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By David Feder, RD, Technical Editor | 07/20/2009
Pass the Grains
Sorghum also is in position to play to its strengths in breakfast foods. As a sweetener, it’s an iron-rich replacement for stronger-tasting sweeteners such as molasses. But recall that it’s a grain, and as such it’s the recipient of a surge of research into greater use in cereals and baked goods.
“I’m pretty optimistic about seeing an increase in sorghum’s use in healthy food products,” says Jeff Dahlberg, research director for the National Sorghum Producers’ United Sorghum Checkoff Program (www.sorghumcheckoff.com), Lubbock, Texas.
“Sorghum is gluten-free, and as we begin to better understand its starch and protein properties, you’ll see more uses for it in this particular market,” he says. “We are also excited about some of our specialty sorghums, which contain tannins that have excellent ORAC [antioxidant] values. We also have several groups working on products using bran from these specialty sorghums."
“Two major issues are pulling breakfast R&D in seemingly opposite directions. There’s the push for increased functionality, making breakfast foods healthier than ever. But there also is a drive toward simplicity — fewer ingredients that are more pure, more organic and less processed.”- Kent Spalding, Weetabix North America/Barbara's Bakery Inc.
While Dahlberg recognizes the growth of whole grains as more research points to their importance in nutrition, he also sees the challenges the ingredients present to processors. “Obviously, getting products [such as sorghum flour] to taste like and react like they are refined flours will take more research, but I believe we are making excellent strides in addressing those issues. For instance, Twin Valley Mills LLC [Ruskin, Neb.] is producing sorghum flour, and Enjoy Life Foods LLC [Schiller Park, Ill.] is making a very nice cereal product using sorghum.”
Another leap forward for breakfast foods on the horizon is the use of nongrain ingredients as the fundamental component. “Lentils, peas, beans and chickpeas are candidates for future formulations,” explains Heather Maskus, manager of the Food Innovation Project for Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Pulse Canada (www.pulsecanada.com). “Pulses are high in fiber and protein, gluten free and contain a host of other nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and other phytochemicals.”
Previous technical hurdles for use of pulse flours in cereals have been overcome. According to Maskus, recent advances in cereal flaking roll-equipment -- which improved flake consistency for innovative ingredients such as ancient grains -- is applicable to pulses, easing their incorporation into flaked cereals.
Agricultural processing giant ADM (www.adm.com), Decatur, Ill., has taken notice of the untapped functional, flavor and applications values of bean flours for breakfast concepts. The company rolled out its VegeFull brand of bean powders at this year’s IFT show, featuring it in a breakfast bar to great success. The company also presented a line of natural dry sweeteners, such as its Sweet ’n’ Neat dry honey powder. Other natural dry sweetener offerings by ADM include dry molasses and dry malt extract for similar applications.
Speaking of natural low-calorie sweeteners, the approval last year of stevia as an ingredient for foods and beverages opened the door to helping solve one of the biggest problems in cereals. “Although at Nature's Path, we’ve made a deliberate effort to bring our EnviroKids cereals down from 12g of sugar to 8g [per serving], we’d love to go to 6g,” says Maria Emmer-Aanes, director of marketing and communications. “But while consumers talk less sweet, they buy on taste — and unfortunately their taste buds are trained to want the sweetness.”
The stevia extract rebaudioside-A is poised to play a role in keeping cereals sweet while reducing their calories. PHOTO: PURE CIRCLE
Any breakfast food manufacturer can provide a list of failures based on the reduced sugar paradigm. But sweeteners such as stevia, which is 300 times sweeter than table sugar, allow a natural replacement for a majority of calories from sugar without compromise on taste, thanks to attention to purity paid by today’s stevia makers.
“Every major cereal company is looking for technology to reduce sugar levels and ‘empty’ calories from their product, especially products targeted to children,” confirms Sidd Purkayastha, director of technical development for PureCircle USA (www.purecircle.com), Chicago.
The main challenges of replacing sugar with high-intensity sweeteners, according to Purkayastha, are providing a similar sweetness profile as sugar in cold and hot cereals, with no unfavorable aftertaste; maintaining texture in dry form and in milk; and maintaining the same “bowl life” — the length of time cereal stays crispy and crunchy in milk.
“Companies are apprehensive about using artificial high-intensity sweeteners to reduce sugar in kids’ cereal,” says Purkayastha. “But [rebaudioside-A], being a natural high-intensity sweetener, provides the new ingredient technology to reduce 25-40 percent of the sugar in cereal formulations.”
Although the move toward greater simplicity might lead to fewer ingredients in formulations, it won’t change breakfast’s status as the most important meal of the day. “Ready-to-eat cereals are a perfect vehicle to address nutrient inadequacies in America,” states Michael McBurney head of scientific affairs for DSM Nutritionals Inc., Parsippany, N.J.
In addition to deficiencies in the average American diet of such nutrients as vitamin E, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, B6, zinc and folate, some populations are seeing a surprising resurgence of vitamin D deficiency.
To the vitamin and mineral needs are added specific health benefits sought by consumers. McBurney cites specific benefits and their ingredient solutions, such as visual performance (lutein and zeaxanthin, for which DSM provides its marigold-derived FloraGlo); bone health and muscle strength (vitamin D3, vitamin K, calcium, and the soy-protein isoflavone genestein (available in DSM’s GeniVida); cardiovascular health and endothelial function via polfyunsaturated fatty acids (ROPUFA), B vitamins including folic acid, antioxidants such as vitamin A and carotenoids, green tea extract (such as DSM’s EGCG product, TeaVigo) and resveratrol (ResVida).
After years off adding things to make our morning meal healthier, manufacturers are focusing on sources for ingredients that help build healthier breakfast. But more than this, they see a future of even more elemental changes concerning how they’ll formulate the basic recipes.
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