- MARKET INSIGHTS
Natural Red AheadConsumer research shows color plays a major role in consumer food selection. Red is one of the most “eye-catching” colors attracting consumers to the food itself. Natural red colors can enhance the appearance of foods by making them appear more like “Mother Nature's” products, which adds value in that they are perceived as fresher.
Natural colors are those derived from fruits and vegetables. In the past, it was assumed that natural colors were hard to work with, performed poorly, were expensive and had limited applications. According to Stefan Hake of GNT USA Inc., these all are myths. Today's natural colors can be used effectively in a wide variety of applications. The primary sources of natural red colors are tomatoes, grapes, red cabbage, elderberries, hibiscus and carrots. These products should be processed only without chemical solvents or preservatives, which expands their application to the organic market.
As a user, it is important to work with a supplier that is a base producer and can ensure the consistency of color intensity and shade. The supplier should be in a position to verify that the extraction method used is in accordance with good manufacturing processes, that it is not processed with any chemical solvents, and that it is a fruit and/or vegetable color and not just a selective extraction of the color pigment.
Sweet and SourAcidulants provide foods with unique taste and flavor characteristics. According to Daniel Sortwell of Bartek Ingredients, six acids are used in non-chocolate confectionery products--acetic, citric, fumaric, lactic, malic and tartaric. Each has unique properties that product developers consider when deciding which ingredients to include in a new product.
Acetic acid has the greatest sourness per weight, but its vinegar flavor limits its applications in confectionery products. Malic acid, which occurs naturally in all fruits, enhances fruit flavors, acts as a flavor blender and has more persistent sourness than citric acid. Citric acid, also found naturally in fruits, has a refreshing sensation, because its sourness dissipates quickly. Like malic acid, citric acid provides sourness reminiscent of fruit. Combinations of citric and malic acids are used commonly in fruit-flavored confectionery products for this reason. Tartaric acid, which occurs naturally in grape and tamarind, provides a brusque sourness that can add a hard edge to a taste experience. Fumaric acid dissolves slowly and, therefore, extends the release of sour perceptions in acid coatings and chewing gum. Lactic acid is produced by fermentation with lactic acid bacteria. It is a milder acid and provides a cream note valuable in dairy or dairy-and-fruit-flavored items. Using these acids in combination increases the total sourness per unit weight of acid, due to the sourness additive effect. Some products may even use four different acids. Mixed buffer pairs also provide greater sourness than single anion pairs.
Many products use sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and isomalt. To achieve the optimum sweet/sour balance in these products, the acidulant or acidulant combination is adjusted to mirror the temporal profile of the sweeteners used. Since these sweeteners provide more persistent sweetness than sucrose or fructose, it makes sense to use acidulants with lingering sourness such as lactic, fumaric and malic acids in these products.
Functional ConfectionsConfectionery products are fun foods, considered by most to be in the “junk food” category. However, since such products are enjoyed by so many, they have the potential to serve as a unique vehicle to provide consumers with beneficial nutrients that can make a healthy diet more enjoyable--provided, of course, manufacturers can deliver the goods.
Manufacturers of confectionery products have introduced a wide range of sugar-free and reduced-calorie confections. Innovative ingredients, such as a prebiotic mineral blend, also could be used to deliver additional benefits to consumers who want to indulge without sacrificing taste and health.
Prebiotic fibers, such as short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides (scFOS), deliver a variety of meaningful health benefits, such as enhancing immunity, encouraging the growth of beneficial intestinal flora, improving blood lipids and increasing mineral absorption. To amplify these benefits, scFOS are blended with a natural mineral matrix that contains calcium, magnesium and up to 70 trace minerals to create a unique prebiotic mineral blend. A prebiotic mineral blend such as this may be used to fortify confectionery products and provide the added benefit of enhancing bone health.
