Overcoming Product Development Challenges
In his Prepared Foods’ 2009 R&D Seminar--Chicago presentation titled, “Overcome These Seven Product Development Challenges...Naturally,” Steve Hvizdos, vice president of strategic accounts, Vegetable Juices Inc., outlined some issues facing PD teams today. They are: lower sodium; more fruit and vegetable servings; clean ingredient declarations; replacing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS); natural, authentic flavor; reduced R&D budgets; and evolving consumer demands.

Regarding the lower-sodium challenge, Hvizdos noted, “Some 52% of consumers are monitoring their sodium intakes on a regular basis,” with 26% reading labels for sodium and making decisions based on that information. Food product introductions featuring a reduced-sodium claim rose 115% between 2005-2008, according to Mintel’s GNPD, with companies such as Campbell’s, ConAgra and General Mills leading with successful, low-sodium initiatives.

Some natural ingredient solutions for reducing sodium include using vegetable juice concentrates, such as parsnip, sweet potato or red tomato. Juice concentrates, Hvizdos says, naturally contain minerals, some including significant levels of potassium. Moreover, red tomato juice contains 120mg/100g of glutamic acid, a natural flavor enhancer.

One low-sodium solution presented involved a reduced-sodium chicken broth using concentrates of yellow tomato, celery, carrot and onion, and chicken base. The broth claims a 20% reduction in sodium, with a full, rich flavor, and boasts a full serving of vegetables in each portion. This last claim is important, seeing as some 96% of children aged 2-12 and 90% of adults fall short of the recommended servings of daily fruit and vegetable consumption, offers Hvizdos.

Why use juice concentrates to provide more fruit and vegetable servings? First of all, juice concentrates help deliver great natural flavor, while also delivering fruit and vegetable servings per product serving. Vegetable Juices’ ACT (advanced concentration technology) process retains even more nutrients and flavor.

Another PD challenge, clean ingredient decks, reflects “a growing consumer preference for food products that are more ‘natural;’ feature ingredients that are easily understood and pronounced; are less processed; and contain fewer ‘mystery’ components, such as artificial flavors, colors and flavor enhancers.”

Replacing HFCS is a reflection of both consumer desires and the FDA deeming HFCS not “natural,” says Hvizdos. Some natural solutions: juice concentrates (i.e., sweet potato, carrot and cantaloupe) can be used to offer natural sweetening properties, with no visual impact.

To tackle the need for more authentic, natural flavor, dry/dehydrated ingredients can be replaced with ingredients such as ginger puree; garlic and onion juices and purees; mirepoix juice blends (to replace bouillon); and lemongrass and authentic chili purees. The emphasis is on real foods with real ingredients.

Reduced R&D budgets mean more open innovation, says Hvizdos. This means suppliers become a valuable resource, especially during the initial development phases. Vegetable Juices has responded to this industry trend, he claims, by developing and staffing their culinary center and food science/marketing staffs.

Evolving consumer demands is the last PD challenge Hvizdos covered. He cited demographics, health and wellness, and a new sophistication amongst consumers as major drivers shaping the U.S. food market. Product developers must stay on-trend and achieve speed-to-market and ease-of-use. Cost savings and creative solutions are also crucial, if a product is to see success. He said his company is primed with innovative ingredients and pre-blends, as well as PD support, to help new products meet the challenges of the new millennia.

“Overcome These Seven Product Development Challenges…Naturally,” Steve Hvizdos, vice president of strategic accounts, Vegetable Juices Inc., 708-924-9500, Hvizdos@vegetablejuices.com 

--Summary by Barbara T. Nessinger, Associate Editor


Yeast Extracts for Meats and Marinades
Yeast extracts (YE) can provide a range of functions, including flavor, when used in meats and marinades. Improvements in perceived mouthfeel and tactile properties were just some of the functions discussed by Otis Curtis, business development manager, DSM Food Specialties, in his presentation, “Yeast Extracts--Multifunctional Tools for Meats & Marinades,” given at Prepared Foods’ 2009 R&D Seminar--Chicago.

