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May 2016

A Look at Consumer Trends Driving the Better-for-you Category (Snackfood & Wholesale Bakery)

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Romy Schafer

When it comes to food trends, consumer interest in better-for-you products continues to grow. The desire to improve their overall health and well-being is prompting many Americans to be more selective when it comes to the foods they buy and eat, including baked goods and snacks. Instead of automatically placing a familiar product into their shopping cart, consumers are now scrutinizing its label for unpronounceable ingredients, artificial flavors and colors, GMOs and high levels of sweeteners and sodium.

Clean and nutritious

“When we look back at the past five to 10 years, it’s difficult to think of any other trend that has dominated the food and beverage industry more than the consumer shift toward health-and-wellness and better-for-you foods,” says Abby Ceule, director, market management breads, Corbion, Lenexa, KS. She notes that while many factors are driving this trend, the company has noticed that consumers seem particularly focused on clean label/label transparency, free-from and nutritional content.

“The clean-label trend is driven by ingredient-focused consumers that skew toward the belief that the shorter the ingredient list, the healthier the product,” Ceule explains. “These types of consumers are paying more attention to what goes into the products they consume, looking at labels and striving to make more-educated purchase decisions.”

The free-from trend, Ceule says, is driven by consumers looking to completely cut specific ingredients or additives from their diet or eat less of them. “Originally, consumers pushing this trend were doing so for medical purposes,” she adds. “However, as time’s gone on, we’ve seen this expand into part of the overall health-and-wellness trend.”

Consumers purely focused on the nutritional aspects of food products tend to investigate the products’ Nutrition Facts panel and often place more importance on general health and dieting, Ceule says. “The length of the ingredient list is less of a concern to this group,” she notes. “Instead, they are more likely to look at only the first few ingredients in a product and are interested in food items with higher levels of protein, fiber or specific vitamins and minerals, and items with lower levels of calories, fat or cholesterol.”

According to Amanda Wagner, food technologist, Fiberstar, River Falls, WI, consumers are not just looking to improve their health by choosing foods with less sugar, fat and overall caloric content, they’re also looking for products that support overall well-being. “Overall well-being is triggering consumers to read ingredient statements to understand what they are putting into their bodies,” she says. “Not only is the ingredient statement recognition important, but also the number of ingredients used.”

Brian Gaffney, vice president, dehydrate sales, Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients (CIFI), Nashville, NC, says consumers want foods that will support their health goals, and are rich in nutrients and free of body-damaging substances. “More fundamentally,” he adds, “consumers want foods they can trust—not just products that make them feel healthy, but that they feel are safe, high-quality and sourced from the best places and providers.”

CIFI’s sweet potato ingredients address all those needs, Gaffney says, by providing great nutrition and a safe, traceable supply of ingredients sourced and processed in North Carolina. They also support clean labels and are non-GMO.

According to Gaffney, a recent North Carolina State University survey showed that 95 percent of consumers see sweet potatoes as a healthy food, and 67 percent would pay more for products containing sweet potatoes.

Consumers also consider blueberries a healthy, antioxidant-rich food and, according to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC), Folsom, CA, view the blue orbs as a value-added ingredient linked to heart health, antiaging properties, cancer prevention, improved eyesight and better memory. It’s not surprising, then, that consumers seek out blueberry-containing foods.

The overall movement of consumers from a reactive mentality about health-and-wellness to a proactive approach is significantly impacting the food industry, says Janelle Crawford, bakery industry leader, North America, DuPont Nutrition & Health, New Century, KS. “Globally, 83 percent of consumers believe that diet and nutrition are important factors that contribute to overall well-being,” she explains. “With this in mind, we see consumers shopping for products that help them live active and healthy lifestyles. They are gravitating to products with low-sugar content, higher protein and fiber content, and overall cleaner labels.” She adds that many people are also beginning to recognize the benefits of probiotics and seeking out foods and beverages containing them.

