400 times sweeter than sugar.

Jim May, CEO and founder of Wisdom Natural Brands, introduced stevia into the U.S. market in 1982. Since then, stevia has gained an underground following. For May, achieving self-determination GRAS status was vindication after decades of defending the safety of stevia. “No pun intended, but for me, this day is sweet victory,” May said.

With GRAS status, Wisdom’s new formulation of SweetLeaf Sweetener can be sold as a sweetener alongside sugar and other sweetening alternatives in grocery stores.

Stevia can be used in cooking, baking and anywhere sugar might be used.

A more refined form of stevia is called rebiana, and a more refined form of that is hitting the market right now as Truvia. Cargill Inc., Wayzata, Minn., developed the sweetener in partnership with Coca-Cola Co. They developed rebaudioside A, which they consider the best-tasting extract, a high-purity, fully characterized extract that is consistently produced to a food-grade specification.

Blue California, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., announced it is has successfully completed the isolation of rebaudioside A and expects to go into industrial scale production later this year using an economical and proprietary process, which will translate into better prices for manufacturers and consumers.

Developing healthy alternatives to hit list ingredients is a far-sighted investment for progressive companies. Consumer hit lists may not always be consistent and at time may not seem logical, but their intent reflects a real and lasting concern — assuring that the convenience of processed foods does not come at a cost in health.

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