Yeast extracts are derived mainly from three sources: Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is common baker’s and brewer’s yeast; Candida utilis, or Torula yeast-type, grown on wood pulp; and Kluyveromyces fragilis, grown on whey. Typical forms of yeast include liquid (50-60% solids), paste (70-80% solids) or dry (spray-dried), and many differ in their salt content. Each species of yeast extract varies in the functionality, while the form and salt content are primarily processing and nutritional considerations, respectively. Ultimately, the greatest criterion is the yeast extract’s desired end-effect:  flavor improvement, umami taste and/or mouthfeel; water-binding, emulsification; color contribution and/or sodium reduction.

It has also been shown that “some YEs exhibit antioxidant properties, such as control of warmed-over flavor in meat applications,” and have been “very effective in inhibiting oxidation…in fact, the YE composition could be optimized for this effect, instead of targeting taste or flavor contribution,” according to Curtis, referring to experiments conducted by DSM.  (See chart, “Yeast Extract Antioxidant Activity.”)

With its complex flavor profile, yeast extract has compositional similarities to meats and marinades. In fact, the cooking process for a meat plus marinade can create many of the same key flavor components in yeast extracts, including nucleotides, free amino acids, organic acids, sugars and even some aroma characteristics.

Yeast extracts should be considered flavor improvers, rather than merely enhancers, insists Curtis, “because enhancement is usually associated with MSG, the primary function of which comes from free glutamate. YE contains other components that contribute to their diverse functionality,” rather than simply enhancement.

As for functionality, some flavor improvement components of yeast extracts are the same as MSG’s free glutamate. However, there are many other components in yeast extract that provide desired flavor, such as 5’nucleotides (e.g., IMP, GMP), peptides, organic acids, minerals, vitamins and other flavor components. These “other flavor components” are similar to those nice flavors created on the grill with a piece of marinated meat. Thus, says, Curtis, “You might ask, how is this difference from MSG quantified?” In one experiment especially noted by Curtis, it was demonstrated that a dressing could be optimized to have similar taste and mouthfeel using MSG, compared with one using a high-umami yeast extract. However, the sample using the high-umami yeast extract had 3-5 times less free glutamate compared with the MSG sample. Therefore, formulators can deliver a more complex flavor and impact, with far less free glutamate, compared with straight MSG alone.

Yeast extracts’ possible emulsification properties also have shown promise, as they can help emulsify and bind ingredients and can benefit flavor delivery. “The water-binding and emulsification properties of YEs in application are not well-documented,” explains Curtis, “but we know some insoluble components are potentially working between the oil- and water-based phases, especially in ground or emulsified meat. The insoluble components of the cell walls will vary in composition, but are theorized to help with the emulsification, and can have a positive impact on flavor and moisture retention.”

New product introductions using yeast extract show use in poultry and fish products, meat products and meat substitutes. Yeast extracts in marinades show use in seasonings, cooking sauces, meat pastes and pâtés, as well as other sauces and seasonings.

“Yeast Extracts--Multifunctional Tools for Meats & Marinades,” Otis Curtis, business development manager, DSM Food Specialties, 484-477-329, Otis.Curtis@dsm.com 

--Summary by Barbara T. Nessinger, Associate Editor


How to Differentiate Through the Use of Flavors
What is flavor? Why use it? How can one particular product be seen as unique? These and many other questions, plus macro flavor trends, were discussed by chef Christopher Warsow, Bell Flavors and Fragrances, in his Prepared Foods’ 2009 R&D Seminar--East presentation, “How to Differentiate Your Product Through the Use of Flavors.”

