Healthier Snacks are a Chip Off the New Block

New oils, less sodium are keys to healthier snacks.

By Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor

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Many manufacturers find they cannot use straight soybean oil for these applications because it's not stable enough. But Plenish is a high-oleic soybean oil.

"We've taken conventional soybean oil, which has about 22 percent oleic acid, and changed the profile to greater than 75 percent oleic acid. That reduces polyunsaturated fatty acids in the oil, and these are the fatty acids that are unstable. Plenish also has about 20 percent less saturated fat than conventional soybean oil, so manufacturers can look forward to a reduction on their saturated fats claim."

Pioneer is working with a number of food companies now testing the oil. "We also work with the oil processor who ultimately will supply the oil, particularly when particular blends are required," she says. "We are very much involved in the testing and promotion of the product because we need to understand what manufacturers require and desire from their food products."

Plenish is suitable for any snack – corn chips, potato chips, tortilla chips, etc. -- made through a frying process -- either as 100 percent oil solution or in combination if a manufacturer wants to bring in flavor from corn or another blending oil. It can be used as an ingredient oil in snacks that are not fried, or as a spray oil application for nuts, candies, and crackers where a thin layer of oil is needed on the surface. And if the application requires solids, such as in the baking industry, it is a stable base oil to blend those solid components.

Plenish Oil
DuPont's Pioneer Hi-Bred unit is still working through regulatory approvals and supply issues to get Plenish high-oleic soybean oil in the hands of processors.

Knowlton's advice to manufacturers is that if a new oil, like Plenish, comes on the market, it's important that R&D gets involved in testing it early because the qualification process is lengthy – moving from the lab, to a few stores, then regionally and then nationally – and it's a costly process. "It might take a year or two to qualify the oil, so you want to be there early during the pre-commercial stage to get ready for the conversion when the product becomes commercial," she says.

Licking the salt habit
Even before the updated Dietary Guidelines earlier this year, which call for a big reduction of sodium in processed foods, lowering salt has been top of mind for processors and suppliers.

"The industry is really smart. They wanted to be prepared, so they did their homework and knew the changes were coming," says Janice Johnson, applications leader at Minneapolis-based Cargill. "We've been working to understand the functionality of salt, and we've had open dialogue and communication with the industry so that everyone has a good handle. It's important to come to terms with the sodium levels you are targeting. Then you can think about the best solution to hit that number."

For topical applications Cargill offers three solutions – Alberger salt, SaltWise sodium replacer and Premier potassium chloride. "Alberger branded salt, which has a shape like a pyramid, has a lot of surface area. So when it hits your tongue, it dissolves very quickly. You get a burst of salty sensation, so you perceive the product as salty." So processors can use less salt with the same impact.

"SaltWise helps reduce sodium substantially – anywhere from 33-50 percent -- but also brings the salty profile back in place," says Johnson. "The nice thing about SaltWise is its versatility since that it works in any type of application, be it topical, bars or other snacks."

Premier potassium chloride lends itself to giving a salty impression, not exactly like salt does, but gives you a salty hit. "If you want to reduce salt by about 25 percent it works very effectively," says Johnson.

"At higher levels, potassium chloride can lend itself to bitter metallic notes. But at Cargill we can leveraging the technical knowledge of our Flavor Group and mitigate some of those issues. Products become more customized in formulation and we work more closely with customers to give them a unique solution. It's very collaborative."

A manufacturer has to understand the fundamental level the role salt plays in a specific product, according to Johnson. "In some, it's flavor. In bakery products, salt can help protein (gluten) develop in the flour, which is important for strength. If we take out the salt, how can we get to the textures we are looking for? So we leverage our Bakery Group as well as our Texturing Group to do that. It's important to understand how we can take advantage of our technical teams to create those solutions so it seems seamless to our customers."

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