Nutritional food products are a top 2007 trend. Foods enhanced with probiotics, prebiotics/fiber, soy proteins, isoflavones, omega-3s and other good-for-you ingredients are popping up in grocery store aisles everywhere. However, if these new items are to maintain their space on the store shelves, they have to taste good. Each food product has its own flavor issues to overcome, depending on nutritional ingredients used, product characteristics, expected shelflife and desired labeling. Here is a look at a few popular nutritional ingredients.


A 2002 FAO/WHO report defines probiotics as “Live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Most probiotics belong to one of the following genera and species: Bifidobacterium lactis, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus acidophilu or Lactobacillus rhamnosus, but some strains of Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus plantarum are also shown to have probiotic properties. Some yeasts strains like Saccharomyces builardi also exert probiotic effect, states Mirjana Curic-Bawden, Ph.D., senior scientist at a supplier of food ingredients including dairy and probiotic cultures.

Fermented food such as yogurt, sour milk, kefir, cheese, pickles, olives and sauerkraut have been a part of human nutrition for millennia, and their positive effect on health has been recognized for a long time. Traditionally, these products were made by natural fermentation, and it is very likely that some of them contained lactic acid bacteria that had probiotic activity. Modern industry relies on pure, safe, well identified and documented strains of bacteria.

In the last two decades, probiotics have been mainly used in fermented dairy products, partially due to the healthy image of milk, but also because most probiotics belong to the lactic acid bacteria and can actually grow in milk. It is important to note that fresh dairy products have a shelflife of 30 to 60 days and more easily retain sufficient amount of live and active probiotic cells.

Curic-Bawden recommends, “As a rule, the probiotic cell count should be at a level that is as high as that documented in clinical trials. Effective levels are strain-specific and range from 100 million to one billion, most practically delivered in a single serving.”

The health benefits of probiotics are strain-specific and are supported by the results of clinical trials. The most popular probiotics used in the food industry have documented effects on balance of microflora in the gastrointestinal tract and/or immune system. Additional documented effects include improvement of status of infant diarrhea and rotavirus, diarrhea associated with antibiotics, constipation in the elderly, traveler’s diarrhea, improved status of the immune system and a positive effect on atopic eczema in infants. Other reported effects of probiotics on Irritable Bowel Syndrome or cholesterol level still need further substantiation. It should also be pointed out that yogurt cultures (Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus) play the major role in acidification and texture formation of yogurt. Their beneficial role on health is limited to improvement of lactose digestion.

“The trend toward natural and organic is driving ingredient innovation in probiotic use. Probiotics are being evaluated in a range of new food items giving consumers new choices in managing their health through diet. Partnering with a reliable supplier of probiotic cultures can help companies work through the technical and market considerations important to a successful introduction of functional food products,” adds Curic-Bawden.

Soluble Fiber

Found naturally in fruits, vegetables and cereals, soluble fibers can contribute to many health benefits such as short-chain fatty acid production, prebiotic activity, bioavailability of certain minerals, satiety, lowered blood glucose and cholesterol reduction. However, not all soluble fibers have the same benefits. For example, studies have shown that resistant dextrin is fermented in the large intestine, where it increases short-chain fatty acid production, whereas oat beta glucan is well known for its ability to lower cholesterol.

“Resistant dextrin works well in energy drinks, flavored water, low-sugar soft drinks, yogurt, smoothies and other milk-based drinks, cottage cheese and soups, because it is clear, has bland flavor and very low viscosity in solution. It is also process tolerant to shear, low pH and high temperature (meaning that the fiber content will remain constant regardless of processing). Inulin is an example of a soluble fiber that may degrade over time at low pH and ambient temperatures, a consideration in its use in shelf-stable beverages. Soluble fibers can also be used at low levels in baked goods,” states Wendy Dalidowicz, nutrition technical service manager for a supplier of resistant dextrin.

Regarding the amount of fiber, individual soluble fibers will have specific dose requirements based on the health benefit and the mechanism of action within the body. Resistant dextrin can be easily formulated into foods and beverages to increase dietary fiber to 5g or more per serving without negatively impacting clarity, taste or mouthfeel. “In a variety of foods and beverages, we have found that resistant dextrin can actually improve upon consumer-desirable attributes such as mouthfeel,” adds Dalidowicz.