To start, chef Warsow presented a few definitions of flavor, including the American Society of Chemists’, which says, “Flavor is the sensation caused by and those properties of, any substance taken into the mouth which stimulates one or both of the senses of taste and smell and/or also the pain, tactile and temperature receptors in the mouth.” The FDA’s is considerably shorter, saying simply: “Substances added to impart or help impart a taste or aroma in food.” The Council of Europe’s definition could be open to interpretation: “a chemically-defined compound which has flavoring properties.”

Clearly, every definition has some similarities (i.e., a flavor is a compound that stimulates the senses of taste and smell). Chef Warsow displayed a Flavor Pyramid, whereby he labeled the top the “Key,” or the area that contains both aroma and chemicals. The purpose of this key area is to give characteristic perception to flavor; to maintain the character of flavor through processing; and to enhance flavor perception. He also explained three possible portions of a key flavor, with an example: characteristic chemicals--strawberry flavor; contributory elements--juicy strawberry; and differentiation--juicy wild strawberry.

Flavor constituents consist of the flavor key, additives/base notes and solvents/carriers. Flavor keys might include oleoresins/absolutes; essential oils; extractives; juices; yeast/HVP; or aroma chemicals. Additives/base notes can consist of juices, spices, acids, colors, antioxidants, preservatives or perception enhancers. Solvents/carriers can be vegetable oil, propylene glycol, alcohol, water, salt, dextrose, maltodextrin, cyclodextrin, whey or starch.

There are various things to consider when choosing a flavoring. Questions to ask include: What is the flavor type? What label declaration is required/desired? What flavor form and/or strength is needed? What are the solubility needs? What sensory effect is desired; what are the processing conditions; what other ingredient will be in the product; what are the cost parameters; and when is it needed?

Making a product unique includes the use of flavor modifiers, such as MSG-like products and enhancing agents. Also discussed were the uses of uncharacteristic flavors in formulations, such as cucumber in ranch dressing, beef flavor in tomato sauce and tamarind in BBQ sauce. Adding freshness is a way to add flavor to traditionally “flat” products. Canned goods can benefit from fresh vegetable profiles. Seasoning blends with fresh herbs, instead of dried, and vacuum-tumbled meats infused with fresh garlic can make a “flavor comeback.”

Chef Warsow also recommends adding authenticity to make a product more unique. “Flavors can add authentic profiles for hard-to-find ingredients, such as achiote, chimichurri, sriracha and balsamic vinegar.” Adding exotics also works, such as rare or expensive flavors, like camu camu, guavasteen, yuzu or açai added to juices or extracts. 

Products can be made less expensive by using olive oil, cocoa, lemon juice, raspberry juice, honey or maple flavors. Another benefit of using these flavors is consistency.

In conclusion, chef Warsow recommends making a product stand out--“Don’t be afraid to use flavors in non-traditional ways. You can make an ordinary product extraordinary, if you know what your destination is, before you leave the dock!”

“How to Differentiate Your Product Through the Use of Flavors,” Christopher Warsow, chef, Bell Flavors and Fragrances, 847-291-4058, cwarsow@bellff.com

--Summary by Barbara T. Nessinger, Associate Editor


Creating an Ice Cream Feature Flavor
How to create a truly unique, interesting ice cream flavor was the topic of discussion of the Prepared Foods’ 2009 R&D Applications Seminar--East presentation given by Peggy Pellichero, senior food technologist--dairy team leader, David Michael & Co. In her presentation titled, “Creating an Ice Cream Feature Flavor,” she explained that many things go into the development process, when deciding to create a new feature flavor. These include: researching ice cream trends; formulating feature flavor concepts; selecting an ice cream base; choosing background flavors; selecting inclusions; formulating trials; evaluating sensory properties; creating costing and production formulations; and marketing the finished product.

Researching trends, says Pellichero, is an on going process. Using publications, including blogs and websites; actual restaurant menus; and something she termed “supermarket snooping” are all important factors in the research.

