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October 2017

Stabilizer Options for Dairy Formulations (Food Business New)

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(Donna Berry)

CHICAGO — Sedimentation, separation, settling and syneresis are some of the many visual stability defects dairy foods may encounter if they are not properly formulated to withstand the rigors of processing and distribution. Unstable systems also reveal themselves through mouthfeel. Expelled water may freeze and form ice crystals in ice cream. Proteins may aggregate around water and form a slimy gel. Milk minerals may interact with other ingredients, producing grittiness.

“Oftentimes a product’s shelf life is determined by physical qualities ahead of product safety defects,” said Donna Klockeman, senior principal food scientist with TIC Gums, White Marsh, Md., a business unit of Ingredion, Inc. “This is to say that when a product’s appearance begins to deteriorate, it is generally before the product is unsafe to eat.”

Thus, stabilizing ingredients prevent product waste by thwarting premature discard of product because of undesirable appearance or mouthfeel. They keep the dairy system in place, or stabilized, through the binding of water. Depending on the product and its composition, moisture management may prevent undesirable ingredient interactions. In other instances, it may keep ingredients in solution. This includes preventing the color of fruit prep from bleeding into the white mass in layered yogurt as well as keeping cocoa particles dispersed in chocolate milk.

Dairy foods stabilizers are either polysaccharides, such as gums, fibers and starches, or proteins, such as whey and gelatin. The presence of hydroxyl (-OH) groups may increase their affinity for binding water molecules, rendering them hydrophilic compounds. In doing so, they produce a dispersion, which is intermediate between a true solution and a suspension. For this reason, they are characterized as hydrocolloids, where the prefix “hydro” means water and “colloid” means a gelatinous substance, inferring that they bind water. Often, blends of hydrocolloids work synergistically to best achieve stability goals in dairy foods.

Thickening and gelling

Hydrocolloids vary in functionality and long-term performance. They disperse in water, and in doing so, thicken the system. The extent of thickening varies by the type of hydrocolloid, its concentration, the food matrix, the pH of the food system and temperature.

Many also form gels. This involves the cross-linking of polymer chains to form a three-dimensional network that traps water within to form a rigid structure that is resistant to flow.

Not all gels are created equal, which is why hydrocolloid use varies by desired end results. For example, some gels, when part of a dairy foods matrix, are chewy while others are creamy. Some may be spreadable while others are brittle. Some will contribute opacity and others remain clear.

Gelatin has long been used to bring a melt-in-your-mouth sensation to yogurt.
Some hydrocolloids form thermoreversible gels, where gelation occurs after the hydrocolloid dissolves in solution and is cooled. When heat is applied, the gel melts or dissolves. This is best exemplified by gelatin dessert, which melts in the mouth at body temperature. Gelation temperature and melting point vary by hydrocolloid.

Other hydrocolloids form non-thermoreversible gels, also called thermally irreversible gels, and will not liquefy when heated. They may soften or shrink, which also is referred to as retrograde. In other words, the gel remains mostly intact once formed.

In dairy foods, the challenge lies in finding the right balance between the different thickening properties and gelling characteristics. The goal is to bind moisture while delivering desirable mouthfeel and texture.

“Overly stabilized dairy products can be pasty and starchy in the mouth and mask flavors,” said Nesha Zalesny, technical sales manager, Fiberstar Inc., River Falls, Wis. “For yogurts, this means less of that tart bite than is expected.

“Another example is with chocolate ice cream. A good texture will give a clean flavor release while still contributing to the melt characteristics. You want the ice cream to taste like chocolate but also not melt all over the place during the eating experience or develop large ice crystals a day after the carton is opened.”