“When it comes to fiber, formulators should keep in mind that not all soluble fibers are the same. One major consideration when formulating with soluble fiber is digestive tolerance. Digestive tolerance refers to the amount of an ingredient a typical person can consume over the course of a day without experiencing negative—usually digestive—side effects. Research shows that people typically have a high tolerance to resistant dextrin, which does not cause digestive problems at levels commonly used in beverages (1% to 2%). A typical consumer could have as many as nine servings a day, each containing 5g of resistant dextrin, without experiencing problems,” explains Anne Birkett, nutrition clinical programs manager for a popular starch supplier.

Soy Proteins and Isoflavones

Soy proteins are generally comparable in nutritional quality to milk and egg proteins. Therefore, soy protein is an excellent alternative for vegan formulations. “Compatible with a variety of food systems, soy protein is often incorporated into vegetarian-based meat and dairy analogs, meat extended products, nutrition bars and protein beverages (powder and ready-to-drink soy milks, meal replacements and acidified drinks),” states Lisa Bradford, soy food technologist II, at a popular supplier of soy proteins.

A common nutritional ingredient with loads of health benefits, soy protein often comes with an inherent beany flavor. Off-flavors are often the result of processing and are generally managed by selecting the correct soy protein as well as flavoring ingredient(s). A variety of masking flavors are available that can cover off-flavors associated with soy protein to various extents. In meat applications, a variety of savory notes and spices can effectively work to cover soy. For nutrition bar and beverage applications, dairy, vanilla, spice and fruit flavors help diminish or eliminate soy off-notes.

Whole soybean powders are manufactured by dehulling soybeans and grinding them into a fine powder. Whole soybean powders contain approximately 40% protein. Soy protein concentrates and isolates are higher in protein, containing 70% and 90% protein, respectively.

“Within each category there are numerous protein products with varying functional properties, depending on the specific functional requirements for a given food system.  Food developers should contact the protein suppliers to determine the specific protein or proteins that will meet their needs,” offers Russ Egbert, director of protein research for a soy supplier.

 The FDA has approved a health claim for foods containing soy protein that states, “…evidence demonstrates that the addition of soy protein to a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol may also help to reduce the risk of CHD.”

The claim specifies the daily dietary intake of soy protein necessary to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease is 25g or more per day. (21 CFR Sec. 101.82 Health claims: Soy protein and risk of coronary heart disease [CHD].)

Isoflavones and Hot Flashes

Many studies have also shown promise that another component of soy—isoflavones—have potential to reduce menopausal symptoms and even show a positive affect on bone density. Although some soy proteins contain isoflavones, certain processing steps can remove most or all of them.

Results of 11 published studies presented to the 2006 International Symposium on the Role of Soy in Preventing and Treating Chronic Disease showed some interesting facts. Soy isoflavones exceeding 15mg genistein per day were shown to be consistently effective in reducing frequency and severity of hot flashes in post-menopausal women. Less than 10mg per day was shown to be ineffective. Also, the isoflavone profile that reflected the whole soybean ratio of isoflavones was effective, while supplements not made from virtually the whole soybean were not. The whole soybean contains a higher percentage of genistein than the other primary soy isoflavone, daidzein. These findings conflict with some previous studies. However, these studies generally were focused on a specific type of soy isoflavone.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients in human metabolism. Low levels of omega-3 in today’s diet are a risk factor for heart and inflammatory diseases and possibly psychiatric and neurological disorders, as well as childhood neurodevelopmental disorders.

Manufacturers have been trying to add omega-3 ingredients to foods for years, but it often results in a notoriously fishy taste and odor. With encapsulation, microencapsulation and other emerging technologies, suppliers can now provide omega-3 ingredients without flavor and odor issues.

An increasingly broad range of popular food products fortified with omega-3 ingredients such as dairy, bread, juice, pizza, nutrition bars and candy are now found on grocery store shelves.

