Prepared Foods Exclusive: Spices--Ginger

By Ann Kraus, Sr. Project Manager, Product Development Services,
and Barb Dillingham, Sr. Project Manager, FFNHP Sector Specialist,

This is the first in a series of technical featurettes by the Guelph Food Technology Centre (GFTC) on ingredient-oriented food product development topics. Different functional or nutraceutical ingredients in demand by consumers and in line with current food trends will be the focus of the series.

Emerging ethnic cuisines are increasing in popularity, and these new foods are becoming more of a global affair.  Ethnic cuisines have a great influence on the types and amount of spices used in processed foods, as different cultures seek to transfer their flavors from the "old country" to their new places of residence.  This is also coupled with consumer’s curiosity about exotic tastes, facilitating the demand to include ethnic spices and mixtures to develop new flavor combinations.  

Spices have been important in food for taste, preservation and medicinal purposes.  Today, natural spices are preferred by consumers for their ethnic flavor components and health benefits.

Nutrition and Function 
Nutritionally, ginger is a good source of potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese and vitamin B5. It has been traditionally used to treat such ailments as stomach ache, diarrhea and nausea (Willett et al., 2003). In clinical trials, ginger or ginger given to pregnant women experiencing morning sickness, to people with a history of motion sickness, to chemotherapy patients and to patients after surgery has improved symptoms, particularly nausea (Willetts et al., 2003; Lien et al.2003; Borelli et al., 2005). Gingerol, paradol, shogaols and zingerone are pungent "hot" compounds in ginger thought also to be linked to the spice’s reported anti-cancer benefits (Shukla and Singh., 2007).   

Food development and sensory
Identify the Issues
Today, spices are not just found in traditional food uses but in a diversity of products such as desserts, sauces, wellness beverages, bakery and confectionery.  The food formulator has a complex web of issues to address that include defining the desired flavor and color contributions, solubility, particle size and the targeted health contributions.  Formulating strategies include carefully adjusting the level of each ingredient contributing to the flavor profile, blending the flavors and ingredients and choosing a complementary base.

Form and Variety
Typically, spices are available in a number of forms: fresh, dried, frozen, whole, ground, crushed, pureed pastes, extracts or infusions.  Aspects to consider when choosing the form are solubility, cost and shelflife.  Variety is also important.  For example, Cochin ginger has a highly aromatic flavor (more curry-like), whereas the African ginger has a smoother profile.   The formulator should taste all the varieties being considered in a base similar to the product. When choosing the ginger type, consider the amount of the active ingredient if health benefits are to be marketed.  If it is a fruity beverage being formulated, try the different variety of spices in a base with similar sweetness and pH levels.  

Balance Flavor Profile
The food formulator has to decide the flavor impact desired from the spice.  The spice may have a subtle mild flavor that peaks at first taste, or a pungent dominating flavor that needs to peak at the end of the system so as not to drown out the other flavors in the product.  Many ethnic cuisines blend aromatic spices with sweet ingredients, and therefore, it is important to balance sweet and heat notes.  One spice may enhance another spice -- for example, mixing a mint and ginger gives a cooler ginger heat profile.  There can be a fine line to balance on between being too mild and too hot.

Current Food and NHP Uses
Ginger is used to prepare vegetable and meat dishes in many countries and as a flavoring agent in foods and beverages such as gingerbread, marmalade and ginger ale (Shukla and Singh. 2007). There is no recommended intake for ginger; however, according to the Natural Health Product Directorate (NHPD)-issued monograph for ginger, NHP products containing preparations equivalent to 0.3-3g/day of dried rhizome (tuberous root) may make the following claims: Helps prevent nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness, and/or seasickness; and Traditionally used in Herbal Medicine to help relieve digestive upset/disturbances including lack of appetite, nausea, digestive spasms, indigestion, dyspepsia and flatulent colic (NHPD, 2008)

Product Development Case Study using Ginger
The Product Development Group at the Guelph Food Technology Centre has recently developed two products to share with clients to demonstrate the center’s capabilities and the innovative use of spices.

GFTC’s Rooibos Tea
The rooibos tea has an infused blackcurrant, mandarin and ginger flavor system.  A water-soluble ginger extract was used with a smooth mild heat flavor (African type). The group determined a sharp pungent ginger profile did not create a good balance between the three flavors in the rooibos tea.  Ginger naturally enhances flavor, giving a background flavor that enriches many products with its sweet and subtle hot spice notes.  Ginger is familiar to most but different when combined with fruit

About GFTC
GFTC is Canada's only independent food technology center.  GFTC offers the food industry scientific assistance; 50,000 sq.ft. of pilot plant and laboratory facilities; product development aid; technical training; consulting and auditing services; and is a resource in functional foods, agriculture, natural health products and global technologies.

Borrelli, F., Capasso, R., Aviello, G., Pittler, M.H., and Izzo, A.A.  2004.  "Effectiveness and Safety of Ginger in the Treatment of Pregnancy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting."  American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; 105(4):849-856.
Lien, H.C., Sun, W.M., Chen, Y.H., Kim, H., Hasler, W., and Owyang, C.  2003.  "Effects of Ginger on Motion Sickness and Gastric Slow-wave Dysrhythmias Induced by Circular Vection." American Journal of Physiology and Gastrointestinal Liver Physiology; 284:G481–G489.
NHPD [Natural Health Products Directorate].  2008.  Monograph – Ginger.  Accessed on:  December 15, 2008.  Available at:
Shukla Y and Singh M. 2007. 2007. "Cancer-preventive Properties of Ginger: A Brief Review." Food Chem Toxicology; 45:683-90. Epub 2006 Nov 12.
WHFoods.  Ginger.  2009.  Accessed on July 9, 2009.  Available at:
Willetts K.E., Ekangaki, A., and Eden, J.A.  2003.  "Effect of a Ginger Extract on Pregnancy-induced Nausea: A Randomised Controlled Trial." The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology; 43:139–44.

From the August 3, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition