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Clean-label snack and bakery products become more prevalent as consumer interest grows (Snackfood & Wholesale Bakery)

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Nutrition breakfast bars filled with strawberry

March 19, 2018 (Liz Parker)

Consumers are reading labels more, looking for products that are nutritious, with ingredients that are easy to understand and that work with their family’s budget. While there’s no official definition of “clean label,” consumers and the snack and bakery industry have their own definition in mind.
Prevailing definitions

“Since there is no official definition of ‘clean label,’ it’s up to consumers to define what clean label is to them, and how it will influence their purchases,” says Catherine Barry, director of marketing, National Honey Board, Firestone, CO. “Many consumers want to look at the ingredient listing on the back of a loaf of bread or cookie and recognize the ingredients on the list.”

Going clean label is ultimately about building trust with the shopper. They need to be assured that you will not try to feed them anything that they are uncomfortable with, explains Kurt Villwock, Ph.D., director of R&D, Fiberstar, Inc., River Falls, WI. “A clean-label food should come from a familiar and recognizable source that has not been overly refined or exposed to chemicals. Simple and short ingredient lists evoke feelings of trust from consumers.”

These clean labels also add a sense of wholesomeness and transparency to the product. “In the eyes of the consumer, clean label foods are recognized as simple, wholesome and authentic,” says Jeff Smith, director of marketing, Blue Diamond Almonds, Global Ingredient Division, Sacramento, CA. “Today’s consumers want to know where their food comes from and how it is produced, and they have interest in following a product’s journey from farm to table.”

One way to think of clean label would be in terms of “free from”—not always free from allergens, but from ingredients that can sometimes have negative connotations.

“Like ‘natural,’ ‘clean label’ is not a regulated term in commerce. At Daymon, we think of ‘clean label’ at retail in terms of ‘free from.’ A ‘free-from’ claim may be very basic, such as ‘no artificial colors, trans-fats or MSG,’ as ALDI has promised for its private brands other than SimplyNature, which has 125 excluded ingredients,” remarks Carl Jorgensen, director, thought leadership, Daymon, Stamford, CT. “The advantage of clean label’s ‘free-from’ approach is that it is clearly defined and defensible, unlike the vague term ‘natural.’”

While “natural” and “clean label” aren’t synonymous, they are related. “Clean label is the move within the food industry toward simplifying and including more natural ingredients in food products,” says Matthew Dahabieh, PhD, chief science officer, Renaissance BioScience, Vancouver, British Columbia. “It could also be applied to the removal of unhealthy compounds such as acrylamide, formed naturally during cooking.”

Consumers also want to be able to recognize what goes into their food. “Consumers are increasingly looking for simple, less-processed ingredients, with some familiarity—i.e., ingredients that a home cook or baker would have in their pantry. Or, at the very least, they want to know the reason some ‘less-pronounceable’ ingredients are in their food,” says Vanessa Brovelli, manager, product development, Bay State Milling, Quincy, MA.

“While analyzing the many food claims in today’s food production marketplace, it’s easy to see a desire for transparency,” says Erika Chance, associate director of brand strategy, Sullivan, Higdon & Sink, Kansas City, MO. “Our SHS FoodThink research illustrates that consumers are now looking for claims like ‘no hormones,’ ‘no antibiotics’ and ‘no trans fats,’ which points to their yearning for more information about the foods they eat.”

This might even mean looking at products that are good for the environment. “Clean label has really evolved to become twofold—as consumers embrace well-being and look to foods that support a healthy lifestyle, they also want to ensure that what they eat also positively supports the environment,” comments Molly Spence, director of North America, Almond Board of California, Modesto. “For product developers, this means ensuring that every ingredient sourced is produced responsibly and is nutritious, and delivers on taste, so consumers can feel great about what they are eating.”

Ingredient selections

Some ingredients naturally have clean-label appeal based on their familiarity to everyday consumers.. “Honey is the ideal ingredient in clean-label product development by the very nature of the ingredient. This all-natural sweetener comes straight from nature: from the bee, to the hive, to a food and beverage facility,” says Barry.

Barry suggests that, from a marketing perspective, honey may give product marketers a competitive advantage by how honey reads and looks on ingredient listings and front of packaging. Popular honey iconography, too, such as honeybees, honeycomb and honey dippers, signal to consumers that an all-natural sweetener and flavor is being used in a product, she notes.

Nuts are also a great ingredient naturally suited to clean-label snacks and baked goods. “Blue Diamond almonds are a clean-label ingredient that fit perfectly within two prominent consumer trends: a desire for natural foods, and a shift to more plant-based diets,” explains Smith. “They are well known for their nutritional and heart-healthy benefits. They’re a great source of key vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.”

Spence agrees. “In all their forms, California almonds fit into the holistic, clean-label approach. They are a natural ingredient produced using sustainable farming practices, backed by over 40 years of research conducted by the Almond Board of California. This means that product developers can feel really confident incorporating almonds in their many forms in any clean-label formulation and marketing it as such to consumers.”

Fruit ingredients are another natural fit for clean-label foods, notes the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Folsom, CA. “The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council is working with the industry to maximize consumers’ favorable view of blueberries, which spark visions of hearth and home, along with traditional wholesomeness,” says Tom Payne, industry specialist. “This demand for natural ingredients and clean label is a perfect setting for fruits like blueberries, which contain many naturally occurring antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E.”

For corn snacks, Healthy Food Ingredients, Fargo, ND, offers its Suntava Purple Corn, with non-GMO and certified-
organic options in whole, raw form, as well as in as flour, meal or grits. “All of our ingredients are single ingredients, with no additives. Since our ingredients are organic, they are mechanically processed, without the use of synthetic materials or chemicals,” notes Jennifer Tesch, chief marketing officer. “Our ingredient portfolio of flours, flakes and grits are minimally processed, utilizing the whole grain.”

Sweet potato ingredients are seeing more use in snacks and baked goods, and the ingredients resonate with clean-label ideals, notes Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients (CIFI), Nashville, NC. “Everything we do is clean label,” says Paul Verderber, vice president of sales. “Sweet potato ingredients give product developers the opportunity to add the health and functional attributes of sweet potatoes to many applications, while staying on trend with clean label.”

In August 2016, CIFI’s sweet potato ingredients received organic certification under the USDA National Organic Program. “We are proud to have met the rigorous standards of one of the leading organic certifiers in the U.S. so we can help brands provide organic options for their customers,” adds Verderber.

Manufacturers are being challenged to replace “unfriendly” ingredients with clean alternatives, while maintaining taste, texture and shelf life, notes Courtney Schumacher, marketing specialist, bakery, Kerry, Beloit, WI, which offers a portfolio of natural and organic flavors, seasonings, and dairy powders to allow for the removal of artificial flavors.

Other ingredients address functional needs. “Our broad range of Biobake enzymes and clean-label texture systems aid in processing and help maintain texture, while allowing manufacturers to remove products like L-cysteine, mono- and diglycerides, SSL, CSL, and DATEM,” says Schumacher.

Delavau Food Partners, Philadelphia, has a variety of clean label solutions to improve shelf life for bakery and snacks. “Encore Plus, in particular, delivers formula optimization in baked goods tailored to suit our partners’ needs,” says Matt Patrick, director of research and development. The company also offers Encore Soft, for a better eating experience; Encore Fresh antimicrobial solutions, for shelf-life extension; Encore Strong ingredients, for dough strength, volume, elasticity and tolerance; and Encore Relax extensibility solutions, for consistent pan and dough length. To boost nutritionals, Accent fortification solutions incorporate calcium and other desirable minerals into baked goods and chocolate.

Renaissance BioScience offers an acrylamide-reducing yeast. Acrylamide is an increasing concern because of the rising consumer and thus industry awareness, particularly in Europe, and the EU is moving toward establishing guidelines for acrylamide levels in a wide variety of foods, beginning in April 2018.

“Our acrylamide-reducing yeast, which was developed from a baker’s yeast, naturally produces an enzyme that consumes asparagine—the precursor to acrylamide—and requires no additional labeling. This is unlike the purified asparaginase, which does require labeling in some jurisdictions,” says Dahabieh.

Fiberstar specializes in producing citrus fiber, which has the unique distinction of being both clean label and having highly useful properties for product developers, comments Villwock.  “Citri-Fi is made from non-GMO citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons and limes, and can be labeled as ‘citrus fiber,’ ‘citrus flour’ or ‘dried citrus fiber,’ which resonates well in the clean-label markets.”

Citri-Fi 100 is useful for successfully troubleshooting texture and mouthfeel problems in clean-label foods, notes Villwock. “Formulators of clean label foods know all too well the ever-shrinking list of ingredients that their customers will permit in their food. Despite limited options, the food still must taste great and, furthermore, have the stability to make it through the rigors of shelf life and mass distribution.”

