Home » Temptations with Good Properties -- July 2007
The use of omega-3 fatty acids has been growing for over 20 years. The May 2005 “Omega-3 Oils Market Analysis” report by Datamonitor predicted a rosy future for omega-3s. The forces that will drive this market are greater health awareness; an aging population; a shift in marketing focus towards healthier products; greater purchasing power; a demand for greater convenience and immediate health benefits; and technological advances that allow the development of healthy products that enhance flavor, odor and stability.
Some of the primary sources of omega-3 fatty acids are flaxseed and coldwater fish. The former contains ALA omega-3 (alpha linolenic acid) and the latter DHA and EPA. The U.S. market for functional health foods was valued in excess of $28.1 billion in 2003. This market is expected to maintain growth levels of 6.6% through 2008. (See chart “Functional Foods Market Sizes and Expected Growth.”)
Statistics show very high consumer awareness regarding omega-3 fatty acids. However, even though over 50% of adults consume some kind of omega-3 supplement or omega-3 fortified food, people are confused over its health benefits, according to the Datamonitor analysis report.
If one examines specific market segments for omega-3 fortification and the omega-3 label, one sees significant increases in a number of different areas. Breads and pastries—often fortified with flax or flax oils—had new product releases numbering from less than 20 in 1999 to almost 200 in 2005. Similar trends were noted for beverages, which jumped from 112 in 1993 to 426 in 2005. Salad dressings, spreads, dips and oils had 172 new releases in 2005, according to Datamonitor online. Processors have also added omega-3 fatty acids to ice creams, frozen novelties, yogurts, pasta and pasta dishes, vegetables, pizzas, hot snacks and side dishes. There has been a similar increase in new products that contain flaxseed with an omega-3 label.
One of the benefits of omega-3 addition is that the FDA has allowed processors to make health claims for products with added omega-3. Products that contain 260mg of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) or 1.3g of flaxseed may be may be labeled as a high, rich or excellent source of omega-3, whereas a good source of the nutrient must contain 130mg of ALA or 0.65g of flaxseed. Processors may also make structure-function claims. Processors may say that omega-3s will support cardiovascular health, the immune system and general health. These types of claims need not be previewed by the Agency and do not need to include the disclaimer “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA.” Consumers appreciate these claims because they are simple and to the point.
Obesity is a problem in the U.S. and in many other nations. In response, the number of low-, no- or reduced-sugar products that have been released in the past five years has spiked upwards, according to Mintel’s GNPD. (See chart “Low-/no-/reduced-sugar Product Launches.”)
In developing low-, reduced- or no-sugar products that meet consumer expectations, the first step is to understand the roles of sucrose and corn syrup in foods. For example, sucrose helps develop cell structure during mixing. It increases the gelatinization temperature of flour; increases the coagulation temperature of egg protein; controls the volume of a cake or spread for a cookie; binds moisture; and provides texture. Of course, it also adds sweetness. So, replacing sugars or corn syrup means that any replacement ingredient must provide both flavor and functionality.
Polyols or sugar alcohols (polyhydric alcohols) are one of the most effective and commonly used ingredients as bulk sugar replacers. Not recognized as sugars by the FDA, these carbohydrate derivatives, containing only hydroxyl groups as functional groups, are often found in nature but manufactured commercially from starch hydrolysates. Since polyols are metabolized differently than traditional sugars and carbohydrates, lowering blood glucose levels and reducing calories, they have been used for decades by diabetics. Furthermore, their structural similarity to sugars provides excellent bulk replacement and functionality, unlike high-potency sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose. However, because they have a reduced functional group (hydroxyl), they do not produce the typical caramel flavors or browning reactions like sugars. Therefore, products manufactured using polyols, such as cheesecakes, may have a lighter appearance. Polyols also have a heat of solution, which can be defined as the amount of heat absorbed or released when dissolved in water. Typically, these “heat of solution” values are negative for polyols in crystalline form and vary greatly from one another. Consequently, as these values decrease or become more negative, a more pronounced cooling sensation is perceived when eaten. Polyols also vary greatly in their solubility in water, which can affect the shelflife or eating quality of a finished baked good such as a cake or cookie.
The key, therefore, is to select a polyol that most mimics the sugar or carbohydrate polymer for which it is being substituted. Generally speaking, for replacing a monosaccharide, consider the polyols sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol or erythritol. Disaccharide substitutions, on the other hand, use maltitol, lactitol or isomalt. Lastly, when it comes to corn syrups, consider maltitol syrups or polyglycitol syrups.
By carefully looking at the various physical properties—such as relative sweetness, humectancy, heat of solution, solubility and relative laxation—the developer can create high quality “reduced-sugar,” “no sugar added” or “sugar-free” baked goods that consumers can enjoy.
“Understanding Polyols in Bakery Applications: Issues and Opportunities,” Peter R. Jamieson, manager of applications research, SPI Polyols Inc., email@example.com, www.spipolyols.com