While Americans of all ages seem to be re-examining their eating habits, Jim Saunders, CEO, Ingredient Alliance Inc., Hawthorne, CA, contends millennials are driving the better-for-you trend, as well as demand for healthy, plant-based and organic options. He cites these consumers’ interest in sustainable farming methods and concerns about the energy demands related to animal-based foods as factors.

Better weight management

For millions of Americans, improving their overall health and well-being is tied to losing or managing their weight. Better-for-you products made with healthier ingredients, less sugar and extra fiber or protein can often help these consumers achieve their dietary goals, while still enjoying flavorful and filling foods.

“Weight loss is often top-of-mind when consumers reach for better-for-you products,” says Christine Cochran, executive director, Grain Foods Foundation (GFF), Washington, DC. “Fiber is becoming the new protein, with more consumers looking for fiber to aid in weight loss and contribute to overall health. In addition to being an essential nutrient and aiding in weight loss, fiber can also provide health benefits, such as helping to lower the risk of heart disease, control blood sugar levels and aid in digestion.”

Consumers actively managing their diets for weight loss or maintenance are looking for nutrient-dense foods that also contribute to satiety, says Jeff Smith, director of marketing, Blue Diamond Almond Global Ingredients Division, Sacramento, CA, adding that “almonds deliver on all counts.”

An ounce of almonds contains protein (6 grams), fiber (4 grams), calcium (75 milligrams), vitamin E (7.4 milligrams), riboflavin (0.3 milligrams) and niacin (1 milligram).

Replacing inexpensive, marginally nutritious ingredients with fiber, protein and other beneficial ingredients can result in higher retail prices for these products. Gwen Bargetzi, director, marketing, Hilmar Ingredients, Hilmar, CA, says this isn’t an issue for some consumers. “While fortification can make some foods more expensive than their traditional counterparts, savvy consumers understand the value of a better nutritional profile,” she maintains. “Many are actively seeking inclusions such as protein and fiber for health maintenance and satiety.”

Demand and supply

So what kind of better-for-you snack and bakery products are consumers requesting? And what type of ingredients are suppliers offering their customers to help them create more better-for-you baked goods and snacks?

Bargetzi sees growth in baked goods offering improved nutritional content, such as fortified breads, waffle and pancake mixes, and breakfast cookies. “There is opportunity for all types of baked goods and snacks to go beyond the ‘expected’ sources of nutrition, like snack bars,” she says. “While consumers are looking for familiar foods to satisfy their cravings and be acceptable to family members, they also want those foods to offer a nutritional enhancement.”

Hilmar Ingredients manufactures and markets a range of functional whey proteins, many of which provide specific benefits to baked goods and snacks, including bars, says Grace Harris, director, applications and new business. The company’s Hilmar 7000 series, for example, includes whey protein concentrates that can replace egg, while its whey protein hydrolysates can help with bar softening and shelf life.

Brook Carson, vice president, product development and marketing, Manildra Group USA, Shawnee Mission, KS, says many bakery and bread products are looking to add healthful ingredients beyond whole grain, such as added fiber or protein, or inclusions, such as nuts and seeds.

Manildra Group USA was first to market with organic vital wheat gluten nearly a decade ago, Carson says. “Since then, we have continued to develop and optimize organic wheat starch and protein products to provide a range of functionality,” she says. “Protein is in high demand across all product categories. Protein is a good fit for baking and snacks because bakery and snack products are already an important part of the diet. It is adding important nutrition to an already nutritious product.”

Manildra Group’s Organic GemPro HPG is a higher-protein gluten that provides more strength and structure to bakery products. Its GemPro 3300 products contain up to 90 percent protein and can be used in applications ranging from pancakes to flatbread and whole-grain breads to layer cakes.

Other ingredients can also improve the eating quality of foods. Manildra Group’s Organic Gem of the West can help bakers improve the texture and mouthfeel of organic bakery products. “Organic has a great opportunity for growth and is seen as better-for you,” says Carson. “Organic breads have taken off, but other product categories—tortillas, rolls, buns, crackers—still have a lot of opportunity.”