A maturing market

Many snack and bakery companies are embracing clean label in their products. “All bakery and snack categories are feeling some sort of impact from the clean-label trend,” remarks Barry. “Judging from new product introductions, the bread industry has fully embraced clean label, as have many salty snack categories, and sweet goods and desserts.” In these products, she adds, many consumers want to ensure that the calories upon which they are indulging come from all-natural ingredients.

Ingredion Inc., Bridgewater, NJ, recently conducted proprietary consumer research across eight bakery and snack categories—breads, cookies, cakes, tortillas/flatbreads, potato and tortilla chips, pretzels, and snack bars—and found that the top two claims that drove purchase intent with customers were “no artificial additives, preservatives or flavors” and “all natural,” notes Ricardo Rodriguez, marketing manager, confectionary and bakery. “Simple and transparent labeling continues to be a trend, particularly within extruded and puffed type of snacks and the bar market. These types of products continue to grow in the market, because consumers are willing to pay a premium for simple and clean.”

Tesch says that she is seeing the most clean-label growth in the better-for-you snacking and baking categories. “These include organic, non-GMO, plant-based protein, gluten-free and raw/less-processed foods.”

As consumers continue to increase their snacking habits, clean-label snack consumption will likely increase. “At Blue Diamond, we know that consumers are snacking more than ever, with more than 90 percent reaching for a snack at least once a day,” notes Smith. “They’re increasingly seeking clean-label snacks that have a health benefit related to their ingredient mix—whether those snacks are salty, savory or sweet, high or low calorie. Top of mind for consumers is portable snacks and nutrition bars made with simple, clean label ingredients that deliver functionality.”

Brovelli also cites the growth of clean-label snack and nutrition bars, with a focus on simple, healthy ingredients like dates or honey as binders in place of corn syrup, and nuts, grains and seeds for protein and fiber in place of concentrates and isolates.

Formulating clean-label snacks and baked goods will continue to pose challenges. “One of the clean-label challenges in baking is shelf life. Removing trans fats and substituting butter or cold-pressed oils can dramatically reduce shelf life,” comments Jorgensen.

But Jorgensen notes that he has seen the biggest growth in clean-label salty snacks and crackers: “These clean-label snacks are relatively simple to execute from an ingredient standpoint, and offer many opportunities for platform and flavor innovation.”

And unsurprisingly, millennials are a big reason why clean label has seen such strong levels of growth. “Consumers are recognizing that to support a healthy and active lifestyle, they need a healthy diet—this includes ‘healthy-ish’ snacks. To the millennial generation, this means clean label and/or organic,” explains Jennifer Stephens, vice president of marketing, Fiberstar.

“The millennial segment is a big opportunity for clean-label marketing, because they favor individuality and customizing what they eat,” adds Payne.

Artisan bread is also becoming more popular in the clean-label arena. “Artisan bread is gaining momentum,” says Brovelli. “Artisan baking has traditionally been clean label, with very few ingredients, and more focus on long fermentation times to achieve flavor and shelf life.”

Consumers are urging the removal of negative ingredients and desiring clean-label options for high-consumption categories and staples, says Soumya Nair, director of marketing insights, Kerry. This includes bread. “Baked breads are the most prominent, calling to attention the removal of DATEM, emulsifiers, CSL and SSL, among many others. The need for a simple ingredient deck that mimics a recipe has been higher than ever before.”

Frozen foods can boost sales through healthy, flavor-forward innovation (Snackfoods & Wholesale Bakery)

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baked pizza with toppingsFrozen foods can boost sales through healthy, flavor-forward innovation
Melissa Kvidahl

In select spots across the freezer case, sales are heating up—despite consumer trends that seem at odds with growth. “We have seen a significant consumer migration from center aisles and frozen to the perimeter of the store, where products are perceived as fresher and better for you,” says Agnes Lapinska, senior marketing manager of performance specialties and savory, Ingredion, Westchester, IL. But innovation in the freezer case is pulling consumers back, she says, and sales are rising as a result.

According to data from IRI, Chicago, for the 52 weeks ending November 5, 2017, dollar sales in the frozen appetizer and snack roll segment grew 5.11 percent to $2.1 billion. Category leaders include General Mills, up 2.51 percent to $562.2 million, and Ruiz Food Products, up 21.82 percent in to $245.4 million.

Dollar sales of frozen pretzels rose 1.99 percent since the previous year, with segment leader J&J Snack Foods Corp.—which acquired artisan pretzel and bread baker Labriola Baking Co. in August 2017—up 4.50 percent to $58.2 million. Hanover Foods Corp. also posted growth, up 12.46 percent.

Frozen breaded vegetables dropped 9.42 percent to $26.9 million, but segment leader Pictsweet saw strong growth, up 25.31 percent to $9.8 million.

Frozen pizza, led by an impressive 16.27 percent gain in private label, grew 2.24 percent to $4.7 billion. Other standouts included Schwan’s Co. brand Tony’s, up 22.40 percent to $89.9 million and Nestlé brand Stouffer’s, up 16.24 percent to $65.1 million. However, frozen pizza crusts and dough fell 4.16 percent to $18.7 million.

The key to success? Elevating the frozen-food experience to rival that of a home-cooked or even a restaurant experience. “Quality, flavor and overall appeal have always been important in frozen foods. It’s just the bar for judgment continues to be raised by consumers as they become more experiential regarding food—i.e., seeking exciting food experiences—and the overall food marketplace continues to elevate what it can offer,” explains Jordan Bate, associate brand manager, Lamb Weston, Eagle, ID.

 Elevating quality,  meeting trends

“The explosion of fresh prepared foods has challenged frozen food manufacturers to provide convenient meal solutions that are as close to fresh as possible,” says John Toaspern, chief marketing officer, Potatoes USA, Denver. “Processors are rising to the challenge by improving the quality of the raw ingredients used, ensuring optimal freshness and flavor.” By using the highest-quality ingredients, frozen foods can compete with fresh offerings on natural and processing trends, while winning the race on convenience and year-round availability.

“Fresh ingredients are the key,” says Tryg Siverson, chief operating officer of Feel Good Foods, Brooklyn, NY. “They always have and will continue to be.” He also notes that it’s important to help deliver a unique experience for the consumer.

Lamb Weston helps tell a story with its new Grown in Idaho brand of frozen potato products. The bags feature prominent “Grown in Idaho” branding.

At Ruiz Food Products, Inc., Dinuba, CA, real, definable ingredients help elevate the brand’s frozen offerings. For example, its El Monterey Simply Breakfast Egg, Turkey Sausage, and Cheese Breakfast Burrito is made with real scrambled eggs and fresh-baked whole-grain tortillas, clocking in at 11 grams of protein and just 220 calories. “As we look at today’s consumer preferences, I believe it is important to note that one of the reasons for our brand’s growth is the desire for options that are healthy and offer energy,” says Rachel P. Cullen, president and CEO.

Nesha Zalesny, technical sales manager, Fiberstar, Inc., River Falls, WI, has noticed increased demand for plant-based offerings. “This is not just meat-analogue products that can be used to replace meat in traditional dishes, but entire entrées centered around vegetables,” she says. One example of this trend in action is the rise in cauliflower products like cauliflower pizza crusts. Jennifer Stephens, vice president of marketing, also notes a rise in demand for healthy ingredients like ancient grains, tempeh and quinoa in frozen items.

As is the case across the food industry, clean label is important in the freezer case. “Increasingly, consumers want to know how ingredients were produced,” says Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs manager, Cargill, Minneapolis. As a result, product developers have moved away from ingredients like modified starches, which have previously played critical roles in frozen food applications but have come under scrutiny in recent years for clean label consumers. Cargill’s SimPure line of functional native starch solutions, launched in fall 2017, specifically addresses this issue. They can replace modified starches in frozen foods and withstand up to 12 freeze/thaw cycles.

On the dough front, Cargill also offers premium lecithins combined with select enzymes, which can produce loaves “nearly indistinguishable” from those made with common dough conditioners and emulsifiers like DATEM and monoglycerides, says Bill Gilbert, certified master baker and principal food technologist.

Going further with flavors

According to Siverson, ethnic flavors continue to be a driver for this space, as they are for many products across the industry.

“There’s an entire world of cuisine manufacturers can introduce to consumers,” says Zalesny. “Indian flavors are becoming more common, but African cuisines have not yet been brought to the mass market.”

If you ask Peggy Castaldi, marketing director, SubHerb Farms, Turlock, CA, one way to elevate frozen flavors is to focus on regional flavors. “For example, consumers aren’t just looking for Mexican,” she says. “They are looking for foods from the Yucatan or from Baja.” Along these same lines, brands can explore flavors specific to different South American cuisines, like those from Peru, Bolivia or Ecuador, or specific Asian flavor profiles like those from the Philippines, Singapore or Malaysia.

In August 2017, SupHerb Farms introduced three new culinary pastes: S’chug, Chermoula and Aji Pesto, along with a Tabbouleh Starter blend. Adventurous eaters will flock to these offerings, but to appeal to the wider consumer base, these flavors make sense in familiar formats. “You can use S’chug, a Yemeni hot sauce, as a sauce for a breakfast sandwich, in a potato dish or on a flatbread,” Castaldi suggests.