When sleuthing the supermarkets, do not just use the ice cream aisle, either. Grocery, bakery, beverage and confection sections of supermarkets can all inspire ideas for new ice cream flavors. Also, supermarkets alone are not the only store source--try health food stores or even ethnic food stores (such as Asian, Indian or Hispanic).

Manufacturers’ flavor lists, such as those used at Ben & Jerry’s or Well’s Blue Bunny’s top 10 flavors, can also provide current trend information. Publications, such as Prepared Foods, Dairy Foods and The National Dipper can help, as well. Some of the top blogs to check out, says Pellichero, include The Roadfood Digest, Two Dips Ice Cream Tasters, Scoopalicious, All Things Ice Cream and Ice Cream.net.

When it comes time to select an ice cream flavor concept, Pellichero recommends brainstorming using the collected data; narrowing the field; identifying a gold standard; and evaluating key attributes.

Next comes choosing an ice cream base that will complement the flavor selection. The choices include super premium (16% butterfat), premium (12-14%), regular (10%), light (half the fat of regular ice cream), low-fat (less than 3% butterfat per serving) or fat-free (less than 0.5% per serving). Most of the newest ice cream introductions have been in the slow-churned light category.

David Michael’s flavor selection, says Pellichero, historically involves the use of natural flavors, which is also the current trend. Fanciful ice cream may use either natural or artificial flavors. The flavor, however, she says, “needs to be clean, balanced and well-represented.”

When creating trial formulations, Pellichero advises checking inclusion manufacturers’ lists and ordering a variety of them. It is important to create several variations; make changes and reformulate; and let the ice cream age. The ice cream is evaluated using sensory techniques, sometimes comparing it back to the gold standard.

When working on costing and production formulation, such things as the cost of vanilla, scaling up formulas and using the correct usage rates expressed in fluid ounces per 100 gallons of mix all need to be taken into consideration. Marketing considerations should include a fanciful name; a description of the prototype; a photo session; and samples should be prepared for sales, presentations and trade shows.

“Creating an Ice Cream Feature Flavor,” Peggy Pellichero, senior food technologist--dairy team leader, David Michael & Co., 215-632-3100, ppellichero@dmflavors.com, www.dmflavors.com

--Summary by Barbara T. Nessinger, Associate Editor


The Top Three Issues Facing the Food and Beverage Industry
How can product developers utilize taste modifiers to address obesity? How can they, in turn, utilize them to address sodium reduction? How to address cost cutting? These questions, and others, were answered during a presentation given at Prepared Foods’ 2009 R&D Seminar-Chicago, by Mariano Gascon, vice president of R&D, Wixon Inc., in a speech titled, “The Top Three Issues Facing the Food & Beverage Industry.”

Obesity is not new and has certainly been in the news of late. Health and wellness is increasingly important to all consumers, because, as Gascon says, “Dieting is out...Healthy living is in.” Americans, he claims, are “all dieted out,” citing the number of Americans who say they are actively “on a diet” is at a two-decade low (according to a 2008 New York Times article). Instead, consumers are incorporating healthy living and eating into their lifestyles.

According to Gascon, obstacles arise when food developers are faced with the challenge of reducing calories, particularly those with high levels of sugar. Many traditional products are being reformulated by reducing the amount of sugar, in an effort to make them healthier. “Product developers use a combination of high-intensity sweeteners, such as sucralose, aspartame, ace-k, stevia, etc., to mimic the taste of sugar ...The product must taste like the sugar it is replacing,” opines Gascon.

“To that effect, taste modifiers help product developers optimize the taste of the sweetener blends to taste more like sugar and improve consumers’ perceptions of low-caloric foods,” Gascon concludes. Wixon’s solutions for helping formulators include an ingredient that synergistically enhances regular sugar; another that synergistically enhances high-fructose corn syrup; and one that provides a synergistic enhancement of stevia.

Sodium reduction is also of concern, with the average consumption of salt far outweighing what should actually be consumed.

