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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Today, many shoppers carry with them a “hit list” of ingredients they target on food labels. Hit list ingredients are deal breakers. If they’re present in any significant quantity, the consumer is likely to leave that product on the shelf.

Of course, health-minded consumers are by no means a monolithic block, and so the hit list varies from person to person. And it’s complicated by individual concerns over substances in foods that are likely to stimulate an allergic response and whatever general media report that consumer most recently read or heard. But the hit list is there, nonetheless, a consumer first line of defense against the unknowns in processed foods, and manufacturers should consider healthy alternatives when formulating new products.

But the list of alternatives also is there. Ingredient suppliers have come up with alternatives for every objectionable ingredient we could think up.

The No. 1 item on most hit lists is trans fat. Consumers may not know exactly what the term means, but many are aware of trans fat’s association with hydrogenated oils and, ultimately, heart disease. So they look for “clean” fats on the label.

Food processors have gone to great lengths to replace trans fat-rich oils with healthier substitutes and to announce that effort on the package to assure consumers that one of the most risky ingredients is no longer part of the formulation. But there are more items on the hit lists.


Jones Soda in April 2007 converted its entire full-sugar soda line, both bottles and cans, from high-fructose corn syrup to cane sugar, calling the latter more natural.
ICL Performance Products says keep the sodium from salt in your formulations and eliminate it elsewhere – like replacing leavening agent sodium acid pyrophosphate with potassium and calcium phosphates.
Dairy Management Inc. and other dairy promotion groups suggest removing the fat from dairy products and replacing the texture and mouthfeel with whey protein concentrate or milk protein concentrate -- which also boost the nutrition in products such as smoothies.
Botanicals as simple and natural as rosemary are being substituted as powerful preservatives in processed foods.

Mystery formulations

Hit list ingredients often appear to consumers as mysterious formulations that sound like they belong on a chemistry quiz; ingredients used to preserve flavor, taste and appearance of foods. Processors are looking for simple alternative ways to maintain the integrity of products.

One example of a solution may come from the humble herb rosemary, known for its powerful antioxidant properties. Recently, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) proclaimed rosemary extract safe for use as an antioxidant in food. Oxidation is something meat and poultry processors struggle to avoid, as it affects product color and can impart changes in aroma or taste.

“Because of increasing consumer demand for safe products and due to concerns over chemically derived synthetic preservatives, Naturex has developed a patented line of rosemary extracts called StabilEnhance and Oxy’Less, formulated for the food industry and soluble in oil and water with very little taste,” says Antoine Dauby, group marketing manager for Naturex, South Hackensack, N.J.

“We have started this year a partnership with a fully equipped meat pilot plant, test kitchen and food application laboratory, allowing the formulation of custom-made ingredients,” he continues. Naturex has developed more than 100 different extracts from rosemary that work well for a broad range of food applications.

Consumers also are looking for natural color alternatives, although the designation of “natural” color is not always clear. Beet or red cabbage juice may be natural, but not in pink lemonade. Here again, rosemary may be of help. “The main concern for manufacturers with natural colorants is color loss due to product exposure to heat, light, or alkaline conditions,” continues Dauby. ColorEnhance, a water-soluble rosemary extract, allows increased stability and enhanced color in products containing anthocyanins. ColorEnhance deepens the hue of natural color through copigmentation, a loose molecular association of colored anthocyanin pigments with nearly colorless molecules that produces an intensified and enhanced color. This reaction happens in nature for fruits, vegetables and flowers containing anthocyanin pigments.

Other rosemary applications include, StabilEnhance OSR, a rosemary extract offering a natural and effective way to preserve the quality and flavor of food products that contain fats and oils; and StabilEnhance WSR, which contains the hydrophilic antioxidant rosmarinic acid, a natural phenol, all of which can control flavor-deteriorating oxidation in beverage products.

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