In addition to health benefits, according to Juliana Zeiher, a food applications manager at GTC Nutrition, such a prebiotic mineral blend also will provide superior texture and taste profiles. Prebiotic blends may be used in a variety of products, including bakery items, health bars, beverages, cereals, confections, dairy and dairy alternatives, meat products and analogs, pasta and dietary supplements. Unlike many calcium products, the scFOS in the blend will not produce chalky off-notes in products, allowing users to declare higher calcium levels in their products. The product is also a good source of fiber.
Sweet RetreatTable sugar or sucrose is the most commonly used sweetener. Of the 20 teaspoons of sweetener the average American consumes each day, sucrose makes up 40%. Alternatives to sucrose, however, provide not only sweetness, but also other functional benefits. These alternatives include molasses, malt extract, rice syrup and invert sugars. Molasses is the concentrated, expressed juice of sugar cane. Unlike pure sugar or sucrose, molasses is a mixture of different sugars, ash and organic acids. Molasses is available in various color and flavor profiles.
The functionality of molasses may be modified to meet the needs of customers. It has sweetness, can mask off flavors and will enhance certain flavors such as butterscotch, caramel, coffee, roasted peanuts, maple and chocolate. It also is a source of natural caramel color, and the invert sugars in molasses will produce a golden brown color as a result of Maillard browning. Molasses has a wide range of applications, including bakery items, sauces, confections, breads, cookies and ethnic foods.
Malt extract is a flavorful, viscous, brown sweetener produced by mashing malted barley in the presence of water. The soluble portion is called wort and may be concentrated to up to 75% solid. Malt extract also has a variety of applications and may be formulated to meet many more. Able to enhance flavors and impart color (a rich, reddish hue), it also is a source of protein.
Rice syrup is the result of steeping brown rice with natural enzyme preparations, converting mashed grain into a smooth-flavored and sweet liquid. The mash then is filtered to remove the insoluble portion, yielding an extract that may be concentrated.
The applications of these alternative sweeteners are many and varied. They can be manipulated in their manufacture to produce products with various solid levels, colors and flavor profiles, allowing their use in almost any item needing a touch of sweetness.
Designing ColorWhen product developers are given the task to develop a new product, the color is often an integral part of that task. There are those who feel that choosing the right color and suitably incorporating it into their finished food for the desired shade and stability is simple. According to Byron Madkins of Chr. Hansen, this is rarely as easy as one thinks and often can become quite difficult, depending on the food system, as well as the desired stability and batch-to-batch consistency.
All colors, whether natural or synthetic, pose unique challenges to the product developer. Each individual color has a different stability and functionality. What works in a beverage system will not necessarily work in confections. Colors also must be properly introduced or applied to the finished food. This is another aspect of the development process often overlooked. For example, dyes can be dissolved in a food system, whereas pigments must be dispersed uniformly to impart their color consistently. The point of addition in the process also becomes critical.
Madkins specifically addressed how to best select and introduce the color, specifically dependent upon the food application. This included: a) the use of color pre-dissolved in water [or in other solvents, such as glycerine or proplyene glycol]; b) using colors co-dried or spray-dried onto suitable carriers; c) using formulated systems containing colors that are pre-dispersed into carriers such as sugar syrup or oils, to allow the color to better disperse or mix into the given application with consistency; and d) using color-emulsion systems, for more complex foods or processed foods containing more than one phase, for example.
These color systems can be formulated with natural colorants, synthetic colors or both. These “primary” colors also can be blended to achieve any desired shade. The blends can be formulated into the systems described to truly provide the optimal color system for a given food application.
Furthermore, other functional ingredients, such as gums, starches, acidulants or even flavors, can be formulated into these color systems to provide multi-functional ingredient blends. The type of colorant and the means by which that color is added to the food product depends on the product and the demands of the marketing group. Whether the ultimate goal is an all-natural product or a more conventional item, manufacturers are encouraged to work with their vendors to determine the ideal way to accomplish this.