Many dietitians and physicians are citing salt as the number one killer, worldwide--worse than obesity, AIDS, malaria or tobacco. A Mintel report shows low-sodium is a hot trend with consumers, as well, with 46% evidencing interest in “low-salt/-sodium” foods.

“Salt substitutes, plus taste modifiers, allow food developers to obtain sodium reduction over 25%, by making them taste more like salt. Specifically, the most successful salt replacers are obtained by using potassium chloride. Although potassium chloride tastes like salt, it has a bitter aftertaste that can be drastically reduced by using taste modifiers,” stated Gascon.

Wixon’s solutions for helping formulators include an ingredient that improves the aftertaste of KCl to make it taste like salt; and a salt replacer with only 50% of sodium and a full salt taste.

Traditionally, taste modifiers are additive ingredients, added “on top” of food products to mask, enhance or modify the taste. Yet, some modifiers can be used to enhance the taste perception of flavors, as well as other high-cost ingredients.

“For example,” says Gascon, “product developers are suggested to work with their flavor house, with a combination of high-intensity sweetener systems. By adding taste modifiers to the sweetener blends, the usage of HIS can be reduced.”

Some of Wixon’s solutions for helping formulators include an ingredient that not only synergistically enhances stevia, it also reduces usage by as much as half--offering substantial cost-savings.

“The Top Three Issues Facing the Food & Beverage Industry,” Mariano Gascon, vice president of R&D, Wixon Inc., 414-769-3000, mariano_gascon@wixon.com

--Summary by: Barbara T. Nessinger, Associate Editor


Marinades Make Meat Products Tasty
Marinades help meats taste better and remain moist, and the flavors can be tailored to meet a variety of needs.

Lori Evans, director of technical sales, Spicetec Flavors & Seasonings, explained the basic building blocks of a good marinade and how manufacturers can go for the gold standard, during her presentation, “Meats and Marinades: Flavor from the Inside Out,” given during Prepared Foods’ 2009 R&D Seminars-Chicago. First, target the product and flavor profile; then, create a matching foundation by using flavors to capture and concentrate that desired flavor; the flavors should also replicate authentic cooking characteristics and give that “freshly made” perception. A few factors that can jeopardize this goal are high temperatures that volatilize flavor compounds, freeze/thaw cycles and consumers who do not heat/cook the product optimally.

True, lasting flavors are built from the inside out, and there are three main parts to this: building blocks, which affect characteristics, such as moisture, texture, color and sweet/savory balance; flavor profile, which defines the flavor and ethnic authenticity, and includes items such as herbs, spices, enhancers and top notes; and the flavor and appearance of the food, which is influenced by dry rubs and glazes, topical pieces and consumers’ interaction with the item.

It is also helps to understand the function of muscle components, in order to season them properly, explained Evans. For example, meat is muscle.  It is comprised of 75% water (juiciness, color and flavor), 20% protein (featuring three types of protein; offers nutrition, texture, color and water-holding capacity), 3% fat (flavor, juiciness and texture) and 2% carbohydrate (influences pH, which can affect everything) and ash. Since muscle holds water, it is key in holding flavor and succulence. There are three types of water in meat: bound, intermediate and free. The goal, explained Evans, is to increase bound water, while reducing free water and effectively managing water-holding capacity. Three things that can impact water-holding capacity are ionic strength, pH and meat quality. To increase ionic strength, developers should include salt and/or other sources of a net + charge; also, they should use neutral-pH ingredients or use phosphates or other buffering ingredients. Finally, it is important to pick raw materials that are of good quality; leaner meats hold more water.

To have a successful marinade, said Evans, there are several critical elements. The marinade must have a memorable flavor impact, which can be achieved using a unique mix of spices, herbs, salt, seasonings, peppers, concentrated oils and flavors, and other ingredients; the marinade must be able to penetrate the meat uniformly; the marinade must also be retained by the meat, and this depends on water-holding capacity, pH and functional ingredients; lastly, the consumers must like the product’s appearance and cost, and the marinade must be easy to use.

