Food Processors Trying to Formulating Healthier Savory Snacks for Consumers

There's no oxymoron there. For many consumers, snacks have become the meal; for others, their diet plan promotes snacking as a means of weight control.

By Mark Anthony, PhD, Technical Editor

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A highly innovative solution to reducing sodium is to think tomatoes. LycoRed (www.lycored.com) developed Sante, a patented, natural tomato concentrate with all of the umami flavor characteristics from the tomato, but without the tomato taste. Sante can be used to enhance the flavor and thereby reduce the amount of salt added to a product.

"Whenever we try to develop clean-label/natural products with reduced sodium or without yeast extracts or MSG, the important part is rebalancing the flavor profile," says Sam Bernhardt, director of new food ingredients for LycoRed Group. Sante is available as a liquid or as a spray dried powder, both suitable for snack preparations.

"Sodium is a functional ingredient to many foods; we realize this and work hard to ensure we have the right balance," says Joanne Ferrara, senior director of research & development for Spicetec Flavors & Seasonings (www.spicetec.com), a division of ConAgra Foods (www.conagrafoods.com), Omaha, Neb.

Salt isn't the only seasoning in salty snacks. "Consumers are looking for regional taste versus the traditional mainstream," Ferrara continues. "For example, Italian cuisine has been popular for many years, yet the consumer is going one step further to taste individual cooking styles. Each region of Italy is a bit different, and they want to compare the nuances of each locale. Same for Peru, Korea, Vietnam, India and other countries with unique and exotic seasoning blends that spice up their food. They want variety, intensity and point of difference that can include savory with sweet and fruit combinations. Savory herbs like thyme and rosemary are extremely complementary with citrus — [especially] lemon and orange — and fruits [such as] pomegranate, raspberry and peach."

Consumers are nuts for bran

Bran has the potential to pump up the nutritional value of any savory snack, and it can come in many different formats. A surprising new source of bran comes from Almond Bran, the trade name for bran derived from almond skins by Nut-trition, Inc (www.nut-trition.com), Hughson, Calif.

While technically nuts do not contain bran, all plants reproduce by germination and must form an outer covering to protect the germ and nutritive parts of their grain or seed. According to Robert Miltner, marketing director for Nut-trition, "The outermost layer is the one that must withstand the most physical abuse so it is very rigid and composed of woody material and little else, like the chaff of wheat. Inside the outer layer of an almond the kernel is covered by another protective softer layer referred to as the skin. This is similar to the bran of wheat, rice or oats, serving the same function as the brown skin of an almond." Many of the benefits of almonds are in fact due to the polyphenolic compounds in the skin.

Nut-trition developed a process to recover this skin from the almond blanching process and refine it into Almond Bran. Almond Bran is a multi-functional ingredient because it contains insoluble fiber, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds and prebiotics. Almond Bran is gluten-free, kosher and made in accordance with current good manufacturing practice. In formulations, it can be used as a 1:1 replacement for wheat bran in baked recipes.

The future of snacks is already here, and it's all in the ingredients. The more consumers begin to depend on snacks to be as healthy as non-indulgent foods, the more snacks will be evaluated by the same criteria. But processors have proven themselves to have that challenge in the bag.

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