Selecting the right ingredient

Dairy foods systems often rely on custom ingredient blends to achieve the best stability. There are a number of hydrocolloids that are often part of the blends. For example, xanthan gum, which is produced by microbial fermentation, is a non-gelling hydrocolloid. It hydrates rapidly in cold water to give a reliable viscosity, with a little going a long way. Its consistent water-holding ability makes it an effective tool for controlling syneresis. When used in combination with carrageenan, xanthan contributes synergistically to the formation of a thermoreversible gel, meaning that less carrageenan is required to form the gel.

Xanthan also is often used with locust bean gum, also known as carob bean gum, as it is extracted from the seeds of the carob tree. Dependent upon ratios and application, this synergy produces a range of viscosities and gelling characteristics. It often is used in yogurts. By simply changing the usage rate and ratio, the same yogurt base may be made into a range of varying textures and mouthfeels, from thick and indulgent, to light, almost mousse-like.

Guar gum, also obtained from plant seeds, has an extremely high water-binding capacity, making it useful in cultured dairy applications, such as sour cream and cottage cheese, where standing water is undesirable. It disperses and swells almost completely in cold water to form a highly viscous solution. Like xanthan, it is not self-gelling.

In general, native starches form non-thermoreversible gels and will retrograde over time, which results in syneresis. Hence, historically chemically modified food starches have been used to bind moisture in dairy products, as modification adds stability and resistance to retrogradation and syneresis. With the trend toward cleaner labeling, product formulators are revisiting the use of native starches, in particular those that have been physically modified for improved functionality, as well as fiber food ingredients.

“We offer an all-natural, clean label functional fiber product line derived from orange pulp that can deliver similar functionalities as hydrocolloids in dairy applications with the ability to provide a clean nutritional label,” Ms. Zalesny said. “These functionalities include thickening, emulsifying stabilization, reduced syneresis and fat reduction.”

Gelatin long has been used to provide a melt-in-your-mouth sensation to yogurt, especially in low-fat and nonfat yogurts that lack the creaminess of milkfat. Gelatin is able to absorb 5 to 10 times its weight in cold water. Specifically, with yogurt, gelatin prevents whey from being expelled from the casein gel. This is because the gelatin molecules form a lattice in the casein gel during the gelling process that gets stabilized by hydrogen bonding.

Premium Ingredients, Murcia, Spain, recently introduced a stabilizer system based on dairy proteins that is designed for the production of Greek-style yogurt and Petit-suisse. It was developed with the goal of optimizing the final product in terms of cost, texture, level of protein and syneresis control. The stabilizer blend’s composition, which maintains a casein and whey protein ratio identical to milk, allows its use in a range of fermented dairy products. It ensures a rich and creamy texture, as well as optimal body and mouthfeel.

The system relies on recombination technology, as it produces fermented dairy products without whey drainage, thus obtaining 100% yield. Manufacturers also avoid the costs associated with managing byproducts such as the whey that must be discarded during strained yogurt production.

With frozen desserts, hydrocolloids have a dual function. First, they aid in suspension and help provide emulsion stability to the mix. Then, when the mix gets processed to a frozen state, the hydrocolloids reduce iciness, prevent the development of a coarse texture and bind water during heat-shock cycles.

Gums and starches often are used in ice cream; however, there’s a growing trend to using specialty dairy proteins. The proteins not only bind water to improve product quality, they also boost the nutrition profile.

In the past few years, there’s been a surge of innovation in low-sugar, high-protein ice cream products. The products are packaged in single-serving formats and competing for share of the snacking dollar.

Such systems present a number of stabilizing challenges, mainly from the reduction of sugar solids, which impact freezing temperature. The final product tends to be rock hard. A slight thaw makes it easier to scoop and ice crystals form when it’s returned to the freezer.

“Manufacturers we’ve spoken with say their biggest challenge is coming up with a recipe that yields the desired nutritionals, yet still tastes excellent and also has the right mouthfeel and creamy texture of traditional ice cream,” said Thom King, president and chief executive officer, Steviva Ingredients, Gresham, Ore. “So, we created a low-sugar, high-protein dry mix that gives dairy producers a plug-in solution to take the guesswork out of creating a superior product with fewer than 80 calories per serving.”