Carson says a lot of innovation and new product development are also happening in the snacks category. “Consumers seem to be more willing to try something unique and different for a snack,” she adds.

According to the NPD Group’s report“The Future of Eating: Who’s Eating What in 2018?,”consumption of better-for-you snack foods is up 14 percent since 2006, and is forecast to grow the fastest of the better-for-you, savory and sweet snacks categories. “At Blue Diamond, we’ve seen this growth reflected in almonds being used in formulations for snack bars, granola-type snack mixes and crackers, and in baked goods that might use almond flour or sliced or diced almonds as a topping,” says Smith.

“Functional foods is where we are seeing the most growth—plant-based proteins and digestive health, including prebiotics, probiotics, inulin and satiety,” says Saunders. Ingredient Alliance offers a variety of products to help bakers and snack producers develop such products, including complete plant protein; hemp, quinoa, chia and flax seeds; oil blends; and flours.

According to Wagner, Fiberstar currently is seeing an uptick in requests for gluten?free, reduced-fat, reduced-egg and clean-label solutions for use in bakery and snack formulations. Citri-Fi, the company’s non?GMO, natural citrus fiber product, has an intact fiber and protein composition that provides natural emulsification properties for reducing eggs in formulations. “This natural citrus ingredient also can reduce up to 25 percent oil in baked goods, while maintaining moisture, full-fat mouthfeel and quality over shelf life,” she says.

DuPont also offers a variety of products that can be used in baked goods, says Crawford. Its Supro line features soy protein isolates that are useful for fortifying baked good with protein. Fibrim 1270, a mixture of soluble and insoluble soy fiber, holds waters and, therefore, can be helpful in frozen baked goods, microwave products and products subjected to drying conditions. Litesse, a low-calorie sugar replacer, can be used to replace a portion of sugar in baked goods.

Bakers and snack manufacturers will find a variety of products at Corbion to help them produce better-for-you baked goods and snacks. “For customers looking to clean up their bread labels, we offer Pristine, a complete line of dough conditioners that can reduce the number of ingredients on ingredient lists,” explains Ceule.

Corbion’s customizable Nutrivan fortification blends can help bakers formulate products that meet the needs of nutrition-focused consumers, while its non-GMO and gluten-free items can help them create products for free-from consumers. The company’s recently launched preservative-free, pre-soaked grain line allows bakers to incorporate ancient and whole grains into finished products without having to soak the grains overnight. “Our pre-soaked grain line works well in a variety of applications, including white and wheat breads, artisan breads, buns, rolls, bagels and even bars,” says Ceule.

“Consumers may not initially realize it, but ancient grains such as Kamut, farro, amaranth, teff and quinoa, which have again become popular in recent months, are good ingredients for baked goods and snacks,” says Cochran. “In fact, Packaged Facts reports that as of September 2015, nearly a fifth of American adults had purchased menu or grocery items featuring ancient grains in the past 30 days. Ancient grains can be used to make healthier versions of some of our favorite foods.”

Whether consumers are trying to improve their overall health or manage their weight, they’ll find more better-for-you baked goods and snacks from which to choose in the coming months. And unlike diet-specific products relegated to smaller, hard-to-find section in grocery stores, these newcomers will be easy to find, as they assume shelf space alongside long-time favorites in all categories.

Functional Food Fibres and their use in Healthier Fat Reduced Formulations (TeknoScienze)

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: CyberColloids have been delivering hydrocolloid research and innovation to the food industry for over thirteen years. During this time, the demand for hydrocolloids and fibres has risen significantly and both markets continue to grow. Key to providing textural functionality and sensory attributes, hydrocolloids are widely used in the reformulation of healthier foods. Meeting reformulation targets for healthier foods continues to challenge the food industry. It is well known that removal of key ingredients such as fat poses a number of interlinked technical, sensory and quality issues and that there is rarely a fix-all solution. Hydrocolloid based solutions for fat reduction are commonly used however, we are now seeing an increase in the development and use of fibre based solutions. This article will outline how functional food fibres can be used to provide new texture systems for fat reduction and also briefly, explore the potential and wider significance of their usage.

