The drying process used at Crystals International Inc., Plant City, Fla., produces powdered fruit ingredients that retain the flavor, color and nutritional benefits of real fruit. To ensure high quality and consistency, the company carefully specifies, selects, inspects and QA analyzes raw materials.
"Unlike alternative processes, our continuous vacuum freeze-drying system does not rely on excessive heat to facilitate the removal of water. As a result, there is very little oxidation and/or degradation of natural juice attributes," says Steve Hicks, technical services manager.
The company produces three lines of fruit and vegetable powders, Crystalse, Crystal Capse and Crystallettese Freeze Dried Flavors. The Crystals feature 50-100% juice content. Crystal Caps have up to 30-50% juice content and are encapsulated. Crystallettes are flavors containing freeze-dried juice powder, essential oils and flavors. The company also supplies Sweetened Condensed Milk Powder (whole and skim versions) under the CrystaLacw name.
Fruit powders form the heart of quality dry beverage mixes. Formulators can include them in dry dessert mixes for puddings or mousses. For savory applications, the powders give flavor to dry spice mixtures, such as lemon pepper, jerk and fajita. They also function in dry mixes for salad dressings, marinades and sauces.
The dry Crystals line provides flavor and other functions to baked goods. It holds in additional moisture, and its humectant effect helps preserve texture and extend shelf life. The ingredient functions in cakes, cookies, muffins, breads, pancakes, waffles, cereals, bagels, biscuits and other baked goods.
"One very popular application of our products is using them as replacements for juice concentrates and/or purees," says Hicks. "By comparison, they do not require refrigerated storage, need less inventory space, are easier to measure, have a longer shelf life and can be available year-round (with an accurate forecast).
"When our fruit powders are reconstituted, they will exhibit the characteristics of the juice concentrates and purees used in their manufacture. This includes constituents such as protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, minerals, trace elements, vitamins and amino acids." The free-flowing powders mix readily and hydrate very quickly. Manufacturers can label the fruit powders as "freeze-dried juice concentrates and/or purees," so they contribute to a clean label.
Juices and purees are common ingredients in beverages, salad dressings, baby foods, confections, desserts, cereals and sauces. Fillings for snack bars or energy bars contain juices and purees. For dairy applications, they add flavor to yogurt and ice cream, fruit-enhanced milk or cream, cream cheeses, spreads, cottage cheese and mousses or puddings.
If a food product developer is looking for a natural color, he/she can turn to the deeply colored powders such as carrot, blueberry, cherry, Concord grape, raspberry and cranberry. They contain carotene or anthocyanins, which add orange or red tones to foods and beverages.
In an effort to satisfy current market trends, the company has made non-GMO versions and GM-Alternative versions of its Crystals powders. The carriers used in the non-GMO line are maltodextrins processed from identity-preserved corn that is certified non-GMO. The GM-Alternative line is made with potato maltodextrins.
Crystals International is currently developing a nutraceuticals line that will have very detailed and precise nutritional profiles and will be certified to contain particular levels of nutrients.