Looking ahead

For frozen foods to truly compete, brands may be wise to take a page from the playbooks of ready-to-cook delivery services like Blue Apron, says Zalesny.

Why? As Bate points out, continued growth of online, pickup and delivery services opens the doors for frozen to win back eating occasions from traditional restaurants.

“Have the majority of ingredients prepped and ready to finish cooking and customized by the consumer,” Zalesny says.

Alternatively, frozen brands can win these types of consumers by offering frozen foods with little preparation needed. “Many consumers are on the go, and are looking for easy dinners to serve,” says Tom Mac Donald, vice president of sales and marketing, Brolite Products, Streamwood, IL. “They want variety and healthy options that are prepared and ready for them, and they don’t want to sacrifice any flavor. It has given the freezer aisle an excellent opportunity to grow, expand their selections to include these types of meals, and get creative in their packaging and marketing.”

But what should be included in these new offerings? Stephens suggests that vegetarian meats, which are often sold as standalone individual items, will attract not just vegetarians, but also carnivores open to trying something new. “Because meals contain multiple components, the acceptance rate of vegetarian meats may be higher than consuming alone,” she says.

Frozen pizzas or breakfast burritos prominently featuring vegetarian meats could attract attention from healthy-leaning shoppers seeking better-for-you options.

“The modern consumer is very health-conscious and will look for those options that most closely resemble a fresh, homemade meal,” says Mac Donald. “Manufacturers can bring life to the freezer case by using frozen ingredient technology, so products come out of the freezer with a fresh, attractive appearance and flavor to follow. It’s time for innovation. Thinking outside the box is no longer a luxury, it’s a means of survival.”

BLOG: Top 10 Trends at Natural Products Expo West

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The Natural Products Show unveils the top natural trends within the food industry such as sustainability, meatless meat and vegan foods. Product developers look for clean label ingredients like Citri-Fi®, a natural citrus fiber with high water holding capacity and emulsification properties, to improve texture and nutrition of these natural food products. Fiberstar’s technical sales manager, Nesha, shares her insights.

Natural Fruit Smoothies

The first thing you notice as you enter the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim is the incredible crowd. The area in front of the convention center is packed with people, tents, food trucks, a bandstand and cars trying to drop people close to the doors of the convention hall. While navigating the crowd, even an extrovert like myself wants to turn around and head back to the car—which is parked several miles away. There is a man walking behind me who is juggling a large floral arrangement and several boxes. So I offer to help him carry his items. I walk him as far as the hotel where I am going to pick up my badge. His partner arrives just as I am handing off a box and the flowers. I glance at my FitBit and notice I have already logged 7000 steps which is almost to my goal. I forge into the hotel to get my badge.

After I clear the entrance requirements, I make my way inside. I see a lot of spokespeople handing out samples of their products. Last year, there were costumed goddesses and cows doling out samples. This year seems to be a little more casual. I meander around one of 8 to 10 glass displays highlighting new product launches and quickly realize that Citri-Fi, a natural citrus fiber is an ideal solution for this market due to its natural functionality and clean label. Afterwards, I head up to the New Products Expo on the third floor of the convention center. Assuming it will be slightly less crowded than the main floor of the Expo, I decide to start at the top and work my way down.

Vegan Foods
Once I get upstairs, I realize I’m wrong. The aisles are nearly impassable from the crowd of people. The new products floor is comprised of companies who are trying to find brokers to get them into the grocery stores. Everywhere I look, I see vegan products such as vegan “chicken nuggets” as well as vegan ice cream, sauces and baked goods. There is even vegan jerky. From a food scientist perspective, vegan products can be difficult to formulate. Removing eggs and butter from a cookie, for example, requires a systems approach. The binding and humectant properties of the egg are key to creating quality products. However, once the egg is reduced or removed, the texture is compromised. Citri-Fi, a natural citrus fiber contains high surface area which binds the moisture and improves the texture of the product over its shelf-life. For vegan “chicken” nuggets, Citri-Fi will hang on to the moisture of the nugget, especially under heat lamps to maintain a moist and juicy morsel.

Sustainability is a big buzz word. There are products touting cruelty-free farm animals and free range chicken and beef. One of the most interesting booths is the “cricket protein.” The argument for eating this protein is one of sustainability. Insect biomass is one of the most plentiful sources of protein on earth and insects do not require a lot of natural resources to raise. Intellectually, I know that the seafood I like so well – shrimp, lobster and crab – are essentially the insects of the ocean, but I can’t bring myself to actually try them. Maybe next year…

Specialty Dairy Foods
There are a lot of specialty dairies represented on this floor showing products ranging from specialty dessert style whole milk yogurt, kefir to gelato and ice cream. These companies talk about small batch processing, specialty ingredients and regional flavors. Chatting with one company, Gelato Fiasco (isn’t that a fantastic name?), I sample their strawberry cheesecake gelato. I love how flavorful and creamy the gelato is. Citri-Fi is an excellent natural choice for ice cream, yogurt and kefir. With Citri-Fi’s naturally occurring pectin, this natural ingredient can texturize yogurt and kefir, and control syneresis over the shelf-life of the product. It is a natural emulsifier, and, because it is freeze-thaw stable, this natural fiber can improve the abuse tolerance of a natural label ice cream. So many ice creams turn to sand immediately after opening the package. Citri-Fi can eliminate that because it hangs onto water so well during the temperature cycling of the freezer. Enjoying my strawberry cheesecake treat, I head downstairs.

Savory Sauces
It is lunchtime. I thought a lot of people would be off grabbing a bite, but, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The main floor is so packed, it is actually difficult to walk. The usual suspects are here. Boulder Brands has a large booth. Bai Brands is handing out Bai waters which is really nice, as I’m really thirsty from sampling upstairs. The booths on the main floor which are more established companies appear much more elaborate compared to the ones upstairs. Several RVs set up on the floor display products and demonstrations including one featuring vegan barbecue. Citri-Fi works well in barbecue sauce as a texturant. There are several companies trying to replace modified starches with native starches to varying degrees of success due to process stability challenges. Citri-Fi can be used in place to improve the sauce thickness and stability under varying food processing conditions. Starch often muddies up the flavor release of barbecue sauce, but due to the Citri-Fi, the flavor pops nicely while improving the mouthfeel and texture.

I notice that the trends on this floor are similar to trends upstairs, but, one thing that stands out is the prevalence of coconut snacks. If you haven’t tried them, chips made from coconut are tasty. They are crisp and only slightly sweet. There are samples galore of these type of products, so I grab several. Coconut flour is also becoming more common in gluten-free options. Coconut flour doesn’t have the same binding properties as wheat flour so glutinous (sweet) rice flour is fairly commonly used. This can cause the product to really dry out over time. Citri-Fi’s high water holding capacity and binding improves the gluten-free baked goods texture over shelf-life which is key for high quality foods.

Paleo Friendly
Also, I notice the signage talking about “Paleo” friendly. The number of companies that cater to this lifestyle is fairly staggering. People following this lifestyle do not eat grains or legumes, so making snack options that fit within this lifestyle isn’t easy. I suddenly feel old remembering when Atkins was huge and everyone was going low-carb and sugar-free. I think the differences between these two lifestyles are subtle.

Gluten-free is also a standout on the main floor. This continues to be a trend. And the quality of gluten-free products is increasing. I know this has made several of my friends who need gluten-free options very happy. They now have a choice when it comes to the grocery aisle, where they never did prior to 2010. Gluten-free baked goods can benefit from the water binding ability of Citri-Fi not to mention the natural emulsification properties. Binding water tightly helps with the shelf-life eating qualities.

Ethnic Variety
One of my favorite trends is the shear choice of regional cuisines. There were a lot of South East Asian food, Indian food and African food everywhere. There were frozen options, canned products and amazing sauces. For instance, there were quite a few coconut milk based sauces. Typically, these sauces contain several spices and suffer from separation issues. Citri-Fi’s high surface area binds the oil to minimize this type of separation. Citri-Fi greatly improves the emulsion of the sauce. A few years ago, the IBIE show featured Brazilian cheese puffs. It was nice to see this company peddling these treats at this show. The one I got was a little wilted and dry. It makes me think of restaurants reconstituting rolls or bread sticks in a heating drawer. The samples at the end of the shift are often dry and crumbly, where the first samples were fantastic. This would be another excellent application for Citri-Fi. The other standout on the main floor was the number of beverage manufacturers. Maple or birch water, Bai antioxidant water, pH adjusted water and smoothies are all represented well.