Fat is a multifunctional ingredient, it contributes to key organoleptic, physiological and structural attributes of a product. It is important for flavour; as a source of flavour (e.g. buttery, beef tallow notes), as a precursor for flavour development (i.e. during processing or cooking), as a carrier of other lipophilic flavour compounds and as a masking agent. Fat also imparts a number of key attributes that influence perception of a product e.g. creaminess, smoothness, glossiness, mouthfeel (fatty-coating) and lubricity. It therefore follows that any fat replacement strategy must address the role(s) that fat is playing in any given application.
A vast range of fat replacement products are in the market; they are generally classified on the basis of being either fat substitutes or fat mimetics (see box) and further on the basis of raw material type i.e. carbohydrate, protein or lipid. In the context of this article, hydrocolloids and functional food fibres can be viewed as carbohydrate fat replacers with fat mimetic properties. They can be used individually or in combination to provide creative texture solutions that allow for fat to be reduced or removed in certain formulations.

In terms of reformulating for healthy products, taste and texture are vitally important to the enjoyment of food and consumers will not compromise on either. Calorie dense fats and oils can be replaced to a certain degree with healthy alternatives (e.g. water, air and skim-milk) but the real challenge is to maintain or improve the texture and taste of the reformulated product when evaluated against a full fat comparator.  For example, if we eat a low fat yoghurt that has a rich and creamy texture then it is less likely to be perceived as low fat and we will enjoy it more. In this respect, carbohydrate based texturants i.e. hydrocolloids and functional food fibres have a number of benefits.
Traditionally, the hydrocolloids and fibres sectors have been viewed as distinct entities, albeit with some overlap in functionality (technical or physiological), but this…


Functional Ingredients for Snack and Bakery Challenges (Snackfood & Wholesale Bakery)

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Functional ingredients for snack and bakery challenges
Maxine Weber

A host of functional ingredients?from fats and oils to fibers and starches?are available to help bakers and snack producers resolve formulation challenges.
During research and development, bakers and snack producers face formulation hurdles on a daily basis. Luckily, functional ingredients like fats, oils, dough conditioners and egg replacers can help them solve a host of common challenges.

Regulatory shift
Bakers who use partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in their products face a major challenge due to new government regulations, says Frank Flider, oil consultant, Qualisoy, Chesterfield, MO. “In 2015, the FDA issued a final determination that PHOs are no longer considered to be GRAS (generally recognized as safe),” he explains. “So by June 18, 2018, no food product may contain PHOs without prior FDA approval. Because of the widespread use of PHOs in baking, this ruling has major ramifications. There are hundreds of PHO-based shortenings and margarines used to produce cakes, icings, doughnuts and prepared mixes. Each of these must be replaced by a non-PHO counterpart with a functional equivalent.”

Interesterified high-oleic soybean oil is one PHO replacement option. The oils are produced by esterifying high-oleic soybean oil with fully hydrogenated, conventional soybean oil. “The shortenings can be readily formulated to meet functional requirements of any PHO-based product,” says Flider, adding that Qualisoy is conducting tests to demonstrate their ability to replace PHOs in any food application. “Testing, thus far, has demonstrated that, in every case, high-oleic soybean oil and interesterified high-oleic soybean oil shortenings can replace PHOs with no discernable effect on quality or performance of the finished product.” He notes that since the base component of the shortenings is 100 percent soybean oil, there is a predictable level of availability, price stability and sustainability.

AAK USA Inc., Edison, NJ, also offers a potential PHO-replacement solution for bakers. “Our PHO-free shortenings utilize all available raw materials, such as unique fractions of palm oil and/or palm kernel, coconut blends, soft oils such as canola or high-oleic sunflower/canola oils,” says Monica Zelaya-Brown, customer innovation manager, AAK. “Our portfolio of solutions gives us the capability to easily exchange one base oil for another.”

