Sauces Make Everything Special

Jan. 7, 2015
While sauces and dressings can remain simple, they don't stand still.
Soy sauce is a staple that is used almost universally to add flavor to all kinds of dishes found in American-Asian cuisines. It is a fairly basic product made through fermentation of soy and wheat. But Kikkoman, the leading maker of soy sauce, has done some reinvention of late.

Likewise, salad dressing can be a simple combination of oil and vinegar, but producing a low-oil, shelf stable Caesar dressing is no simple task.

It's been several years since Kikkoman, with U.S. headquarters in San Francisco, began offering low-sodium variations on its soy sauce and other Asian sauces. Now it is rolling out gluten-free and GMO-free sauces. But they didn't come without some effort.

“Kikkoman has a proprietary sodium reduction process that we can easily incorporate into lower-sodium products,” says Joseph Leslie, a national industrial sales manager at Kikkoman Sales USA. “We also produce natural flavor enhancers that improve the flavor of reduced-sodium sauces. Thus, we have had no problem addressing sodium issues."

However, he adds, "Producing our gluten-free and non-GMO products did require significant changes in our ingredient sourcing, along with major capital expenditures in our production processes.”

Sauces and dressings of all kinds are evolving. Whether it's a staple salad dressing that is being reformulated to meet consumer expectations regarding tropical oils, a new hot sauce or a barbeque sauce reflecting new taste preferences and flavor trends, sauces don't stand still. And food processors in a variety of categories rely on sauces made in-house or from sauce vendors to add excitement to everything from frozen pasta dishes to pre-packaged salads.

For instance, Kikkoman recently rolled out a clean-label, high-solids sriracha sauce.

“This is unique in the market, and sales over the last few months have really taken off,” Leslie says. “Sriracha sauce is a very trendy flavor. Also, our first production of Gluten Free Tamari Soy Sauce in the USA was completed earlier [in 2014] and there are already several products containing this new sauce available on supermarket shelves.” The sriracha sauce is pasteurized, and the company points out that not all sriracha sauces are.

Mizkan Learns Italian

Since Mizkan Group purchased the Ragu and Bertolli sauce brands in North America from Unilever in June 2014, the brands have been ramping up their product development efforts. One of the most recent rollouts is Bertolli Gold Label, a three-variety line of sauces more appropriately described as cooking sauces than pasta sauces.

Made with premium, imported ingredients sourced from regions across Italy, the 24-oz. glass bottles are priced at a premium, too, about $5.99, which is more than double the price of Bertolli's mainstream pasta sauce.

The Porcini Mushrooms variety is made with shade-grown, bold and nutty porcini mushrooms from Parma combined with tomatoes and flavored with earthy truffle oil and a touch of cream. The subtle fruity flavor of balsamic vinegar imported from Modena gives depth to tender caramelized onions and tomatoes in the Balsamic Vinegar variety, which has a sweet, tangy profile. The Asiago variety is a sharply savory sauce that combines alpine-aged asiago cheese from the Veneto region with tomatoes and artichokes.

The brand’s website provides information about the ingredients as well as recipes and serving suggestions.

Other new products available from Kikkoman include a gluten-free Tamari Soy Sauce, which is available for retail, foodservice or large-scale food manufacturing. Available in liquid and granulated forms, it provides a gluten-free and preservative-free profile without compromising quality, Kikkoman says. The Gluten-Free Tamari Soy Sauce contains soybeans but no wheat. Kikkoman says slow fermentation allows it to develop the same umami richness of traditional soy sauce.

While Kikkoman has its own consumer presence, food processors in the sauce, salad dressing and condiment arenas are many of Kikkoman's largest customers.

“We see their demands changing, with emphasis on healthier foods, more exciting flavors and greater food safety,” Leslie says. “These companies want to attract new consumers and are pushing the boundaries. Kikkoman' goal is to provide them with the authentic flavors, clean label ingredients and innovative sauces they require.”

Those same processors have become more careful about how they add texture to their sauces and dressings, especially when they are working on low-fat and reduced-oil formulations, says Agnes Jones, savory marketing manager at Ingredion. The Westchester, Ill.-based company offers functional ingredients and a proprietary formulation software platform that can help processors maintain or improve product attributes such as cling and opacity, even while changing oils or reducing fat and sugar content.

“Our innovative approach and ingredient solutions, such as Precisa Cling 20i texture system, allows manufacturers to reduce oil by 20 percent while maintaining key product attributes such as creaminess, viscosity, cling and suspension,” she says.

Ingredion's Dial-In Texture Technology, a methodical, data-driven approach to texture optimization, establishes a texture target and combines sensory evaluation, rheological measurements, process understanding and formulations expertise to hit the desired texture target.

“We can home in on what attributes we need for sauces and dressing and condiments,” Jones says. “This allows for oil reduction, and it can also be used as a tool for cost savings.”

Native starches allow for clean-label formulations while adding body and viscosity to sauces. This can be especially important as sauce makers in recent years have been experimenting with oils that offer a better nutritional profile but do not always perform the same way, depending in part on processing levels.

“There are numerous starch ingredients that can be used in sauces, dressing and condiments depending on food composition, functionality in the finished product, processes used to manufacture the product and shelf-life stability” says Ibrahim Abbas, director of R&D for Gum Technology, a division of Penford Food Ingredients. “High-fat dressings, sauces and condiments will require the use of emulsifying starches to stabilize the emulsion in the systems.”

Penford recently introduced the PenNovo 03 product line, which provides these functionalities. PenTexture is a potato-based texturizing starch that can be used to replace tomato solids in pizza sauce and other sauces with pulpy texture.

“Providing the mouthfeel and texture in low-fat and fat-free sauces, dressings and condiments are some of the most difficult attributes to impart by using starch ingredients," Abbas notes. "Penford supplies rice starch ingredients to provide the mouthfeel and texture of full-fat products.” Rice starches are well-suited to provide these characteristics due to the small granule size, he notes.

Penford also offers ingredients that are non-GMO, such as potato, tapioca, rice and waxy corn starches. Abbas also points to native or unmodified starches being selected for their function and for clean label benefits.

Late last year, Ingredion published a white paper on the topic of improving textures in salad dressings. The paper, "Addressing Texture Challenges of Pourable Salad Dressing through Novel Formulation Approaches," provides insights and ingredient solutions to salad dressing manufacturers through technical case studies on the reduction of oil and texture transformation while maintaining the same ingredients, equipment and manufacturing processes.

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