Few ingredients fit within current food trends as well as real fruit. As consumers continue to redefine clean label and search for increased transparency or nutrient-rich offerings, the overarching theme appears to be a more holistic approach to foods and beverages. This positions fruit ingredients as an attractive option for formulators.
Whether present to provide the background whisper of flavor in teas, particulate identity in cereals and snack bars or to confer health benefits in the sports performance category, there is a fruit ingredient – and form -- suitable for almost any application.
When it comes to fruit-based ingredients, formulators have a wide variety of forms from which to choose, with major choices including juice, puree, concentrates in different strengths, freeze-dried, IQF or powders.
Various factors can affect fruit quality and availability, such as soil conditions, rainfall and other weather-related issues. “The main challenges to fruit formulation and processing often come down to availability and format options,” says Jeannette Ferrary for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (www.realblueberries.org).
However the good news is that processors and ingredient suppliers often have a network of fruit growers from different regions to compensate for a lack of supply or quality for a particular type of fruit, according to Ed Maguire, an independent consultant with FLX Research. Even tropical fruits currently in vogue can be sourced from a several geographical regions, he notes.
The compensation or adjustments often involve balancing the Brix/acid ratio. This is a specification the end user can request from its supplier. That sort of compensation can be performed by the initial fruit processor or moved “upstream” to a further processor that creates filling or ribbons used in ice cream or baking, for example, to stabilize the viscosity and sweetness levels.
An industry standard preparation in this case is a “five plus one,” says Maguire -- five parts fruit to one part sugar, prepared by a specialty ingredient manufacturer, packed and ready to use in baking, confections or ice cream preparations.
Puree vs. concentrate
Two of the major available forms, purees and concentrates, vary in terms of the Brix level. The two forms have different labeling impacts as well.
A single strength fruit puree supplies fruit at the same Brix level as the fruit itself. According to Tim Heim of TreeTop Fruit Ingredients, a single-strength apple puree is “like biting into an apple. The taste is more natural because it doesn’t see as much heat as other forms of processing — it doesn’t pass through an evaporator.”
Certain manufacturers prefer puree because it has a more consumer-friendly label presence, whereas a concentrate has to be listed as such.
Fruit concentrate or puree may be ideal for use in a relatively high-moisture application such as beverages or batter mixes, while traditionally dried, freeze-dried or powdered fruit may have more advantages for a dry mix format, says Steve Somsel, ingredient sales manager for Shoreline Fruit LLC (www.shorelinefruit.com).
Other variables to consider when choosing between a puree and a concentrate include viscosity, Brix standardization acidity and freight costs.