With the wide variety of vitamins, minerals, botanicals and nutraceuticals that can be used to fortify foods and beverages, premixed ingredient systems exist to allow manufacturers benefits and savings that require almost no effort to attain. Premixes also offer manufacturers greater product consistency and greatly reduce the chances of using incorrectly weighed materials during finished product manufacturing, especially when considering that the levels of certain nutrients must be rendered in the microgram range.
Premixes also can be tailored towards specific therapeutic categories, such as bone health, heart health, cognitive health and weight management. Some foods and beverages are required by law to be enriched with specific nutrients. Examples include milk products, breads, rice and noodle products.
According to Euromonitor International, the market for fortified/functional products will record a strong, constant annual growth of 5% during 2012-2013—$11.5 billion globally. Consumer demand has driven the growth of healthier and more “natural” products, with cleaner labels, and, while they still want to see the standard nutrients on their packaged food labels, they also want antioxidants and other phytochemicals from all-natural plant sources incorporated into the products they buy.
Premixes can constitute micro- or macroingredients, or a combination of both. That is, a system of different vitamins and minerals can be provided or customized to fulfill a specific recommended daily amount per serving. Or, manufacturers can add premixed vegetable powders to formulations or even nutrient premixes. For example, spinach, carrot and/or tomato powders incorporated into pasta products would not only add color and flavor, but also other micronutrients. From a marketing standpoint, these ingredients also add strong label appeal.
Premixes: New Online Options
Although the recent trend has been for ingredient companies to create innovation research centers and literally build closer partnerships with food and beverage makers—some suppliers are taking custom premixes a step further. Virtually.
It’s possible now, with participating companies, to actually start premix development online, following a pattern that takes formulators through the first stages of conceptualization. Some suppliers even offer prototypes. Typically, using a worksheet approach, the processor enters information on the product type, including the method of processing involved. For example, the manufacturer may note that its process involves high-heat (i.e. baked) and/or extruded production, etc. Processing conditions also are crucial, and include such parameters as expected or needed shelf life, colors, flavors, consistency, temperature constraints—even serving sizes and packaging expectations. The supplier’s technology feeds these many details process to an expert, who will contact the formulator with ideas for solutions to the premix challenge.
If this trend proves successful, carrying things to the next level will open the door for product designers to see the procedure through as far as desired. It is not far-fetched to expect to build premixes from start to finish remotely, submit the details and receive a solution. Then a formulator simply approves it and may receive a prototype of the premix—or even a sample of food or beverage made with it—express shipped within days.
Nutrients on Balance
The baking industry has been a vanguard of premix development. In fact, bakers have used standardized enrichment blends for more than 70 years. State laws require producers of white bread and white flour to enrich their products with thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron and folic acid (with calcium optional). And, although breads made from whole-grain and non-wheat flours are exempt, they, too, typically contain such enrichment.
Consumers, in fact, have come to expect it. Baking premixes also include leavenings and even custom-made combos of flours and flour types. By employing premixes in baking, manufacturers can assure the precision consistency necessary in baking.
Formulators consider several important technical aspects when developing premixes for bakeries. Primary are the choice of carrier material, nutrient interactions, nutrient bioavailability, label claims and stability of the nutrients during the processing conditions. These aspects also should include consideration of the end-product’s subsequent shelflife.
Several factors will impact the stability of nutrients. These include light, heat, moisture (relative humidity), oxygen and pH. While minerals are generally quite stable, the stability of vitamins or volatile compounds (leavenings or yeasts) can vary considerably.
Most processing involves high heat and moisture, which damage many nutrients. One method for preserving these nutrients throughout a product’s shelflife involves deliberately including certain overages: that is, extra amounts added to the ingredient formulation. The amount of overage will be different depending on the susceptibility of the nutrient to chemical and/or heat breakdown.
For example, while niacin is relatively stable, vitamins A, B1 and C are highly unstable and require a higher overage to preserve their potency throughout the product’s shelflife. (See chart “Suggested Overages for Certain Nutrients.”) Such overages are safe and effective, and premix formulators can fine-tune the system to suit the manufacturers’ needs, depending on the product and the processing methods that will be used.
Product formulators should take note that the addition of an overage for a nutrient can mean less room in the final formulation for other ingredients. Another point to consider is that various forms of a nutrient compound also affect the actual value of the desired nutrient and, thus, meets the label claim.
For example, a much higher amount of calcium gluconate would need to be added to obtain the same level of calcium as calcium oxide. This is because the calcium content of the oxide form is 71.47% as elemental calcium, while for the gluconate form, it is only 9.31%. (See chart “Variability of Calcium Content in Different Mineral Supplements.”)
