All of the 2018 predictions for snack flavors of the crispy, crunchy variety agreed that consumers want authentic, bold, exotic flavors. These authentic flavor experiences, garnered from global ethnic cuisines, help the snack category adhere to consistent growth rates.
But what makes those exotic flavors adhere to the snack foods? In many cases, starches.
According to Mintel’s 2018 Summer Food and Drink Trends report, 36 percent of U.S. consumers find the temptation of new flavors enough of an incentive to buy more chips. However, it's challenging to get those seasonings to stick to the surface of the snack so the flavor is delivered to the consumer’s mouth and not left at the bottom of the bag or box.
Conventionally fried snacks rely on the oil used during frying to assist with seasoning adhesion. A low-fat or baked snack might require extra help, such as a starch, to aid with seasoning adhesion. Seasonings with larger particle sizes pose larger challenges.
Seasoning can be the greatest cost contributor to a snack system, according to Michael Kramer, certified food scientist for Grain Processing Corp. (GPC, www.grainprocessing.com). “Conserving the amount of seasoning is always a goal. Another consideration is preventing the seasoning from segregating and falling off, causing flavors to become out of balance. A seasoning containing poppy seeds that loses all the seeds in the drier not only is an economic waste but can be a taste problem too.”
The ability to adhere particulates to a snack surface will be aided by the film-forming properties of the starch, according to Rachel Wicklund, technical manager for global ingredient technology with Tate & Lyle (www.tateandlyle.com). Starches can be optimized to adhere particulates of any size, increase the strength of the film and help supply texture within different processing requirements.
A tack coating works for multiple snack substrates, according to Kramer, including beef jerky, granola clusters, chicken wings, trail mix and more traditional snack foods like pretzels, chips and nuts, with slight adjustments to the amount of coating applied or application method utilized.
Maltodextrins in general are very good at building solids in tack coatings, says Kramer. In addition, any one percent of maltodextrin added to the water-based coating formula is one less percent of water that needs to be dried. This can help shorten processing times to increase manufacturing efficiencies as well as minimize the chance that water would migrate into the snack, causing sogginess or other textural issues.
A student team from Iowa State University won GPC’s annual ingredient challenge with a baked chip made of purple sweet potatoes. “This is a prime example of the type of situation in a snack presentation where the starch aids with seasoning adhesion,” says Kramer. “Because it is baked, not fried, our instant tack coating with our Purecoat food starch modified and Maltrin maltodextrin was used to allow a raspberry/pineapple seasoning to adhere to the sweet potato chip.
“Tack solutions are necessary when special challenges are presented,” says Kramer. This might include a product that isn’t fried or treated with oil or situations when the seasoning contains more than cheese powder and spice blends. He noted that in today’s market, chili flakes, parsley pieces, sesame seeds and even dried vegetables are gaining in popularity and these larger particulates would require a starch solution for proper adhesion.
According to Wicklund, “We have definitely seen an increase in particulate size and type being applied to snacks.” She observes that flavors are drawn from multiple global sources including fusions such as combining Latin American influences with Asian to create a new eating experience.
“Snack foods are a fast-evolving category. Manufacturers and consumers alike seem more willing to experiment with flavors when it comes to snacks compared to a full meal or center-of-the-plate experience.
"Innovation within the snack sector is designed to capture new customers," she continues. "One point of differentiation is the seasoning applied. Larger particulates help create new textures or combine textures for a dual-texture eating experience; one from the snack and one from the particulate itself.”