Zelaya-Brown cites icings as an example of an application impacted by the removal of PHOs. “The biggest challenge is to deliver shortening solutions that are able to incorporate and retain air required for a successful application,” she explains. “The solutions must also be heat-stable to withstand application requirements. We work with customers using a co-development approach to provide the correct amount of solids needed at the whipping stage with stabilizing agents, such as emulsifiers, to provide the ideal crystallization for the application. AAK has formulated and optimized blends with a solid fat content very close to that of commonly used PHOs. These solutions also exhibit rapid melting profiles that contribute to good flavor and mouthfeel.”

Clean-label challenges
Fats and oils can also factor into clean-label stability challenges. According to Chandra Ankolekar, technical manager, Kemin Food Technologies, Des Moines, IA: “Kemin offers an oil-soluble green tea extract that is a suitable replacement for synthetic antioxidants such as TBHQ, BHA and BHT. This extract is soluble in oil and, based on its unique structure, locates itself at the oil/water interface—the hot spot for oxidation.” The label-friendly extract helps slow lipid oxidation and maintain the food’s flavor profile.

For bread bakers, finding a dough conditioner that meets a clean-label standard can be challenging. DuPont’s POWERBake 2550 and POWERBake Natural 2506 are enzymatic dough conditioners designed for clean-label baked goods. “These products contain the latest enzyme technology geared toward improving processing and quality of clean-label products,” says Troy Boutte, group manager, bakery, oils and fats, DuPont Nutrition & Health, New Century, KS. “They work well alone or in combination with other hydrocolloids.”

Egg replacement options
Many bakers and snack producers have explored how to totally or partially replace eggs of late. For some, the solution was using a hydrocolloid, fiber or combination of both. According to Amanda Wagner, food technologist, Fiberstar, River Falls, WI, Citri-Fi, a natural, non-GMO citrus fiber, is often used to partially replace whole eggs—and it can also help reduce oil content. “In baked goods, Citri-Fi has the ability to bind free water throughout the baking process, reducing evaporative loss and retaining moisture content throughout the duration of the product’s shelf life,” she says. Citri-Fi can be labeled as “citrus fiber” and, because it is comprised of fiber, contributes to fiber on the Nutrition Facts panel.

Another functional egg-replacement option is a combination of starches plus protein. Bekabake EF products from ICL Food Specialties, St. Louis, is an ingredient system used to optimize volume, structure and mouthfeel in bakery products. Bekabake EF combines whey protein, pea starch and fiber, and native starch.

Jean Bacardi, regional market segment lead, bakery and beverage, ICL Food Specialties, notes that these products can replace “50 percent of whole egg without sacrificing any shape, volume or texture quality. In some applications, up to 100 percent egg replacement is possible. Bekabake EF can even replace 50 percent of eggs in cheesecake with excellent results.”

High in fiber, low in sugar
As most bakers know, increasing fiber in products to provide a healthier nutrition profile or increase satiety can cause moisture challenges. Fibersol offers a line of ingredients that allows an increase of fiber, in addition to other benefits, without sacrificing taste, aroma or texture. “Fibersol-2 is a soluble corn fiber containing 90 percent concentrated soluble dietary fiber, which can also benefit low-calorie bakery and snack options by functioning similarly to sugar, but has a lower calorie and sugar content,” says Doris Dougherty, technical service representative, ADM, Decatur, IL. “It is used when substituting for table sugar, honey and corn syrup to make a reduced-sugar or no-sugar-added product.”

Reduced-sugar and sugar-free products are garnering more interest from consumers, a trend that may increase if an updated Nutrition Facts label includes the percent daily value for added sugars. Andy Estal, technical director, Beneo Inc., Wilmington, NC, says the company’s chicory fiber can help bakers and snack producers address this issue. “Chicory fiber has some wonderful functionality,” he says. “It acts as a humectant, helping a product to maintain moisture over time, and it adds fiber. What some people don’t know is that it contributes sweetness, so you can reduce sugar while maintaining taste.

“The labeling meets many of the clean-label hurdles—it’s natural, GMO-free and prebiotic,” continues Estal. “We have done many clinical studies proving that chicory root can improve digestive health, contribute to weight management and aid blood sugar management.”