Healthy Beverages
I head downstairs to see the bottom floor of the convention. These are smaller booths, but it is just as packed as the upper floors. There are many HPP processed smoothie type drinks available downstairs, along with gluten free snacks. Using Citri-Fi in the smoothie applications is beneficial. Manufacturers can extend expensive fruit pulp, with a less expensive fruit pulp, and get excellent mouthfeel and flavor release. And for those trying to replace carrageenan, Citri-Fi in conjunction with gellan gum can fully replace this ingredient while maintaining mouthfeel and stabilization.

Meatless Meat
Jack fruit meat replacement products are everywhere. For instance, one company is offering sandwiches made up of their “pulled pork.” The smell is amazing, and the texture is incredible. But, I wonder if the samples at the end of the day are very different from fresh samples. Controlling moisture in the system is probably very important. Citri-Fi is recommended in vegetarian meat products to bind that moisture and oil which improves the eating experience especially since most of these products are reconstituted.

At this point, I look at my FitBit and see I have walked 25,272 steps. That is more than double my daily goal. My feet are absolutely killing me so I decide it’s time to head out. My walk through the crowds outside at the food truck booths takes quite a bit of time. There are a lot of yogurt samples and vegan meats to try on the way out. The band has started to play reggae at the bandstand and the center court. I wish I could stay—mainly for the great samples and fun people who attend the show. By the time I get back to my car, I have walked almost 30,000 steps. I hope that my FitBit doesn’t expect this every day!

–Author: Nesha Zalesny (Technical Sales Manager)


BLOG: Natural Plant-based Fiber to Improve Vegetarian Meats

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Vegetarian Meat SandwichRegardless the reason – reducing saturated fats and cholesterol, celebrating meatless Mondays, trying a new experience or starting a diet for life – the alternative meat market sales propelled north over the past two years. Vegetarian or vegan meats have been in the market for over a decade. So why now a ramp in sales? Prior art used soy and wheat-based proteins, eggs and cheese to form a matrix to be shaped into grounds, patties and links. Today, there is a plethora of plant-based proteins to choose from which kicked the creativity up a few notches. Besides the health and wellness push, there are also the sustainable and environmental drivers helping to shape this new market of alternative meats.

Common Issues
However formulating with new plant-based ingredients such as ancient grains, beans, peas and lentils can introduce new challenges. Some of these health halo ingredients manage water holding differently especially when exposed to certain food processes and shelf life over time. Binding is key to prevent products from crumbling apart. Consumers are not the most delicate chefs in the kitchen, therefore, the patty versions tend to dry out when exposed to high temperatures over cook time. Hockey puck, anyone? And if these alternative meats are intended to simulate their animal-containing counterparts, then the texture and bite should be similar.

Natural Solution
One option is to use Citri-Fi®, a natural citrus fiber which is produced by a clean process that opens up the fiber to expose high surface area. This high surface area holds and binds large amounts of water and oil tightly. In products using alternative meat proteins, this natural fiber is fast swelling without the need of heat activation which provides stable moisture control during processing. Citri-Fi binds the moisture to buffer the loss during harsh final cook conditions. As a result, the patty or sausage link produces a juicy and tender bite. Citri-Fi also binds the oil tightly to reduce purge and maintain that full-fat mouthfeel.

This vegetarian meat market also speaks to the natural, plant-based, allergen-free and non-GMO movement. With consumers shying away from chemically-based ingredients, utilizing the nutritional and functional components of whole plant-based foods is the new frontier. Citri-Fi’s natural composition provides functionalities and contributes fiber as nature intended. Also, this natural fiber is made from real citrus fruit which is non-GMO and allergen-free. As a result, this natural ingredient can be labeled citrus fiber, dried citrus pulp or citrus flour which resonate well in the natural markets.

Author: Jennifer Stephens (VP of Marketing)

Other Related Articles:

Plant Protein Options for Meat Alternatives (Food Business News)

Why Consumer Elect Meat Alternatives (Prepared Foods)

Plant Potential Growth in a Market Driven by Consumer Trends (Food Ingredient First)

Bright Future for Alternative Proteins (Food Processing)

BLOG: Effects of Citri-Fi® Citrus Fiber on Baking Soda in Bakery

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Sweet Breads or Bakery Products

“Does Citri-Fi’s acidity set off the baking soda too early in bakery products?”

In the baking world, leavening systems can be key in creating quality crumb, loaf volume, and desirable organoleptic properties. Leavening systems, both chemical and biological, can be impacted by other ingredients in the formulation which can be detrimental to the overall product quality. In this case, the Fiberstar team was tasked to answer the question “Does Citri-Fi’s acidity set off the baking soda too early in bakery products?”

A fully dried sample of Citri-Fi 100 and the method “Neutralizing Value of Acid Reacting Materials” AACC International Method 02-32.02 were used to determine the neutralizing value of Citri-Fi.

The results indicated that Citri-Fi has a neutralizing value of 2.0 and was very slow to react. Thus we conclude that Citri-Fi does not have sufficient strength in its acidity to set off the baking soda too early in baked good production. Compared to other sources of acid listed in the table of common neutralizing values below (Finnie and Atwell; Wheat Flour Handbook; 2016), Citri-Fi’s score of 2.0 is nearly negligible.

For more information, please contact R&D at

Common Acidulant (Neutralizing Value) 

Cream of Tartar (45)

Monocalcium Phosphate Monohydrate (80)

Anhydrous Monocalcium Phosphate (83.5)

Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (72)

Sodium Aluminum Pyrophosphate (100)

Sodium Aluminum Sulfate (100)

Dicalcium Phosphate Dihydrate (33)


— Author: Dr. Kurt Villwock (Ph.D.)

Creative cookies get thinner, healthier and offer innovative flavors (Snackfood & Wholesale Bakery)

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Boosted nutrition, fewer calories and innovative flavors lead current cookie innovations.

(Melissa Kvidahl)

In a retail landscape that demands that snacks and baked goods have it all—great taste, affordable pricing, innovative flavors, recognizable ingredients and boosted nutrition—one category in particular is rising to the challenge: cookies.

While Oreos and Chips Ahoy still maintain a captive audience, the cookie category is seeing strong differentiation. Cookie brands are offering new takes on tried-and-true recipes to add innovative and healthier options to the mix.

According to data from IRI, Chicago, sales of cookies were up 1.76 percent in the 52 weeks ending March 19, 2017, reaching $8.2 billion. Mondelez International still leads the pack, responsible for $3.1 billion in sales. Private label saw a strong performance, up 6.29 percent to $1.2 billion, and Pepperidge Farm was up 5.92 percent to reach $391 million. Top-performing brands included Nabisco BelVita, which grew 14.28 percent to reach $303.2 million in sales; Nabisco Oreo Thins, up 76.96 percent to reach $127.0 million; and Pepperidge Farm Milano, up 9.91 percent to reach $151.0 million.

“We see handheld treats as a trend,” explains John McIsaac, vice president of strategic business development, Reiser, Canton, MA. “Some years, bars or muffins are hot. Cookies have always been a staple, but the growth of many niche bakers has made cookies hot again.”

Artisan appeal
If you ask Theresa Lancaster, marketing manager, McCormick Flavor Solutions, Hunt Valley, MD, one of the main drivers influencing new ingredients and flavors in the cookie space is the craft movement. “Cookies that are less uniform in appearance with imperfections are being sought, as they have a homemade appeal,” she says.

And from that trend, others grow: Lancaster says that flavors inspired by artisan and rustic ingredients, which lend a unique or romantic touch, are growing in popularity. She cites flavors like apple cider, sage and molasses as on the rise, since they deliver a “rustic and comforting experience.”

Creating a homemade-inspired cookie begins with ingredients that consumers recognize from their own pantries. That’s why Lancaster says forward-trending ingredients like coconut oil, dark chocolate and whole grains, as well as classic natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup, are all making waves in the cookie aisle.

At Baker Perkins Inc., Grand Rapids, MI, Mark Glover, account manager, sees familiar ingredients like oats, peanut butter, nuts, raisins and chocolate chips as on trend, since consumers want to “eat less, but eat better.”

The key is that cookies are no longer seen as a “kid-only,” after-school snack. “There’s an emerging market for cookies with more adult-like appeal, featuring value-added nutritional ingredients such as protein, nuts, fruits, seeds, spices and especially chocolate,” says Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs manager, Cargill, Minneapolis. “Growing consumer awareness of ingredients such as turmeric, cinnamon and ginger also provide more exotic and nuanced flavor profiles that make the extra calories worth it for a special occasion.”

Opportunities exist for cookie brands to tap into new and exciting flavors that appeal to adults who want a little something different from their childhood cookie. Lancaster says that “complex and layered flavor experiences” combine the sweet hallmark of cookies with something a bit out of the box. The result? Sweet and salty flavors (like salted caramel) as well as sweet heat options (like coconut and ginger).

Building a better cookie
When discerning consumers raise the bar, they often do so by demanding some kind of health benefit, even in an indulgent category like cookies. And, mirroring trends in the snack and nutritional bar category, protein is leading the way, appealing to “fitness lovers, athletes, lower-carb dieters and people looking to use a cookie as a meal replacement,” says Jill Motew, founder, Zemas Madhouse Foods, Highland Park, IL. She recommends using protein-rich quinoa or whey in these next-generation cookies.