When it comes to marinades, there are several variables. Marinades that are applied by tumbling are typically used on smaller pieces of meat, such as boneless chicken breast and meat chunks (i.e., ham and beef). This method provides even and accurate pick-up, and the protein extracted during tumbling aids in the adhesion of particulates. The meat should be macerated for more surface area.

Marinades that are injected (stitch pumping) are frequently used for large meat items, such as whole chickens and turkeys, as well as hams, loins, briskets, etc. While they can be used for both bone-in and boneless cuts and offer an even distribution of solution throughout the meat, marinades without controlled acidity can degrade the meat, and colored marinades can discolor the product. It also is important to use soluble or fine ingredients small enough for the injector needles.

“Meats and Marinades: Flavor from the Inside Out,” Lori Evans, director of technical sales, Spicetec Flavors & Seasonings, lori.evans@conagrafoods.com,www.gilroy foodsandflavors.com

--Summary by Julia M. Gallo-Torres, Managing Editor


Vanilla Flavor Blends Follow Trends
Although many newly launched food and beverages possess trendy components of interest to consumers, they are also notoriously famous for needing the familiar. It has often been suggested that, when introducing a more exotic product or one with “fantasy flavors,” a well-known ingredient or flavor also be included for customer comfort. It could easily be argued that of all flavorings, or even food ingredients, vanilla can most easily fulfill that role. Vanilla can be found on the front label of creative new products, but also in a traditionally flavored variety, where its popularity provides an option to more adventuresome choices.

For example, early in 2010 in the U.S., Gnosis Chocolate introduced Cashew Goji Berry Raw Chocolate, declared by the manufacturer to be vegan and “free from refined sugar, cholesterol, gluten, dairy and soy,” but rich in protein and oleic acid, according to Mintel’s Global New Product Database (GNPD). There were bold items in the line, such as Immune Boost, Powerchoc and another Superfruit flavor, Pomegranate Açai, as well as the popular offerings of Cool Peppermint and Vanilla Hazelnut.

Vanilla participated in perhaps an emerging flavor trend, as seen in products introduced by Tuscan Heights Lavender Gardens in the U.S. in 2008. Their line of Organic Lavender chocolates included “Lavender Vanilla Dark Chocolate Truffles.” The company noted its products were 100% certified organic and fair trade, and their sales support a women’s cooperative in Nepal.

Although little to no clinical research has been conducted supporting vanilla’s own health properties, it has been integrated into the foods-for-health trend in a variety of ways. For example, vanilla is frequently paired with chocolate, a food and flavor possessing a growing reputation for its antioxidant-based health properties. Research with Mintel’s GNPD shows that chocolate is the most common flavor paired with vanilla (by far) in the Desserts and Ice Cream and Baked Goods categories. Other common flavorings appearing with vanilla can be seen in the chart “Vanilla Flavor Pairings in Dairy.” 

Associations with cancer, even in a positive sense, have long been avoided by food marketers. This is changing, as more food and beverage manufacturers have taken advantage of FDA-allowed health claims linking certain foods with reduced risk of cancer. (For more on this health association, search for “Nutritional Product Opportunities” at www.PreparedFoods.com. Please use quotation marks.) A common tactic taken by some companies has been to more subtly link products to non-profit cancer-related associations, similar to the previously mentioned product referring to the Nepalese women’s cooperative. For example, in 2008, The Republic of Tea introduced a “Sip for the Cure” line that benefits Susan G. Komen’s “Race for the Cure” cancer charity. A Pomegranate Vanilla variety was included in the line, along with Red Cherry White Tea and Grapefruit Green Tea, among others.

While vanilla has long been a superstar flavoring in its own right, strategic use of this worldwide component can be used to support more exotic flavorings and food ingredients, as well as products striving to ride the latest trends in health, convenience or ethical positionings.pf

--Claudia D. O’Donnell, Chief Editor