The company’s proprietary blend is based on monk fruit extract, stevia, erythritol, milk protein concentrate and hydrocolloids. It enables manufacturers to create a home-style ice cream with a short ingredient list that yields 5 grams of protein and 8 grams of carbohydrates per serving.

Specialty dairy proteins, both casein and whey, are being explored by processors in all dairy applications for their ability to increase protein content while stabilizing systems. This is particularly true in beverages, including refuel milks and meal replacement beverages. An issue that such ready-to-drink dairy protein beverage processors may encounter is age gelation.

“One common quality defect that can severely reduce a protein drink’s shelf life is the tendency of the protein to form an irreversible gel over time,” Ms. Klockeman said. “Product developers are challenged with providing sufficient suspension of the dairy proteins while extending the shelf life of the beverage without the formation of protein gels.

“Some beverage manufacturers report a maximum shelf life of only three months with traditional stabilizers, while our hydrocolloid designed specifically for this purpose enables beverages to remain stable with no signs of age gelation for more than six months.”

In other dairy beverages, most notably chocolate milk, carrageenan long has been the hydrocolloid of choice as it provides optimal suspension of cocoa particles. This is paramount for chocolate milk packaged in clear bottles as the carrageenan prevents solids from separating and settling to the bottom of the container.

Gellan gum is another option. It forms an adjustable gel that aids in suspension and prevention of separation of cocoa particles.

Moisture Musts (Meat & Poultry)

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Moisture Musts (Meat & Poultry)
(Donna Berry)

Juicing is the trendy approach for today’s consumers to increase their fruit and vegetable intake. It’s also slang for a method of making meat and poultry more delicious by increasing succulence through the addition of moisture.

The more appropriate term for juicing up meat and poultry is “enhancement.” This is when fresh, whole muscle is enhanced with a solution of water and other ingredients, including flavorings and preservatives, as well as ingredients to assist with binding the moisture in the muscle. Enhanced meats also include comminuted, encased products, such as sausages and luncheon meats, and ground, formed products, such as meatballs and chicken nuggets.

“Raw ground products will have small amounts of water added to aid in dispersion of non-meat ingredients (e.g., salt and spices) and to decrease viscosity of the mix to improve pumping and forming, as well as improve yields and juiciness,” says Austin Lowder, applications scientist, DuPont Nutrition & Health, St. Louis. “The water is simply added to the ground meat during a mixing step or during chopping.”

Adding water to whole muscle items is accomplished by one of three methods. The traditional approach is to submerse the meat in brine.

“This is time and space intensive and not seen in modern meat processing,” Lowder says. “Tumbling the product with the solution, often under vacuum, is appropriate for smaller items such as chicken breasts. A third option is injection by pressurizing the solution through needles directly into the muscle. This is useful for larger items, such as roast beef, which do not allow for a thorough or consistent diffusion of solution by soaking or tumbling.”

Enhancing whole muscle prior to cooking not only increases succulence and adds flavor, it provides the chef or home cook with some leeway in terms of overcooking and potentially drying the meat. This is particularly true for pork and poultry, which many consumers tend to overcook for food safety reasons.

“Cooking naturally drives off moisture from the protein and reduces the juiciness of the finished product,” says Dan Putnam, technical manager, Grain Processing Corp., Muscatine, Iowa. “Adding moisture and enhancing the protein’s ability to retain that moisture ultimately makes a more consumer-friendly product, especially with leaner meats.”

Binding moisture in whole muscle also assists with reducing purge, the liquid that accumulates in the bottom of the package during display. Consumers typically find purge to be unappealing, as it looks like the animal’s blood. This has some retailers discarding product before its expiration date, resulting in financial loss.

Further, from an economic perspective, moisture enhancement increases yield. After all, water is a very inexpensive ingredient. With that added water, processors can also add ingredients to assist with retaining color, slowing lipid oxidation and reducing microbial growth. This extends shelf life and improves safety, with longer expiration dates translating to reduced waste and happier customers.