Appealing additions
Bakers seeking a glaze that delivers a uniform, high-gloss coating that resists moisture pickup will appreciate Instant PURE-COTE B792, a modified food starch from Grain Processing Corp., Muscatine, IA. Tonya Armstrong, senior application scientist at the company, notes that the ingredient helps particulates or seasonings adhere to cereals, nuts and snacks.

It can also help improve texture. “If the starch is added to an extruded snack, it will improve crunchiness and expansion of the extruded snack,” says Armstrong. “In a recent cracker study at AIB International, Instant PURE-COTE B792 was tested to see if it helped machinability, crispiness and crunchiness of a whole-grain cracker. The product was tested at two usage levels against a cracker using an unmodified corn starch and a control. AIB measured texture with a TA-TX plus texture analyzer. At both starch levels, the Instant PURE-COTE B792 crackers were significantly crispier and crunchier than either the control or the sample with unmodified corn starch.”

Bakers also want the fruit in their products to smell authentic. Donnie Moran, national sales manager, Prinova, Carol Stream, IL, says the company’s FlavorArmor is “unique because of the manufacturing process, which enhances the functionality. This product provides an authentic aroma that more closely mimics the target flavor and is more authentic than spray-dried flavors. It is natural, nonallergenic and nonhydrophobic.”

Healthy and long-lasting
Acrylamides were first discovered to be an issue in baked, fried and broiled foods in 2002, raising concerns among health regulators. “Any food that contains the amino acid asparagine and reducing sugars (carbohydrates), and that is cooked above 120°C, contains some amount of acrylamide,” says Matthew Dahabieh, Ph.D., president, Renaissance Ingredients Inc., Vancouver, British Columbia. “The concern is that acrylamide is a known carcinogen.”

Renaissance Ingredients has a baker’s yeast that is bred to reduce the amount of acrylamide in a variety of foods. “As an ingredient, this AR yeast can be used exactly the same as conventional baker’s yeast,” Dahabieh says. “Alternatively, it can be mixed into savory snack foods, and it will degrade asparagine upon contact.”

Extending the shelf life of baked good and snacks can help preserve their eating quality or maintain food safety. From a food-safety perspective, DuPont Nutrition & Health has a variety of antimicrobial products for baked goods and snack foods. According to John Wyatt, product manager, the company has a full line of products, including Natamax B Plus, MicroGARD 910 and MicroGARD210. “These products are able to maintain the characteristic and desired flavors for shelf-life extension,” he says. “They also help meet today’s requirements for ingredient replacement and simpler labels.”

Bakers working with gluten-free breads face challenges related to desired volume. According Mark Hines, Ph.D., global program manager, Ashland Specialty Ingredients, Covington, KY, modified cellulose—sometimes called hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) —is very effective at providing functionality close to the gluten in wheat flour. Hines explains that the cellulose “thermally gels during baking to maintain volume and gas cell structure, resulting in bread with a fine, even crumb, high volume and low density. Additionally, HMPC controls water migration and maintains texture over shelf life.” Modified cellulose can be combined with rice flours and starches to achieve the desired end product characteristics.

Flavor Trends: Soups Ladle up the Flavor (Food Processing)

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Flavor Trends: Soups Ladle Up the Flavor
With the cooler weather growing cold, ’tis the season for processors to ladle up new soups and broths that provide comfort, a clean label and full-on flavor.
By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

Cooler temperatures mean it’s soup and broth time. But soups can be hot or cold, eaten any time of year. They’re versatile and take on many guises: convenient or extravagant, light and healthy or rich and full bodied. They can be eaten as a snack on-the-go or as a full meal.

Consumers’ interest in freshly prepared, home-cooked foods are some reasons why soups and broths are popular again. “Consumers continue to demonstrate their interest in home-cooked meals, their willingness to pay for convenience in creating them and their propensity to pay more for a premium product,” says Lora Morsovillo, president of the home division at NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y. She says slow cooker sales have gone up each year for the past three years ? an indirect indication that broth-based stews and soups are more popular.