Sidebar: Showcase: Prebiotics and Encapsulated Fortifiers; and Omega-3s

One of the world’s leaders in the development of custom nutrient premixes for the food, beverage and nutritional industries claims to be the only international company dedicated exclusively to premix manufacturing. Fortitech premixes integrate functional ingredients from a comprehensive selection of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, nucleotides and nutraceuticals. ISO 9001:2000 certified, Fortitech manufactures each custom premix with unsurpassed standards of quality and consistency. Fortitech has facilities in the U.S., Europe, Asia Pacific, South America and Mexico. Fortitech Inc., Dave Borisenok, 518-372-5155,,

An omega-3 oil that performs well in foods that are refrigerated, frozen and have a short shelflife is now available. OmegaPure® offers a long-chain omega-3 oil made from menhaden fish. The oil contains 28-32% omega-3s, 20-22% EPA and DHA , is kosher-certified and has GRAS status. It is to be stored in a frozen state and gradually thawed prior to use. For maximum stability, the ingredient should be incorporated near the end of process and blended with other ingredients to form a matrix or inclusion, then chelators/additional antioxidants added to help retard oxidation. Finally, vitamin/mineral premixes should be encapsulated. OmegaPure, Albert Riley, 877-866-3423,,

A new fiber offers ground-breaking nutritional and functional properties. ORAFTI has developed Beneo™ (inulin, oligofructose) and Beneo™ Synergy 1, which are both soluble and all-natural fibers. Health benefits include improved calcium absorption, “invisible” fiber enrichment, improved mouthfeel and enhanced gastrointestinal health through prebiotics. Beneo replaces fat and sugar in foods, beverages and nutraceuticals without affecting taste. Synergy 1 promotes bone mineral density at lower use levels. ORAFTI operates in over 75 countries. ORAFTI, Joseph O’Neill, 610-889-9828,,

Issues surrounding fortification of dairy products with iron are now solved. LycoRed Ltd., Israel, has introduced an innovative ingredient for the iron fortification of a wide range of dairy products. The first iron fortifier available that will not affect product color, taste, aroma or texture, this problem-solving ingredient does not interact with milkfat, protein or lactose. Iron-fortified dairy products are especially beneficial for pregnant women and infants, and LycoRed’s iron can be used to fortify milk, yogurt and soft cheeses. LycoRed Corp, 877-592-6733,,

For the ideal choice in cholesterol-lowering products, look no further than the company with a 60% market share in the global food industry. Cognis Nutrition & Health offers Vegapure®, the broadest portfolio of natural plant sterols and sterol esters. Its new $25 million high-performance production facility assures security of supply as demand increases for these key heart health ingredients. Additional formulation support is offered through Cognis’ alliance with WILD Flavors for functional flavor systems. Consumers can find Cognis’ branded ingredients under the HeartChoice™ name. Cognis Nutrition & Health, Scott Backman, 708-579-6188,

To help with the demand for fiber-enriched products, developers can use an organic, GMO-free, highly functional source of soluble dietary fiber (more than 90% on dry extract) obtained from acacia tree exudate. Fibregum™ Bio has been clinically proven to be prebiotic from 6g/day. Fibregum Bio’s remarkable film-forming properties make it the carrier of choice for spray-drying encapsulation to protect sensitive materials such as citrus oils, omega-3, vegetable extracts, bacteria, vitamins or minerals. Fibregum Bio is a unique ingredient that is both functional and nutritional. Colloides Naturels Inc., Sebastien Baray, 800-872-1850,,

Now, there is a soluble dietary fiber derived from corn starch. ADM’s Fibersol®-2 can be added to virtually any food or beverage formulation without affecting taste and is virtually invisible, even dissolving clearly in liquid. Fibersol-2 supplementation has little or no effect on GI tolerance, making it an ideal fiber or prebiotic supplement. Its ease of formulation allows for fiber supplementation in products such as yogurt, tea, protein bars, soups, cereals, snacks and beverages. ADM, 800-637-5843,,

A new line of microencapsulated optimized functional ingredients can be used in a variety of food, nutritional dietary supplements and fortification applications. Maxx Performance delivers high-quality microencapsulation solutions, whether it is a shelf-stable omega-3 for bakery and bar applications or a Tingle Fizz that delivers vitamin C and other nutrients. It can be used with versatile or customized delivery systems, for taste masking of metallic nutrients and odor control, and for delivering ingredients without interaction of developing shelf-stable blends. Maxx Performance, Winston A. Samuels, 845-987-9432,,

An ingredient solution that is uniquely capable of promoting bone, digestive and immune health improves absorption of calcium and maintains healthy digestive and immune functions. GTC Nutrition’s NutraFlora® short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides (scFOS®) prebiotic fiber also provides many positive functional benefits including adding fiber, enriching flavors, improving moistness, lowering carbohydrate content and increasing shelflife of products. GTC Nutrition, John Musselman, 800-522-4682,,