“While it may have started as a niche market, in recent years, the high-protein trend has gone decidedly mainstream,” says Stauffer. “Consumers will continue to buy traditional high-protein shakes and bars, but opportunities also exist for innovative bakers to capitalize on the trend.” She suggests pea and soy protein as top ingredient contenders for cookies.

Expanding the ingredient range even further, Nesha Zalesny, technical service manager, Fiberstar, Inc., River Falls, WI, says combinations of high-protein flours—from almond to coconut, or even garbanzo bean flours—are where opportunities lie, since they can increase protein content and also replace wheat flour in some recipes.

Along these lines, nuts and nut butters check two boxes in that they provide protein content, but also are recognizable on the label. “Nuts are considered a healthy natural source of protein, and with the increased consumer demand for protein, companies are exploring alternative nut butters like almond and cashew butter as innovative cookie ingredients,” adds Lancaster.

In addition to protein, fiber is also in the spotlight, especially since consumers understand the obesity epidemic, says Zalesny. People want more nutritional snacks that help them feel fuller longer. Fiberstar offers Citri-Fi natural citrus fiber, which can hold seven to ten times its weight in water due to its high surface area, and can maintain the fresh-baked quality of cookies over their shelf life.

Cargill offers Oliggo-Fiber chicory root fiber to meet demand for fiber. The ingredient also allows for sweetener reduction—another important trend transforming cookies.

“We are seeing a strong interest in invert cane syrup and organic evaporated cane syrups, as companies are removing high-fructose corn syrup to meet non-GMO requirements,” adds Jim Kappas, vice president of sales and marketing at Malt Products Corp., Saddle Brook, NJ.

The bottom line is that by adding ingredients like grass-fed whey protein, omega-3s and fiber, cookies can compete directly with nutritional bars, says Lancaster, which opens the category up to new consumers and aligns the cookie category with the better-for-you trend while still delivering on indulgence.

Indulgence light
It’s not that consumers don’t want an indulgent cookie from time to time. Zalesny sees opportunities for growth in product line extensions that co-brand or incorporate cookies into other categories like confectionery. “Cookies are also being used in other categories like ice cream, yogurt, breakfast bars or cereal as an inclusion,” she points out. “This indulgence category is competing with other sweet snacks that have grown in prevalence over the past few years.”

Look no further than cake-inspired cookies—boasting flavors like red velvet, lemon, or birthday cake, complete with sprinkles—for evidence of this, as manufacturers try to capitalize on the cupcake trend. For example, Flowers Foods launched Mrs. Freshley’s Cake Crisps in February 2017.

To balance the indulgence factor, cookie brands are switching up their servings by offering thin cookies. “Think of it as ‘indulgence light,’” says Stauffer, citing Oreo Thins as one standout example of this trend. The cookies contain about one-third fewer calories than original Oreos.

“There has been a trend of moving from thicker or larger types of cookies to thins and minis,” says Ricardo Rodriguez, marketing manager of confectionery and bakery, Ingredion Incorporated, Westchester, IL. “Consumers are driving this trend, as they want these indulgent types of products, but without the guilt associated with larger sizes or packages.”

Several thin cookies have entered the playing field this year. Mondelez International added to its thin cookie lineup with Chips Ahoy! Thins in January. Snyder’s-Lance debuted Snack Factory Chocolate Chip Dessert Thins in March. HannahMax came out with Cookie Chips in April, offering both Sea Salt Caramel and Coconut White Chocolate varieties. Farmhouse Thin & Crispy Cookies from Pepperidge Farm also landed on shelves in April. And Mrs. Thinster’s CookieThins unveiled Key Lime Pie and Meyer Lemon flavors in May.

“The days of the giant cookie are waning as brands seek to help their customers enjoy a cookie with all the great taste they are used to, but with fewer calories and less sugar,” says Stauffer. “Cookies are undergoing a significant transformation, second only to the beverage category. The door is clearly open for innovation in the cookie category, but some rules remain unchanged: Taste will continue to be the ever-present arbiter of success. Brands will have to balance providing indulgence and great taste, while also delivering products with a solid nutrition profile.”

Coffee & Tea Market Trends (Natural Products Insider)

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The coffee and tea market is expanding, and while consumers desire healthy drinks, they are also looking for fresh, new flavors in their cold brew and ready-to-drink teas.
(Kaddie Stephens)

The landscape of the beverage market is changing as consumers begin to shun sugar-laden carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) for drinks they perceive as having healthier halos such as coffees, teas, herbal and energy drinks. The coffee and tea market is growing, with flavors, ingredients and functionalities appealing to the conscious consumer who craves new flavors in his or her beverage, but who also desires natural, clean-label drinks.

Trends such as exotic flavorings, cold-brew coffees and ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages are making their way into the market, and according to a Mintel study, the top three non-alcoholic beverages (carbonated soft drinks, juices and dairy milk) have all shown stagnant or declining sales, while energy drinks and coffee experienced a strong sales growth of 8.7 percent.

With consumer cravings straying from the conventional path, the cold brew market has a large opportunity for growth. Mintel reported 24 percent of consumers drink retail-purchased cold brew coffee, and retail sales reached an estimated $7.9 million in 2015, increasing 339 percent since 2010. But while cold brew sales are up, it is still only a small part in the RTD coffee segment, making up just 0.4 percent of sales estimated in 2015. This leaves significant opportunity for cold brew innovation.

Cold Brew Beverages

According to Kip Murphy, marketing manager, Virginia Dare, cold brew coffee is popular among consumers because it offers smoother, less acidic flavors than regular coffee, and its high caffeine level appeals to younger generations.

Nesha Zalensy, technical sales manager, Fiberstar, said brewing coffee at a lower temperature helps avoid developing compounds that cause coffee to turn bitter as it cools, and this helps the coffee maintain flavor throughout its shelf life.

According to Zalensy, manufacturers are adding vegan options to their coffees to provide flavor as well as the clean-label claim that consumers desire. Nut-based and non-dairy milks such as almond, coconut and cashew milks are popular and contribute flavor and creaminess to the beverage.

Zalensy said hibiscus and yerba mate are also popular ingredients to add to iced beverages.

Fruit Flavorings

Fruity flavors are being added to both hot and cold beverages on the market, however when it comes to coffee, the coffee fruit itself can provide health benefits as well as flavor.

FutureCeuticals offers coffeberry cascara, coffee fruit granules made from the powerful super fruit itself. According to Andrew Wheeler, the company’s director of marketing, “The reintroduction of coffee fruit nutrition back into ground and instant coffee provides a bold flavor note and unique and beneficial phytonutrients that are lost during the roasting process.”

Wheeler said the company’s peer-reviewed dossier demonstrated that the coffee industry was discarding the most unique part of the coffee plant during the coffee-roasting process.

“The whole coffee fruit is truly the functional powerhouse,” Wheeler said, and the company’s coffeeberry cascara can be added to coffee and teas to deliver unique phytonutrients and beneficial antioxidants.

Nitro-Infused Coffee

A trend that has been introduced to the market is nitrogen-infused coffee. According to Lucas Gonzales, strategic marketing partner of coffee and tea at Kerry Ingredients, consumers are interested in nitro-infused coffee, which is generally cold brewed.

“The nitrogen bubbles create a frothy, indulgent texture, bringing out the natural sweetness of coffee,” Gonzales said. The smooth taste offered by cold brew coffee and the increased perception of sweetness from the nitrogen bubbles allow less sugar, milk and other enhancers to be added to the beverage, reducing the number of calories, fat and sugar consumed.

Nitrogen-infused coffees provide a smoother, foamy texture and create a mouthfeel similar to some craft beers. Mintel found nitro coffees benefits from retail appeal—more than one in 10 coffee consumers would purchase bottled/canned nitro coffee, which increases to approximately one in five Millennials.


A popular additive for both coffees and teas, offered by the company Solvay, is vanillin. Solvay has a variety of vanillin-based ingredients, a product known as a flavoring agent for coffees, teas and functional beverages.

According to Aparna Parikh, head of marketing at Solvay, vanillin provides a creamy texture and smooth mouthfeel, masking off notes of proteins and natural sweeteners such as stevia, vitamins and omega-3s.

Solvay’s four vanillin ingredients are mainly GMO-free products, derived from rice bran that provide physicochemical properties.

“These products allow manufacturers to make the ‘natural’ claim, and serves as a replacement for vanilla bean and for addressing the need for more natural ingredients,” Parikh said.


Tea consumption has a strong association to good health, and as consumers’ desire for clean-label, healthy beverages continue to grow, so does the tea market. Mintel reported that over a third if “iGens” say they would pay more for coffee and tea with added health benefits. This gives the tea market a large opportunity for growth, and allows manufacturers the ability to offer products with these added health benefits.