Slow simmers and single-serves

“The” soup company, Campbell Soup Co., says it’s committed to meeting the changing tastes of consumers, and that means working in a number of different mediums. Campbell was one of the first food companies to develop a K-cup product for Keurig Green Mountain’s coffee machines. Slow-cookers are another new appliance for soup. Five new Slow Kettle Style entries were created by Campbell chefs to be “better than homemade,” at least according to company claims.

The Slow Kettle soups were among 35 new products recently launched in its U.S. Soup and Simple Meals business ? seven times the number of new items brought to market in 2014. Generally, they feature bolder flavors, wholesome ingredients, unique recipes and new packaging choices. Among the offerings are four regionally-inspired Select Harvest soups tapping the authentic flavors of places like New Orleans, New England and the Southwest; and eight new Healthy Request varieties that provide heart-healthy alternatives to popular soup varieties in Campbell’s condensed, Select Harvest and Chunky soup lines.

For making easy meals, the company also launched two 50-oz., family-size cans of Chunky soup, which can be prepared in minutes and poured over mashed potatoes or rice. There are also three new Swanson Flavor Boost concentrated broths in easy-to-use packs and two new unsalted Swanson stocks, which add rich beef or chicken flavor without adding salt.

Also new is Swanson’s Cream Starter, a lightly seasoned and thickened cream base that can help busy home cooks create restaurant inspired cream soups, sides and entrees. The product comes aseptically packed in a 26.1-oz. brick-style package.

In September, Annie’s Homegrown, Berkeley, Calif., debuted a line of Certified Organic soups, including Star Pasta & Chicken, Tomato and Bunny Pasta & Chicken Broth, all featuring kid-friendly fun shapes. This is the first large-scale launch from Annie’s since its acquisition by last year by General Mills.

Interested in the soup category for some time, Annie’s was able to leverage General Mills distribution and development expertise to bring the products to life in just nine months. Made with Annie’s “simple and clean ingredient” promise, the line is the first of many to come this year and beyond, the company says. Available nationally, the soups have no artificial flavors, synthetic colors, preservatives or high-fructose corn syrup. Also taking advantage of Keurig brewing machines is Kettle Kups by Power Foods Inc., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The broth cups (available in 12-count cartons) come in Beef, Homestyle Chicken and Garden Vegetable.

Broths are beautiful

Sick with the flu or a cold? Lots of folks swear by chicken soup as a cure. There’s something comforting and healing about the experience of enjoying a bowl of chicken soup that begins with good ole’ fashioned chicken broth. Because it’s a source of protein, many health professionals claim it supports joint and digestive health.

In fact, lately there seems to be a bone broth craze happening, as bone broth is simmering at pop-up “broth bars” from New York City to Portland. The thin soup, which typically simmers poultry, beef or fish bones (or vegetables only) in water for hours until the bones break down and render fat and flavor, is being sipped regularly by celebrities, paleo dieters and millennials to detox and boost nutrition.

General Mills’ Progresso is building steam in the retail bone broth arena as it unveils a premium line of cooking stocks. Made by simmering real bones, flavorful vegetables and aromatic herbs, the stocks are aseptically packaged in 32-oz. easy-pour containers and went national in September. The stocks are rich and complex, thanks to a special simmering method developed by Progresso chefs.

They lend a deep full-body flavor to casseroles, soups, stews, sauces and gravies, while cutting prep time in the kitchen, explains Michael Braden, chef and culinary manager at Minneapolis-based General Mills. “I’ve prepared a Ramen bowl, a Miso sip and savory pan sauces with this one ingredient as the base,” he says. “Stocks are a wonderfully versatile ingredient; they offer a quick, easy way to bring the flavors of home cooking to life.”

Broths come as ready-to-use ingredients, as well. International Dehydrated Foods, Springfield, Mo., has a patent pending on JMP Collagen Broth Powder, which is enriched with functional collagen proteins. IDF maintains that JMP contributes to gut health, offers a guaranteed minimum of chondroitin and helps maintain joint health.