A leading American producer of microencapsulated ingredient solutions and a leading global manufacturer of choline in human and animal nutrition helps companies create novel products for a distinct competitive advantage. Balchem uses proprietary technologies to control, protect and deliver bioactive substances in precisely defined ways. Taste-masked caffeine, heat-stable vitamin C and stabilized probiotics for breakfast cereals are just some examples. Balchem Corporation, Lucien Hernandez,

A new state-of-the-art plant in Norway produces omega-3 fish oils which are refined by BLT Berg LipidTech from cold water fish. Arista Industries’ omega-3s are available in a variety of EPA and DHA potencies, in liquid or dry powder form and can be custom-refined to suit the most exacting specifications. Advanced technology enables Arista to produce oils that are highly deodorized and with the highest possible levels of purity. Typical applications include a wide variety of nutritional and functional foods. Assistance with custom potencies is available from Arista, which has been a leader in marine oil and seafood products for over 75 years. Arista Industries Inc., Mary Ann Siciliano, 800-637-6243,

Here is a prebiotic fiber that is also widely used to reduce calories and replace sugar. Danisco Sweeteners offers Litesse® polydextrose, a prebiotic fiber that has a sustained effect throughout the entire intestine, is less likely to cause lactic acid accumulation that can lead to gastric discomfort and is well tolerated. Litesse is an effective prebiotic applicable to a variety of nutritious foods for optimal digestive health. Danisco Sweeteners, Donna Brooks, 800-255-6837, ext. 2521,,

A new fiber syrup can be applied virtually anywhere sugar can. Frutalose® L90 is an all-natural, chicory fiber syrup from Sensus America containing 92% fiber and 45% of the sweetness of sugar. With the ability to mask artificial sweeteners and improve texture, the properties of low-calorie products can be vastly improved. A recent clinical study has confirmed that Frutafit® and Frutalose inulin ingredients are prebiotic at a dose of 5g/day, paving the way for digestive health claims. Sensus America Inc., Scott Turowski, 646-452-6147,,

The time has never been better for food companies to launch functional food brands with beneficial levels of omega-3s. Pizzey’s Milling, a leader in high-quality, naturally stable flaxseeds, is taking the lead with its MeadowPure™ marketing campaign aimed at educating consumers on the science supporting the health benefits of omega-3s. The company’s educational and awareness campaign begins with a newly designed product label that doubles as an educational tool. The MeadowPure label is a self-adhesive, pull-out vehicle right on the product. Food products formulated with MeadowPure can go straight to market with the logo right beside the health claims. Pizzey’s Milling, Linda Pizzey, 204-773-2575,,

An award-winning, patent-pending nanoemulsion technology has been listed on Forbes magazine’s “Top 10 Nanotechnologies List for 2005.” NutraLease™ is an encapsulation technology that delivers beneficial nutraceutical ingredients to clear oil- or water-based beverage and dairy applications. It improves solubility, enhances bioavailability and absorption, protects ingredients from oxidation and enzymatic reactions, and allows for slow or targeted release of the ingredient. Additionally, it is heat-stable to pasteurization and has low pH stability. CoQ10, lutein, lycopene, vitamins D and E, lemon and orange oils, isoflavone and phytosterol concentrates are some of the ingredients available. NutraLease, Paula Nurnberger, 973-984-0900, ext. 214,,

Now there is a vegetarian source of DHA compatible with many foods and beverages. life’sDHA™, produced from algae, is suitable for use in traditionally vegetarian foods and beverages such as breads, cereals, yogurts, cheeses, milks and juices. In addition, life’sDHA  is free of oceanic pollutants and toxins, comes from an eco-friendly, sustainable source, is safe for pregnant women and children, is available in oil or microencapsulated powder form and is kosher- and halal-certified. Martek Biosciences Corporation, 800-662-6339,,

Applications such as baked goods, breakfast foods, pasta products, processed meats, health foods and nutraceuticals can all benefit from insoluble dietary fiber with the benefits of soy. The Fibred Group offers FI-1 Soy Fibre®, an insoluble dietary fiber that is odorless and tasteless, reduces net carbs and calories, adds dietary fiber, improves yield and mouthfeel and is GMO-free. The fiber’s consistent particle size promotes easy incorporation into both liquid and dry formulations. Its neutral flavor and white color make it the right fiber for a world of applications. The Fibred Group, Chris Idol, 800-598-8894,