“Dressings” It UpConsumer awareness of healthy foods and lifestyles have been a boon for the salad industry and, hence, manufacturers of salad dressings and associated condiments.
According to Joe Higgs, vice president of technical services for Ventura Foods LLC, manufacturers must not only understand consumer preferences and demands, but also know how to manufacture emulsified salad dressings and sauces that retain a fresh homemade character through the products' shelflife.
A dressing in which the emulsion has broken down is not the most attractive sight on the grocery store shelf. He described emulsification as a “balancing act” in which the processor must maintain enough interfacial tension between the oil and aqueous phases to keep them together without causing phase separation and the oil to coalesce. Common stabilizers and emulsifiers that are used include: mono- and di-glycerides, egg yolk, whey, lecithin, polysorbate 60, gums and starches. Manufacturers use a wide range of mixers, which provide shear, to maintain this balancing act. Post-emulsion blend tanks also are used to incorporate particulates such as relishes, other large-size vegetables and cheeses. Adding these flavors provides a level of customization in meeting consumer demand.
Among the top ten flavor-building components for condiments is garlic for aioli mayonnaise, wasabi for Asian-style condiments, pesto, flavored mustards, horseradish, chutneys and flavor-infused oils. Even though consumers demand greater choice, the top-selling dressings remain old standbys, such as ranch, oil and vinegar, Caesar and French. Higgs summarized his presentation by emphasizing that dressings and sauces are great carriers of flavor that provide chefs and processed food manufactures a point of differentiation from their competition.
Lipophilic Starches as Dressing StabilizersElizabeth Lenihan of Tate & Lyle spoke of the virtues of using lipophilic starches as stabilizers in salad dressing formulations. One of the most common emulsifiers used in salad dressings is egg yolk. The lecithin present in egg yolks is an excellent emulsifier. However, eggs are one of the most common food allergens, so replacing eggs with starches allows sensitive individuals to use the products. Playing on this theme, Lenihan cited several advantages to using lipophilic starches. First, eggs must be pasteurized and often are sold as frozen or refrigerated ingredients; so in-plant ingredient handing can be streamlined with starches. Also, there is the potential to enhance overall product safety with starch since eggs also are associated with food pathogens such as salmonella.
Emulsifiers are molecules that have affinity for both oil and water. Lipophilic starches have been modified using n-octenylsuccinic anhydride so that they have fat-loving or lipophilic chains on the starch molecule. These “fat-loving” chains tie up fat molecules while other parts of the starch, the hydrophilic end, combine with water.
Stabilization of emulsions depends on the combination of many factors, including ingredients, processing and a complex interaction of molecular forces. At a molecular level, stabilization can occur by ionic and/or steric means. With the latter, the emulsifier seeks to find a position where it is most stable, aligning its hydrophobic portion with the oil phase and the hydrophobic portion with the aqueous phase, and achieves minimum energy. Recommended usage levels for lipophilic starches is 0.5% to 1.0% starch for every 10% of oil in the formulation. The starches may be of the cooked or instant kind; that is added to the formulation after cooking.
Functional Organic StarchesThe market for organic foods has consistently increased over the past 10 years. Organics, once a niche market, are reaching the mainstream and drawing the attention of most of the major multinationals. Consumers increasingly are aware of organic food and have shown a willingness change purchasing channels, brands and behavior for these options. As a result, the market for organic foods in North America now exceeds $13 billion and is growing at 20% per year. To meet the growing demands for organic and natural products, ingredient suppliers have made great efforts to modify their production operations to produce organic alternatives.
National Starch Food Innovation is no different, says Joseph Lombardi, marketing manager. His company has led in the development of what they call functional native starches that will meet the criteria established by the various organic certifying bodies, yet deliver the functional performance and characteristics previously available only from modified starches.
These products may be labeled according to their native base. For example, if the functional native product is derived from corn, it can be labeled simply as corn starch, making the label much cleaner and more “friendly” to the consumer, who is often “put off” by chemical names. Functional native products may be used in frozen products and other formulated products, including cereals, soup bases and ready-to-eat products (RTE). They possess excellent freeze/thaw stability, will not adversely impact product flavor and may be used to produce products that retain their appearance throughout distribution and storage.
The company has conducted sensory tests with expert panelists who demonstrate that the functional native starches are equal to or superior to regular modified starches in products such as white wine sauce, brown gravy and cherry fruit preparations. Its current lines of functional native starches are derived from corn, rice, tapioca, wheat and potato.