In addition to setting the gold standard for 32 percent solids in broth years ago, IDF’s recently developed bone broths come in both dry powdered and frozen liquid formats. Accommodating people with less time to spend in the kitchen but who still want high-quality, nutritious foods made simply, IDF says its JMP, chicken broth and SIP Bone Broth Powder can be used for anything from classic chicken noodle soup to trendy culinary creations and hot “comfort drinks” and bone broths. The broths also include beef and turkey, and are available as a handy shelf-stable powder, a frozen concentrated liquid and as spray dried flavor ingredients from fats and broths.

Global flavors, cleaner labels

Retailers positioning fresh soups in deli sections and refrigerated cases are seeing more global flavors, which was one of Boulder, Colo.-based Sterling-Rice Group’s top nine “natural” food trends for 2015. Sterling-Rice reports “worldly” flavors are being developed with more authenticity in fresh-prepared soups and broths, such as those from Nona Lim. The Oakland, Calif., company, founded by Singapore native and namesake Nona Lim, makes small-batch, gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO broths, soups and rice/noodle bowl dishes.

Packed in 20-oz. standup pouches, the preservative-free broths include Vietnamese Pho (with star anise, ginger and cinnamon in a reduced beef stock/ vegetable broth), Thai Curry & Lime (vegetable broth spiked with lime, lemongrass, vegetables, herbs and spices) and Miso Ramen (Japnese sesame oil, kombu [kelp] and soybean paste [miso]). The soups, in 12-oz. standup pouches, come in eight flavors such as Kale & Potato, Spicy Rice, Thai Green Curry and Asian Lemongrass.

Nona Lim’s products are considered clean label, an important factor processors look for when developing new soups and broths, affirms Karen Silagyi, product manager at TIC Gums, White Marsh, Md. “Consumers are increasingly interested in the ingredients on food labels. For formulators working with soups, delivering a stable product that maintains the desired textural attributes while being clean label becomes even more complex,” she says.

One of TIC Gums’ clean-label ingredients, Ticaloid 210S hydrocolloid blend, particularly excels in the soup category, says Silagyi. “Ticaloid 210S emulsifies oil to add opacity and prevent separation and imparts mouth-coating, cohesiveness and viscosity for a desirable texture. For frozen soups, it imparts freeze/thaw stability to reduce water separation by preventing large ice crystal formation while freezing. Its low usage level (compared to starch) imparts a cleaner flavor release.”

Fiberstar, River Falls, Wis., has seen an uptick in use of its Citri-Fi functional fibers for clean label liquid soups and dry soup mixes to improve mouthfeel, consistency and shelf life. It also aids the emulsification of oil-based flavors in a variety of soups.

“It has several desirable hydrocolloidal properties for soups from a simple broth to vegetable-based tomato soup and dairy-based soups like cream-style and chowders,” remarks Tasha Olson, R&D director. “Citri-Fi’s natural and clean label status provides fullness of flavor without added stabilizers and it can reduce flavor separation. Many soups hitting the market are ethnic-based, with robust flavor profiles that benefit from Citri-Fi’s lack of flavor interference.” Because it’s not chemically modified, Citri-Fi can be labeled as citrus fiber and can be used in gluten-free and free-from soups because it’s allergen-free.

As more consumers snack throughout the day and meal times blur, they’re gravitating to soup for its soothing, filling effects. Healthy, tasty options are the idea behind the Tio Gazpacho line from Tio Foods, Miami Beach, Fla. No bowl is required for the new trio of high-pressure-processed chilled soups; they’re sippable, right from the polyethylene terephthalate bottle. Introduced initially via and across Florida, the line expanded this year to New York City.

Inspired by cold-press juices, the organic, ready-to-drink Vegetable Gazpacho sippers are available in Yellow Tomato with yellow peppers and carrots; Kale & Spinach with avocado and mint; and Gazpacho Clàsico, with vine-ripened tomatoes, green peppers and cucumbers.