Nutrient premixes also need to be fine-tuned to account for the bioavailability of the included functional ingredients. While some companies will add a calcium compound in their premix for marketing purposes, it might not be the most bioavailable form for the body. In general, oxides, sulfates and carbonate forms of minerals are not as soluble or bioavailable as the phosphate or lactate salt forms of calcium.
However, particle size, cost and the potential for a gritty or chalky mouthfeel also must play a role in the form of nutrient selected. Premix formulators should be skilled to not only create the right balance for active and functional ingredients, but also to anticipate the processor’s specific needs for the intended formulations.
Today, there is hardly a beverage on the market that does not promise consumers some form of benefit, such as increased energy or cognitive enhancement. Many manufacturers opt to combine the colors, flavors and even sweeteners into beverage nutrient premixes to enable ease of production. But, beverages are more color-dependent than most formulations, and specific nutrients can contribute color to a beverage.
Riboflavin can produce a greenish-yellow color—great, if the formulation is for a lemon-lime flavored drink—but tricky if it’s going into, say, a “blue raspberry” beverage. Beta-carotenes can add a spectrum of colors from yellow and orange tones to strong reds. And, some minerals, such as copper and chromium, will add a blue or greenish tint.
With few exceptions, one would have to add overwhelming amounts of these ingredients as colorants in order to attain functionality as nutraceuticals. But, finished products generally do not rely on nutrients as the primary source of color.
The intensity and stability of these colors depend on the system they are being added to, and the concentration of the material used. However, it is possible to incorporate color sources, like natural anthocyanins or artificial FD&C colors, into the premix to produce the desired color intensity. For those beverages that need to remain clear, premixes have been created to remain essentially clear in solution (i.e., resveratrol, beta-carotene and vitamin E).
The water-soluble vitamins, such as B and C, as well as various mineral forms, such as chlorides, lactates and gluconates all are transparent in aqueous solution. Clarity is a function of solubility and, therefore, if the nutrient is soluble in water at a certain pH level, then it will remain clear indefinitely, unless the system is altered.
Other ingredients that can be added to beverage nutrient premixes are amino acid chelates. These are minerals complexed with different amino acids and offer enhanced bioavailability. Examples include calcium or potassium aspartate, magnesium glycinate, and chromium nicotinate or picolinate. They boost the profile of their respective mineral nutrients and provide more absorption than the more commonly employed mineral salts.
However, amino acid chelates also are typically more expensive an ingredient. Also, restrictions of particle size could impact mouthfeel or even flavor. An amino acid chelate also can react with other mineral compounds.
While nutrient premixes are commonly provided in powder form, a number of companies have developed liquid premix systems for beverages. One marketing trend has manufacturers storing a measured single-serving dose of the premix in the bottle cap until ready for use. This is a quick-and-easy way for a consumer to add the nutrients directly into the beverage liquid when desired, but it also protects the nutrients from light, moisture and oxygen while the product is stored.
Flavor and related issues become especially important with premix formulas where liquid is concerned. Certain vitamins can taste “medicine-y,” and alkaloidal energy ingredients will be bitter. And, most minerals can leave a metallic taste in the mouth. Nutrient premixes that have been developed for beverage applications specifically possess reduced bitterness or have reduced odor (e.g., from omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA).
Sometimes nutrients can react with each other to produce negative flavor and color changes, especially in a beverage product. In many tea-based or high-polyphenolic beverage applications, iron in its ferrous divalent (+2) form will react immediately to form a gray-black precipitate in the presence of ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Ferrous iron can also react with calcium carbonate, forming brown specks in heat-processed products.
Utilizing a stabilized ferrous sulfate instead can prevent this result. When fortifying a fruit-juice product with a more soluble form of calcium, tartaric acid from grape juice can cause the formation of calcium tartrate—an insoluble precipitate—thus defeating the purpose of the fortification.
Many of these degradative chemical reactions between nutrients can be managed through the appropriate use of the proper chemical form and also via prudent processing conditions. For example, vitamin B1 (thiamin) will degrade in the presence of carnitine, a nutrient sometimes found in beverages targeting muscle health. If a company is careful to manage the addition of the nutrient pre-blends during the manufacturing operation, some of these issues can be minimized.
Manufacturers cannot simply add vitamins and minerals to any food product. Twenty years ago, the FDA established a principle called the “jelly bean rule” to prevent food companies from adding vitamins to junk foods in order to allow them to be marketed as healthy.
The FDA declared that, just because a food is low in fat, cholesterol and sodium—i.e., like a jelly bean—the manufacturer cannot make a health claim for it unless it contains at least 10% of the daily value of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, protein, fiber or iron.
Additionally, the FDA also declared that manufacturers may not fortify foods with these nutrients for the sole purpose of making health claims; it does not consider it appropriate to fortify fresh produce, meat, poultry or fish products; nor to fortify sugars or snack foods, such as candies and carbonated beverages.