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By Mark Anthony, Ph.D., Technical Editor | 05/20/2010
Cohen adds that the same principle applies for probiotics, omega oils and other functional ingredients that can both complement and change perception of snacks, especially as a not-so-healthy daily choice for many people, especially children.
Not so long ago, hummus was an exotic dish found only in Persian restaurants. Now it's invited to many Super Bowl parties.
Sensible Portions has a line of savory snacks that "control calorie intake, satisfy cravings (guilt-free), and provide the body with a little dose of daily nutrition (vitamin C, iron, fiber, and other added nutrients)," says a spokesperson. Veggie Straws (also Chips) are made from garden vegetables and are baked, not fried.
But he goes on to caution that while many of these functional ingredients are non-influencing on product organoleptics, some of the trendy value-added ingredients — for example probiotics or omega oils — unlike rosemary oils are unstable, losing activity and deteriorating or oxidizing when exposed to high temperatures or long exposures. "Processors should be aware of processing limitations and organoleptic influence of such ingredients when deploying them in their products," Cohen warns.
There are many sources of functional ingredient extracts available, but many do not comply with European or FDA regulations, for instance where solvent residue or other contaminants are concerned. "It is important that manufacturers will not only judge the source by the price but also see that their sources comply with all food safety regulations," Cohen adds.
Convergence of criteria
Maintaining the taste and texture of the original product is critical to the success of healthy savory snacks. "We see a trend to use functional ingredients in variety of savory snacks usually as a brand extension of existing products," says Udi Alroy, vice president of global marketing for LycoRed (www.lycored.com), Orange, N.J. Lycored supplies a number of functional ingredients, such as tomato-based carotenoids that can provide both nutritional and color enhancement to savory products.
The LycoRed line of products also is employed to reduce the amount of sugar or sodium in foods, which is another important trend in savory snacks. "There are many technical issues for processors to consider when using functional ingredients. The taste and flavor of the nutraceutical ingredient may affect the end product. Processing and stability issues must be addressed," adds Alroy. "Other key issues for a new product development and product launch are cultural and a regulatory issues."
Rancidity is a major concern, as well as pathogen contamination when incorporating new ingredients into formulations. "Ensuring the efficacy load is stable is a true chemistry challenge, and ensuring the product is safe is a significant technical challenge as well," says BI's Pontiakos. "BI's Protexx Steam sterilization methodology is unique in that we treat the product in the whole form in an organic process, which is as effective as ETO [ethylene oxide] without color or taste change and we maintain volatile oil markers which is what provides the efficacy load.
"Everyone is trying to get pill load efficacy into a food source," he adds. "Consumers want to feel they are in control of their health, that they are participating in their wellness. And manufactures appear to be relevant and caring when they build healthy, preventive attributes into their products."
One cultural icon is increasingly becoming a popular mainstream savory snack and staple food. "We see lots of consumers discovering hummus is a delicious healthy snack they can easily incorporate into their eating habits," says Gitti Crowley, vice president of marketing for Tribe Mediterranean Foods (www.tribehummus.com), Taunton, Mass.
"And convenience is a key factor for the on-the-go consumer. Many are looking for healthy alternatives to what they find in the vending machines or other convenient stops. Hummus is a convenient food that can go anywhere; you just take off the lid and eat.
"We also get a lot of reports from moms who are looking for healthier snacks for their kids, and hummus is a great alternative," Crowley continues. "Packed with protein and fiber, all-natural hummus is a healthy snack moms feel good about."
Nuts for nuts
When it comes to healthy savory snacks, sometimes you feel like a nut. As do many consumers. The use of nuts in healthful, savory snacks has continued its rise, including a boom in the use of once-exotic nuts such as pistachios and hazelnuts. And staples such as almonds and cashews seem never to go out of style.
"Our new line of Planters Flavor Grove skinless almonds and cashews are roasted with real herbs and spices for an extraordinary flavor, making a tasty savory snack," says Basil Maglaris, associate director for corporate affairs at Kraft Foods Inc. (www.kraftfoodscompany.com), East Hanover, N.J.
Coincidentally, this month the food giant is launching, through its Back to Nature brand Gluten Free Rice Thin Crackers in two varieties: Multi Seed and Sesame Seed. "Back to Nature makes all products with simple ingredients, intriguing flavors and using no artificial flavors or preservatives," says Maglaris.
Blue Diamond (www.bluediamond.com) Sacramento, Calif., just released its line of Whole Natural 100-calorie almond portion packs in plain, sweet and savory flavors that include Low-Sodium Sea Salt, Salt & Vinegar and Bold Wasabi Soy. The company preceded that with the launch of new, ethnic-oriented savory flavored almonds such as Bold Salt & Black Pepper, Bold Lime 'N Chili, Garden Herb, Bold Habanero BBQ, Maui Onion and Garlic and Bold Jalapeño Smokehouse, all with a focus on minimum ingredients.
Ricky's Lucky Nuts keeps its label short and clean. The snack nuts are gluten-free and dry-roasted with all-natural ingredients and some organics, including organic cocoa, organic vanilla extract and organic coconut. Chef Paul Gelose, co-owner and founder of Ricky's (www.rickysluckynuts.com), Durango, Colo., says he is "fascinated by the ability of peanuts to both support and complement a vast array of spices and flavors."
To Chef Paul, the peanut isn't just a savory snack it's a canvas upon which to display works of art. "We're also delivering a healthy snack," he stresses. "We dry-roast with no added oil, no trans-fats and no cholesterol. Nearly 80 percent of the fat naturally occurring in peanuts is healthy unsaturated fat, which can actually help lower LDL cholesterol. Ricky's Lucky Nuts are a good source of omega-6 fatty acids that may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and are an excellent protein source."