Ingredient 2
Flavors and seasonings can be added to chops and steaks through a simple tumble marination. The moisture penetrates the muscle, which prevents the meat from burning and drying when grilled.

Regulations and guidelines

Juicing up meat comes with some federal guidelines and limitations. This is in terms of both how much moisture can be added to the product, how addition is declared and the addition of ingredients to assist or complement the added moisture.

“One example is the limit of 3 percent added water to fresh sausage,” says Patrick Hosch, applications research manager, Essentia Protein Solutions, Ankeny, Iowa. “Cooked sausages are limited to 10 percent added water. Bacon is usually injected with a brine then smoked and heat treated. By rule, bacon must lose the added weight of brine and be back to its original weight prior to sale. Products like roast beef or fresh pork loin may claim that a certain percentage of a solution is included at the time of sale.”

Regarding declaration of the enhancement, the US Dept. of Agriculture published a rule in 2011 requiring enhanced product to declare on package labels that percentage of added solution. This rule went into effect in 2014.

“The legal limits of moisture and ingredient addition vary by product,” Putnam says. “Some are regulated by protein content of the cooked product (controlling the protein content dilution by the additional moisture), some by yield of cooked versus uncooked product, and some only by the amount of binder allowed to hold the added moisture, which itself becomes limited by the ability of the meat and binder to hold the added moisture.”

Jim Anderson, regional market segment lead, North America-meat, poultry and seafood, ICL Food Specialties, St. Louis, says, “Phosphates are arguably the most effective functional ingredient for moisture retention in the meat and poultry arena.”

Their usage level is quite low, often less than 0.5 percent of the formula weight. That little amount goes a long way in terms of increasing yield and improving economics.

“Sodium and potassium phosphates modify pH,” says Barbara Heidolph, director technology, Innophos Inc., Cranbury, New Jersey. “They directly interact with the muscle, specifically with the myofibrillar proteins, to dissociate the acto-mysosin complex cross-bridges.”

This unravels the protein structure, opening charged sites for water to bind.

“Phosphates also interact synergistically with salt to create a net negative charge, which by electrostatic repulsion, drives away the already dissociated actin and myosin,” Heidolph says. “This effect creates more charged sites for water to bind. This action improves the succulence and savory characteristics of meat and poultry products.

“Neutral and acidic phosphates also act as cure color enhancers. Acidic salts used at a very low amount have a negative impact on the water-holding capacity of the muscle. A more alkaline phosphate generally raises the pH 0.2 to 0.3 pH units away from the meat’s isoelectric point, around 5.2. Increasing the meat pH away from the isoelectric point consequently increases the muscles water-holding capacity.”

Ingredient 2
Enhancing pork loins prior to cooking not only increases succulence and adds flavor, it provides the chef or home cook with some leeway in terms of overcooking and potentially drying out the meat.

Moisture enhancement

In addition to phosphates, processors have a plethora of water-binding ingredients to assist with moisture enhancement. Some work synergistically with phosphates, while others work solo. Some provide additional benefits.

For example, Corbion, Lenexa, Kansas, offers antimicrobial label-friendly ingredients that increase water-binding properties. They help processors control Listeria while improving cook yield, reducing purge and improving texture.

“One of our vinegar-based solutions has been shown to increase cook yield by 4.4 percent in natural turkey breast,” says Tom Rourke, senior business development manager for Corbion. “It has also been tested in injected natural ham where it increased yield by 9 percent.”

Essentia Protein Solutions offers functional stocks and broths from beef, chicken, pork and turkey. They are unique because unlike traditional stocks, they produce a moisture and heat activated cold-setting gel.

“These proteins absorb and bind water by creating a gel in meat and poultry systems. This gel decreases purge and enhances texture, thus improving slicing,” Hosch says. “They work very well as phosphate alternatives in clean-label products since they can be labeled as ‘[species] broth’ or ‘stock, natural flavors.’”