Noma Khan, research and development (R&D) director of liquid beverages at Kerry Ingredients, said the company offers Wellmune®, a natural food and beverage ingredient that enhances the immune system and keeps the body healthy.

At Kerry, there is also a drive to incorporate refreshing fruit flavors such as cherry, coconut and strawberry as well as botanicals such as hibiscus into teas. Ginseng is added to provide flavor as well as to reduce stress, and green coffee extract can be added to beverages for extra caffeine.

Amelia Bay also provides sweet and tropical flavors to tea brands that are conscious of the clean-label craze. “You see established products revisiting and revising their ingredient statement to use ingredients that offer a cleaner label,” John Harper Crandall, vice president of sales said.

According to Crandall, the company offers functional blends in different flavors including lemongrass and ginger. Both ingredients are antioxidants derived from dark berries, and the fruit flavors also provide functional purposes.

Rikka Cornelia, product manager at BI said the company also turns to herbal ingredients due to their popularity in teas. Cornelia said BI also adds ginger to their teas, providing a sharp taste profile, pomegranate for tartness and turmeric for spice.

Green Tea

The market for green tea is smaller than the market for black tea, but it is at the front of growth in the tea category according to Murphy.

Even though consumers find the grassy, green taste of green tea less appealing than the taste of black tea, it does have extraordinary health and weight management benefits he said.

Matcha green tea is derived from a robust, versatile superfood. Aiya America, a matcha green tea manufacturer and distributor, offers various grades of pure green tea powder to be used as an ingredient in a variety of applications.

James Oliveira, Aiya America account sales manager and resident matcha tea expert, said not only is matcha green tea powder popular in smoothies and lattes, but “in its powdered form it is rich in antioxidants and nutrients, perfect for all-natural solutions to add both color and nutritionals.”

Exotic Flavors, Proteins and Collagen Peptides

Not only are fruity flavors invading the tea market, but so are exotic flavors from overseas. Shelia Harte, director of beverages at Bell Flavors & Fragrances, said an influx of Polynesian beverages allow westerners to experience exotic flavors.

“I expect the market to see more Polynesian POG (passionfruit-orange-guava) flavor profile in teas,” Harte said. Turkish coffee has come across the seas with a strong profile hint of cardamom, but Turkish tea, cultivated in the Black Sea region follows Harte’s prediction and provides strong tea flavors with notes of smoke and apricot.

Although these flavor influxes are popular, various companies have been fortifying their beverages with proteins. “Vitamins and proteins are now being added to tea to create functional beverages and to provide energy, relaxation, brain support and protein boost,” Harte said.

At Kerry, Khan said the company uses plant-based and whey-protein options for their beverages.

“Consumers’ focus on health and wellness contributes to increasing popularity of incorporating ingredients such as nut milks, plant-based proteins and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) into specialty coffee formulations,” Khan said. “There are a growing number of beverages made with MCTs, which provide consumers with more sustained energy and mental focus.”

BI also adds protein to their coffee, and focuses on plant-based ingredients to provide additional nutrition as well as mouthfeel and viscosity Cornelia said.

As for Nitta Gelatin, according to Katie Stevenson, business development manager, companies are looking toward collagen peptides to formulate their teas and coffees.

“They’re linked to benefits relating to the skin, bones, joints and other areas,” Stevenson said. “They’re also water soluble, so the opportunities for this ingredient in the beverage industry are vast.”

The clean-label trend has made its way into the coffee and tea market, and consumers want to ensure their beverages meet new health standards. Companies are adjusting products to meet a variety of trends, and are providing consumers with fruity, exotic flavors while giving them the desired clean-label beverage.

Pour it on: Texturizing Dairy Beverages (Dairy Foods)

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Pour it on: texturizing dairy beverages (Dairy Foods)

Kimberly Decker

To do that and to stand out to consumers in crowded beverage cases, dairy brands have to innovate. And that’s exactly what they’re doing.

“Traditionally, most consumers thought of dairy beverages as either chocolate milk or conventional white milk,” noted Christine Addington, senior dairy technical service specialist, Cargill, Minneapolis. “That’s no longer the case. Consumers are open to trying new flavors and products, and now recognize all the great health and sensory benefits available in dairy.”

Chief among those sensory benefits is texture, which “can make or break the sensory experience of a dairy beverage,” she noted. And as dairy developers entertain new strategies for innovation, they’re increasingly looking to texture as a means to differentiation. Still, dairy brands must choose ingredients that provide the appropriate texture for each dairy beverage application.

Dairy is diversifying

Those applications aren’t what they used to be.

“Over the last decade, consumers have opened their minds and their mouths to new tastes, textures, colors, aromas and packaging that they may not have considered in the past,” said Barbara Chinn, senior manager, food applications and research and development, CP Kelco, San Diego.

Their explorations have led them to “delicious and innovative dairy beverages,” including fermented milk drinks, acidified low-pH dairy drinks, fruit-protein smoothies, milk-juice drinks, drinkable yogurts, flavored milks and more, Chinn said.

As the number of dairy drinks multiplies, so, too, do consumers’ demands for “healthier and more nutritious options,” Chinn added. But the opportunities here are plentiful. After all, formulators can fortify with novel protein sources, probiotics, fibers and nutrient-delivery options, all while leaning on texturizers “to accommodate the use of these added wellness components and ensure the desired texture in the finished product,” Chinn said.

What’s texture got to do with it?

Despite the fact that “in most people’s minds, texture comes after flavor in the enjoyment of drinkable products,” the two sensations are inextricably linked, said Jon Hopkinson Ph.D., senior applications scientist, DuPont Nutrition & Health, New Century, Kan.

That’s true not only for consumers, but for developers, too, who have to consider texture as much as they do taste when formulating dairy beverages.

“With texture, the palette available to product innovators is quite wide,” Hopkinson said. “Often, it’s the combination of all the colors on the palette that produces the best product. But like an artist’s palette, improperly mixed colors can become muddy and unappetizing.”

Even a properly developed texture can muddy those waters if it doesn’t meet people’s expectations.

“Consumers know what they like,” Chinn noted, “and their preferences vary widely by region and country across the globe. What seems ‘too thick’ in consistency in the U.K. may seem thin and watery to someone in the U.S.”

And these textural effects stand out even more starkly in dairy relative to nondairy beverages such as juices, sodas and teas, added Nesha Zalesny, technical sales manager, Fiberstar Inc., River Falls, Wis. A beverage’s mouthfeel “correlates to how fast the consumed mass dissipates in the mouth,” she explained, and variations in the viscosity of something as simple — yet familiar — as chocolate milk “can mean the difference between a refreshing post-workout beverage and a treat of melted ice cream,” she noted.

Hopkinson pointed to the texture that results from particulates as another position on the texture palette. Consider the bubbles in a bubble tea or the pearls of tapioca in a pudding, he suggested — or on a smaller scale, the unique texture provided by the particle size of cocoa. This textural effect, too, needs managing.

But for the most part, the core texture in dairy drinks largely boils down to classic creamy with “good mouth-coating characteristics,” Addington concluded. Thus, a drinkable yogurt needs a thick viscosity “so consumers can feel like they’re actually drinking a yogurt beverage versus thin white milk.”

Challenging complexity

Striking the right textural balance in dairy drinks might sound easy. And it’s true that there are few textures that today’s ingredients can’t achieve. But the nature of the dairy environment means that even “smart” texturizers have their work cut out for them.

“Dairy beverages are sometimes more challenging to texturize because there can be many components in the formula, including milk proteins that can be very unstable,” Addington explained. Because whey proteins are heat-labile, high-temperature treatments such as ultra-high-temperature processing “run the risk of denaturing the proteins, causing a sandy or gritty texture,” she said, or leaving a mass of congealed protein settled out at the base of the bottle.

Contrast this with the relatively sedate environment of a fruit or juice beverage, for which processors need not worry about changing the inherent pH or stabilizing proteins. It becomes easier to achieve a smoother texture and mouthfeel, Addington said. What’s more, consumers don’t expect a thick, creamy texture in a fruit juice anyway.

In fortified and shelf-stable dairy drinks with shelf lives topping six months to a year, textural challenges are “magnified” further still, Chinn added.

“Ingredients like insoluble calcium, fiber and cocoa must remain suspended throughout the product’s shelf life to ensure consumers will receive the intended nutritional impact and consumption experience,” she said. And in an era when low-sugar — and, to some extent, low-fat — formulations are gaining traction, the need to “build back the desired mouthfeel” in these products is even more critical.

Protecting protein

But no need to let texture intimidation set in.

“In general, it’s not hard to change the texture of any dairy beverage,” Hopkinson said. “Knowing the rheology of the original and that of the desired product is the first step toward achieving your goal.”

Addington agrees.

“With the introduction of new texturizing ingredients like starches, gums and fibers, dairy beverage production has become more efficient and consistent. We now have options that allow manufacturers to add texture to products more quickly while also maintaining flavor and keeping costs in check,” she said.