Grain Processing offers a range of ingredients to enhance moisture in meat. This includes modified food starch, corn syrup solids and maltodextrins.

“Modified food starch is considered a binder, and as such, its addition may require disclosure contiguous to the product name on meats where binders are not typically included in the formulation,” Putnam says. “Properly selected modified starches hold moisture through processing, in both refrigerated and frozen storage.

“Corn syrup solids and maltodextrins, although not binders by function, add non-meat solids,” he says. “When contained within a meat protein matrix, they help reduce moisture loss that occurs from heat denaturation and coagulation of the proteins during processing.”

Beneo, Morris Plains, New Jersey, offers a pure white rice starch that works especially well in poultry for enhancement. It delivers a clean look with no pinking.

Ingredion Inc., Westchester, Illinois, is introducing a potato-based functional native starch for processed meats, chicken nuggets and heat-and-eat meats. The starch improves yield up to 20 percent, while providing a firmer, juicier texture.

Ingredient 3
Ground products include water in the protein matrix to aid in dispersion of salt and spices, to decrease viscosity of the mix to improve pumping and forming and to improve yields and juiciness.

Clean label options

“For cost-sensitive applications, delivering the firmness, chew and, importantly, the flavor that consumers love in meats, has long proved a significant challenge for formulators,” says Davy Luyten, marketing manager. “Our new clean-label texturizer is an affordable way to improve processability and increase yields while maintaining the meaty taste, structure and texture consumers want.”

Fiberstar Inc., River Falls, Wisconsin, offers a natural citrus fiber created from pulp using a patented physical process that increases the surface area. This surface area provides high-water holding capacity and natural emulsification properties that are needed in processed meat products.

“It can be used for brine injection of whole muscle products,” says Nesha Zalesny, technical sales manager. “It can be used in conjunction with a phosphate salt, at a reduced level, to lower the sodium content of the meat.

“Using this natural fiber will decrease drip loss and increase cook yield and result in a juicier finished product,” Zalesny says. “For formulators looking for clean-label brine injection solutions, this natural ingredient can be combined with starch to replace phosphate in brine-injected poultry. Native rice starch is typically recommended due to its small granular size and clean-label perception.”

Because this citrus fiber functions as an emulsifier, it can assist with keeping fat-soluble ingredients, such as rosemary extract (a natural antioxidant) dispersed in the solution. In a brine, this means there will not be a ring of rosemary oil at the top of the brine tank.

Tomato-derived fiber products have also been shown to deliver natural succulence to prepared meats. “Our tomato fiber has good water-binding properties and can give meat enhanced texture, mouthfeel, juiciness and bite,” says Christiane Lippert, head of marketing-food, Lycored, Switzerland. “Dry tomato pulp is another natural way to deliver succulence, as well as an appealing pink color.”

DuPont Nutrition & Health offers a range of soy protein isolates and concentrates for ground products and brine injected, whole muscle products.

“Textured concentrates mimic the grain and consistency of ground meat, while improving water-holding capacity,” Lowder says. “Soy protein has been an effective non-meat ingredient in this arena for many years, improving cook/chill and freeze/thaw yields, firming products for sliceability, and improving juiciness and maintaining sensory quality when subjected to abusive cooking processes, like retort cooking, or long hold times under heat lamps.”

Minneapolis-based Cargill offers modified food starches, native starches, carrageenan and other water-binding ingredients. This includes lean meat replacement options, such as textured soy proteins and functional pea proteins.

“These non-meat proteins help with moisture retention over lean meat and mimic the eating texture of a ground meat particle,” says Tom Katen, technical service representative. “School lunch and institutional programs depend on these affordable proteins to deliver cooked meat and vegetable protein solutions.

“Almost all meat and poultry items benefit from added moisture,” he concludes.