Use levels are often low, Addington noted, and in addition to improving mouth-coating and texture, today’s options also help provide effective homogenization and avert phase separation and protein precipitation.

But what’s funny is that many of these “new” ingredients aren’t all that new — at least not fundamentally — and it’s quite striking how consistently some texturizers show up in dairy beverage formulations year in and out. Take, for instance, pectin — the go-to texture choice in acidified dairy drinks.

“Without pectin, dairy protein begins to stick together, forming large clumps,” explained Paige Ties, senior technical service specialist, research and development for Cargill.

At a low pH, the normally net-negative charge on the dairy protein casein creeps closer to zero, allowing aggregates to form. In a low-pH milk system stabilized with pectin, Ties said, “the negative pectin molecules electrostatically stick to the positive areas on the casein while avoiding the negative areas,” forming what she calls a “protective net” that maintains the overall negative charge on the casein/pectin complex. Thanks to that net negative charge, “the proteins continue to repel each other” rather than clump together and settle at the container base or produce the gritty texture that sometimes plagues low-pH protein beverages.

While pectin has been around for generations, processors’ ability to extract it from citrus “has advanced by leaps and bounds in the last 10 years,” noted Jamie Underwood, senior technical service representative for Cargill.

“We’re now able to manipulate pectin’s structure better to target stability and gelling,” Underwood said.

That’s allowed for the stabilization of drinkable yogurts, milk-juice blends and low-pH dairy beverages.

“Thanks to our enhanced pectin products, yogurt drinks are now one of the hottest dairy beverage segments,” she added.

Noting that some pectins can be “highly processed” — as is carboxymethylcellulose (CMC), its common accompaniment in dairy texturizing systems — Zalesny offers her company’s natural citrus fiber, Citri-Fi, as a “clean-label alternative” to both ingredients in acidified dairy and smoothies. The fiber is water-washed and physically processed to “open up the fiber” before it’s dried and milled, she explained, and its high levels of native pectin, cellulose and hemicellulose help it extend pectin and add mouthfeel to the point of nearly replacing pectin or CMC. She recommended a grind size of 30 mesh for bringing pulpiness to smoothies, and 200 mesh “for creamy-type beverages.”

Though not unique to low-pH dairy beverages, the phenomenon of age gelation, or the clumping of milk proteins over time, also requires a solution from today’s texturizing arsenal. Phil a’Becket, market research analyst, TIC Gums, White Marsh, Md., noted that when age gelation occurs, the product can look unappealing and even spoiled.

“It can limit a brand’s or even an individual product’s footprint,” he said. “And if a dairy product appears to be clumping, the consumer automatically assumes it’s unsafe to eat.”

His company developed a stabilizer blend, Ticaloid PRO 192 AGD, which not only stabilizes proteins to suppress age gelation, but also emulsifies the beverage to allow the removal of other ingredients not meeting clean-label parameters.

Suspended disbelief

If pectin is the standard bearer for texture creation in low-pH dairy drinks, neutral-pH products such as chocolate milk traditionally achieve their stability and textural appeal courtesy of carrageenan. Its ace in the hole is its charge density, which helps it keep particles such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, proteins and — yes — cocoa in suspension.

“Electrostatic interactions enable carrageenan to entrap insoluble particles such as cocoa or calcium salts used to fortify dairy, as well as lower-density constituents such as fat globules,” said Brian Surratt, project manager at Cargill Texturizing Solutions. “And in neutral-pH beverages containing protein and electrolytes, carrageenan can stabilize proteins and provide properties such as thickness, viscosity, fat mimetic or creaminess aspects to a finished beverage.”

Use levels can be low —0.025 to 0.04%, Zalesny noted.

Carrageenan “interacts synergistically with milk proteins and ions naturally occurring in milk,” she said. “And it has a nice low viscosity, which makes carrageenan-stabilized chocolate milk refreshing rather than overpowering.”

But it’s not perfect — at least not as far as some consumers are concerned.

“The North American market is going through another ‘carrageenan is toxic’ cycle because of questionable information and science,” Zalesny lamented.

Formulators need effective substitutes, and blends, including gellan gum and a shorter-chain hydrocolloid like locust bean gum, come in handy. High acyl gellan gum forms a high-yield stress fluid gel network, suspending the cocoa well at low use levels — 0.02 to 0.03% — but still resulting in a low drinking viscosity.

But she cautioned that the fluid gel network will tighten up over time, resulting in syneresis. Thus, gum blenders recommend the inclusion of locust bean gum or gum acacia to help stabilize the network.

Zalesny also praised the performance of a carrageenan replacement system — comprising gellan gum and her company’s natural citrus fiber — in sports nutrition and nondairy nut-based beverages. With 0.3% Citri-Fi 100M40 and 0.03% gellan, the system “can replace 100% carrageenan while maintaining superior mouthfeel and oil and protein stabilization over shelf life,” she said.

It works because of the fiber’s “unique composition of insoluble and soluble fiber — mostly native pectin — protein and lipids. The high surface area and native pectin provide the natural emulsification stabilization needed in certain beverages,” she said.

Future forward

It’s only natural for texturizer suppliers to focus on texturizing ingredients. But Hopkinson points out that texture also can be modified using unconventional means when appropriate.

“Protein can be hydrolyzed, starches broken into smaller segments, sugars polymerized,” he said. “All these can be achieved using technologies now available and becoming available to dairy developers.”

Ivan Gonzales, marketing director, dairy for Westchester, Ill.-based Ingredion Incorporated, added that new ingredient technologies and processing conditions offer ways to functionalize milk’s inherent components to manipulate the texture in the final products.

“Thus, we have cultures that use lactose, processing conditions like UF and heat treatments to make proteins more functional, but also new texturizers and gums that let us create new beverages,” he said.

In other words, we have options — as do dairy drink consumers. And that should encourage us all.

“Be open to new and interesting concepts, unique textures and new processes,” Hopkinson said. “They’re not difficult to achieve, and the consuming public is eager for new and interesting offerings. Remember, the most successful products rarely, if ever, come from incremental changes to existing products.”

Cracker Category Finds Future in Nutrition, Convenience (Prepared Foods)

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Crackers stand on their own with unique nutrition and flavors

The crackers category is, without a doubt, in transition. Previously a vehicle for cheese and a garnish for soup, the humble cracker is transforming into a snack that can stand on its own in terms of nutrient profiles and flavors.

As shoppers—and brands—adjust to the new landscape, sales remain stable. According to data from IRI, Chicago, sales in the crackers category overall remained relatively flat during the 52 weeks ending September 10, 2017, dropping 0.15% in dollar sales to $7.4 billion.

But some products clearly stood out from the competition for the year. Nabisco’s Good Thins, from category leader Mondel?z International, saw growth of 66.19% to $74.6 million, and Kellogg Co.’s Sunshine Cheez It Duoz grew 71.85% to $54.3 million. Cheez It Grooves also gained ground, up 11.31% to $94.9 million.

And while the overall crackers with fillings segment was likewise flat (up 0.12% to $1.1 billion), Nabisco’s segment-leading Ritz sandwich crackers grew 21.16% to $133.3 million.


As the crackers category undergoes a transformation, so too does the better-for-you trend that impacts it. “The better-for-you segment has evolved from a ‘food minus’ philosophy—such as reduced fat—to a ‘food plus’ approach—such as using vegetable powders, pulses, plant-based proteins, whole or ancient grains, or nut-based flours as bases,” explains Jennifer Stephens, vice president of marketing, Fiberstar, Inc., River Falls, WI.

The “food minus” trend as it pertains to sugar is still impacting crackers, though, says Jim Kappas, vice president of sales and marketing, Malt Products Corp., Saddle Brook, NJ. As such, malt extracts remain popular ingredients in this category, since they’re inherently lower in added sugars. In fact, says Kappas, “an argument can be made that they have no added sugars, since they are hydrolyzed using endogenous enzymes,” which can be a powerful labeling message for brands.

Keeping sodium low is also still a concern, says Naomi Novotny, president, SaltWorks, Inc., Woodinville, WA. But rather than purely minimizing sodium, cracker formulators may benefit from using sodium more wisely so as to get the most flavor out of a lesser amount.

“Sea salts and mineral salts like our Ancient Ocean Himalayan Pink Salt are recognized by consumers as more flavorful and healthful,” explains Novotny, and can make for powerful on-pack messaging. SaltWorks offers all-natural sea salt in a selection of grain sizes, from very fine powder grain for even coating to granulations that offer a crunchy texture and visual appeal. She notes that SaltWorks salts can help manufacturers lower salt content in their recipes—but not the salty taste.

Cracker manufacturers are also finding success by adding in ingredients with a better nutrient profile.

“Consumers are demanding more than a basic saltine for a variety of occasions,” says David Guilfoyle, group manager, bakery, fats and oils, DuPont Nutrition & Health, New Century, KS. “Consumers are looking for higher protein in their foods, and this includes crackers.” To that end, DuPont offers many protein addition options, including soy and pulse proteins, and in many different forms, from powders to nuggets and flakes. DuPont has also recently launched a new line of pea proteins, also available in powders, nuggets, flakes and other forms. “The pea proteins are very big in consumer trends and are a great way to add protein into snacks and crackers,” he adds.

But perhaps the biggest trend impacting better-for-you-crackers is the addition of whole and ancient grains.

Joni Huffman, vice president of domestic business development, Healthy Food Ingredients (HFI), Fargo, ND, notes the company is launching new varieties of bean, pea and Suntava purple corn grits to use in various applications, including crackers. “These are essentially crushed kernels that provide the heartiness of whole grains and also add visual appeal,” she explains. HFI also offers flaked ingredients, as well as milled flax and chia, which can boost a cracker’s nutrient content.

“The overall goal of almost all new product formulations is to provide clean labels while still maintaining flavor and creating an eating experience,” says Catherine Barry, director of marketing, National Honey Board, Firestone, CO. “These trends have allowed the cracker category to push the boundaries on the types of grains and alternative proteins used as the foundation of a cracker product.” She has noticed that many cracker brands are shelving white, enriched flours in favor of whole and ancient grains, which offer a better nutritional profile.

The downside? These alternative grains can carry some off flavors, which need to be offset. One option is the sweetener used in the matrix, and in an environment where added sugars are scrutinized, cracker brands would be wise to choose a sweetener that’s recognizable and clean label, says Barry. “Honey is the perfect ingredient to mask any off flavors that whole grains may carry,” she explains. “Plus, it’s a great marketing tool. Honey is the perfect all-natural sweetener to use not only in the product, but also in the product name and packaging graphics.” As a bonus, she notes the gluconic acid in honey works to elevate the popular herbs and spices used in artisan crackers, like rosemary and garlic.

Some of the alternative grains in play with crackers today are gluten-free, and formulating with these flours and alternative grains can be difficult, says Nesha Zalesny, technical sales manager, Fiberstar. First, non-grain flours don’t have the same binding and water-holding properties as wheat flour, she points out. A clean-label solution to this issue is citrus fiber. “Citri-Fi is a functional fiber that holds seven to 10 times its weight in water and can emulsify six times its weight in oil,” she says.

The result? Manufacturers can use a whole-foods approach to adding nutrients to their crackers, one that relies on the native fiber, oils and protein of the ingredients, rather than adding protein or fiber separately later. “This approach minimizes the amount of ingredients in the cracker, giving it the clean and simple look while still carrying a health halo,” Stephens says.

A flavorful future

Previously a blank slate, neutral-flavored crackers simply won’t cut it for consumers—especially millennials, who want adventurous flavors. “Snack manufacturers should look at the independent and fast-casual restaurant industry for cues on the next flavor trends, as that’s where the millennial and Gen Z generations are spending their dollars,” says Guilfoyle, “and they are looking for those flavor trends on the grocery shelf.”

Zalesny notices Southeast Asian, Indian and African cuisine as leading the way with flavors. Specifically, Burmese cuisine is on her radar, a blend of spicy Indian and Chinese flavors.

Jonas Feliciano, market research manager, Kerry, Beloit, WI, says one way cracker brands can dip their toes into the adventurous flavor trend is by kicking up classic flavors with something unexpected. For example, the well-performing Cheez It Duoz utilize classic Cheddar alongside jalapeño or bacon flavors. Kerry offers a wide dairy portfolio, including Non-GMO Project Verified and organic dairy cheese powders, as well as powders free from colors and flavors.

SaltWorks is meeting the trends with naturally cold-smoked salts like Yakima Applewood Smoked Sea Salt as well as Durango Hickory Smoked Sea Salt, in addition to its flavor-infused varieties boosted with sriracha, ghost pepper and other on-trend ingredients. “These allow cracker and snack food manufacturers to tap into these top flavor trends without having to adjust product formulations or incorporate new or additional ingredients to mask bitter flavor notes that may develop when using liquid smoke or processed ingredients,” explains Novotny.

In the end, for a category in transition, it will be about finding the balance between better-for-you and better-tasting, says Feliciano. “Moving forward, cracker manufacturers will continue to search for the right combination of natural ingredients and bold flavors.”

On-trend launches
From bolder flavors to better ingredients, new launches in 2017 were developed with an eye to trends. Here are three top trends and the new launches that accompanied them this year.

Bold Flavors

Company: Mondel?z International
Varieties: Thai Coconut, Tuscan Herbs, Peruvian Sweet Potato, Greek Hummus
Bonus: In addition to on-trend international flavors, Vea savory biscuits are made with no artificial ingredients, colors, flavors or trans fats, and they’re Non-GMO Project Verified.

Added Nutrients

Crunchmaster Protein Snack Crackers
Company: TH Foods, Inc.
Varieties: Sea Salt, Roasted Garlic, Barbeque
Bonus: Boasting whole grains and 5 grams of protein per serving, this cracker line is clearly positioned as a protein snack.

Ancient Grains

Organic Sprouted Grains
Company: Primizie Snacks
Variety: Smoked Cheddar, Rustic Beets, Ancient Grains, Green Harvest
Bonus: Made with brown rice, teff, millet, amaranth, quinoa and sorghum, these flavor-rich “flatbread crisps” offer 9 grams of whole grains per serving.

Looking Beyond Traditional Fiber (Food Ingredients First)

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15 Aug 2017 (Gaynor Selby) One company that continues to trailblaze in terms of fiber is Ingredion, which late last year launched new fiber ingredients derived from potato and corn, neither of which has yet figured prominently in the fiber enrichment of baked goods. The VERSAFIBE 2470 and 1490 dietary fibers are designed for fiber fortification and calorie reduction in pasta and noodles, baked goods (such as bread, crackers and cookies) and extruded products. They are versatile, process stable, insoluble resistant starch ingredients and can be added with little to no impact on product texture, flavor or color. They can help manufacturers deliver such claims as “good source of fiber” or “excellent source of fiber” as well as “gluten-free,” according to the company. You can read the first part of this report here.

VERSAFIBE 2470 is a corn based fiber, while VERSAFIBE 1490 is a grain-free ingredient derived from potato.

“We continue to experience an increased demand for fiber fortification and calorie and carbohydrate reduction in the retail and foodservice space,” says Igor Playner, Ingredion’s vice president of innovation and strategy, North America.

“By formulating with VERSAFIBE 2470 and 1490 dietary fibers, food developers now have the ability to meet the demand for higher-fiber products with ingredients that are practically invisible to consumers in terms of texture, flavor and color.”

Ingredion already has a robust portfolio of fibers for health and nutrition, including HI-MAIZE resistant starch, a clean label alternative for blood sugar management and energy balance, NUTRAFLORA prebiotic soluble fiber for digestive support and NUTRIOSE soluble fiber for satiety and weight management benefits.

“VERSAFIBE dietary fiber is a synergistic companion to our product lineup,” notes Playner. “It has many functional attributes such as low cost-in-use fiber fortification, is easy to use, highly tolerant and provides a great eating experience in higher-fiber bakery products, snacks and pasta. That’s a winning combination,” adds Playner.

Fiberstar Inc. is another pioneer in terms of functional fiber with its recent launch of Citri-Fi 125, a natural citrus fiber used to improve tomato-based food products by replacing starches and gums in sauces, condiments and spreads. 

As consumers connect ingredients to the foods they eat by reading food labels, they expect recognizable, short and transparent labels, which are driving the need for clean label ingredients – and this is where Citri-Fi 125 comes in. 

“Citri-Fi, a natural citrus fiber created from the orange juicing process, is benefiting from the plant-based food trend. Many customers use this natural fiber in combination with other plant-based ingredients such as vegetable proteins, oils, starches and other fibers to improve the texture, quality and food labeling declaration,” says Fiberstar’s Jennifer Stephens, VP of Marketing.

“Citri-Fi can be labeled as ‘citrus fiber,’ ‘dried citrus pulp’ or ‘citrus flour.’ This natural fiber qualifies under the new FDA dietary fiber definition; therefore, it contributes fiber to food products.”

Although consumers are making more of an effort to either choose high fiber foods and beverages or perhaps take it as a supplement, there is still a gap between the recommended intake and current average intake of dietary fiber for the average person.


Consumer attitudes towards fiber
Recently a large scale investigation into Irish eating trends, diets, grocery shopping and general attitudes towards food, highlighted how health and well-being are more important than ever before in the perception of consumers.

The food attitudes study, carried out by Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board), provides a snapshot of attitudes and is a very interesting piece of research that shows how attitudes towards food have and continue to change. Carried out across eight countries – Ireland and the UK, four Continental European markets, along with the US and China – it involved more than 8,000 interviews.

One key takeaway from the research is that 84 percent of participants are trying to eat high fiber foods, while 88 percent see protein as an important part of their diet.