Healthy Foods Can Taste Good!

In his Prepared Foods R&D Application Seminar titled “Healthy Foods Can Taste Good!” Mel Mann, director-flavor innovation, Wixon, began by reminding the audience of the myriad conditions that must be met in order for food formulators to use the term “healthy.”

Eating healthy is no longer a “trend”—it has become part of a healthy lifestyle for millions. “It is a continuously growing market,” Mann avers, and it “spans small entrepreneurial start-ups to international CPG’s…It is much more than just naming.”

Consumers have different strategies for how to attain healthy goals, however. The list includes everything from cutting calories to eating more fruits/vegetables to cutting back on full-fat dairy. Said Mann, “Half of all Americans make an effort to avoid sugars and salt, while slightly more than half of Americans try to consume fibers and whole grains.”

Taste is still the most important factor—regardless of how those consumers have chosen to go about their plan for a healthier lifestyle.

This leads to a “formulation conundrum,” said Mann, where formulators must “take perceived ‘bad’ things out, but maintain their function for taste and texture, and must also put perceived ‘good’ things in—but without interfering with the expected taste and texture.” Another issue is the need to use “non-chemical-sounding ingredients, and few of them.”

In order to help consumers eat more vegetables, a formulator must try “make vegetables taste good.” Some methods include, “Combine [vegetables] with other flavors by stuffing, blending, coating, marinating, etc.” Use of diced meats, grated cheese, flavored breadcrumbs, fruits, hummus, flavored oils, sautéed onion/garlic/shallots, can all enhance the taste experience of vegetables.

There are a number of cooking methods available to enhance vegetables’ taste, including grilling, broiling, and sautéing and blanching. Meanwhile, longer cooking times mellow flavors, soften textures.

He added, “Evolution has led us to prefer sweet and salty tastes (for energy and endurance), while also leading us to avoid bitter and sour tastes (to avoid toxins and spoilage).” These conditionings can be altered by experience with different foods and eating—even more so when the offending taste can be modified.

This “baggage” of bad tastes comes from proteins, vitamins, minerals—not to mention salt/fat/ sugar substitutes and nutraceuticals. One approach to overcome these obstacles is flavor masking, which, said Mann, is a psychochemical means of changing taste attributes. Using strong counter-flavors, such as salt, sweeteners and acidulants; and congruent flavors that complement undesired taste to point of modification are both successful approaches.

Flavor blocking—the chemical means of changing taste attributes—is another option. An example of this was presented where a potassium-based salt substitutes can reduce sodium but may impart a metallic/bitter aftertaste. The solution: Block unwanted flavors while retaining salty flavor.

Another flavor-blocking approach would be when sweetness may not be desirable in energy foods, where sugar is the energy source. A solution is to reduce sweetness perception by blocking intensity. Bitter blocking agents can be used to reduce undesirable taste when adding proteins, vitamins or phytochemicals at high levels.

Mann advised, “Sweetness perception can be lowered by the small addition of bitter taste, and bitter can also be blocked by the addition of small amounts of sweeteners.”

Current methods include the use of specific botanical extracts and synthetic chemicals, either alone or in conjunction, to mask certain flavors. Some natural flavors are used to enhance specific tastes, such as sweetness, or to reduce other tastes (like sour) in a profile. Also, high-intensity sweeteners at low usage can mask certain flavors.

Flavor enhancers discussed included neohesperidin dihydrochalcone and thaumatin, and lactisole as a sweetness enhancer. Neotame (aspartyl-derived dipeptidecan) be a flavor modifier at low usage or a high-intensity sweetener at higher usage.

Other ingredients for either flavor/sweetness enhancement include anethole (anise, fennel extracts), for general flavor masking at low levels; alanine, for moderate sweetness enhancer and mild acidic suppressor; and glycine to reduce the bitter aftertaste of saccharin and zinc-based minerals. Other solutions for bitter aftertaste were discussed.

Cooling agents can aid in reducing the bitter perception by numbing taste buds. Simply adding more salt or sugar will help reduce the perception of bitter, due to competition on the tongue. Earthy notes from botanical extracts can be tempered by adding fruit flavors or masking agents, like furaneol or hexenal.

A novel approach is the use of nanoparticles, where Mann says the “physics of taste change at very small sizes–physical aspects, like particle size and shape, influence taste perception. What was an off-flavor may disappear.” Use of nano-laminated coatings can mask undesirable flavors.

Making this work means being very application-specific. Work with a flavor chemist to identify candidates and to ensure the chosen method complements other flavor elements.

Mann advised, “Be aware of undesirable reactions between modifiers and other ingredients; flavors easily get out of balance.” It is also recommended to use just enough for the desired response to avoid changing desirable flavors. “It only takes a little to deliver the effect,” finished Mann.

“It’s Time to Get Rid of the ‘Baggage’ Associated with Healthy Foods–They Can Taste Good!” Mel Mann, director-flavor innovation, Wixon,, 414-978-9184


Carbohydrate Ingredient Systems for Weight Management

As the world’s obesity problem continues to grow, so does the need for quality, healthful ingredients that target weight management.

According to an IFIC 2014 Food & Health Survey, some 60% of respondents said they would be very-to-somewhat likely to substitute lower-calorie foods for full-calorie alternatives. This opens a huge area for food formulation with starches and gums.

Anne Craddock, senior applications scientist; and Dr. Ibrahim Abbas, senior R&D manager, Penford Food Ingredients, tackled the subject of starch and gum functionality in weight management products in their Prepared Foods R&D Seminar titled “Carbohydrate Ingredient Systems for Weight Management.”

Starch is the second-most abundant carbohydrate biopolymer in nature and is readily available, economical and functional, stated Craddock and Abbas.  It is composed of two carbohydrate biopolymers: amylose (a linear-chain molecule) and amylopectin (a branched-chain molecule). Granules of starch vary in shape and size, depending on the plant in which it is found.

During cooking, those granules hydrate in water. “Upon heating, amylose leaches out from the granules, becoming more disorganized, less crystalline,” the pair stated.

Upon cooling and storage of starch pastes, starch polymers will re-associate via a network of hydrogen bonding. This re-association grows stronger as more hydrogen bonds are formed and continue to form. In a gel form, this will result in synersis (water separation). There are various chemical modifications of starches, including cross-linking, substitutions, hydrolysis, dual modification and oxidization.

Gums are hydrocolloids, which are long-chain polysaccharides of high-molecular weight. They are water-soluble and also hold a large quantity of water. Gums modify the rheology of aqueous systems to which they are added.

Gum systems, which are made up of a gum plus other gums or starches, can create improved or different textures; greater stability; and can reduce overall stabilizer usage levels.

The challenges of formulation with fat-reduced products are varied. They include poor texture or mouthfeel; oil and water separation; viscosity and/or elasticity issues; ice crystallization/ice crystal issues; moisture migration and synersis; loss of aeration and body; and protein degradation and separation. In addition, there can be a loss of the fat-like, creamy mouthfeel and possible sandy, gritty textures.

“Starches and gums can help benefit food products that are designed for the weight management market,” said Craddock and Abbas. Starches can help with fat and sugar replacement, as well as resistant starches adding dietary fiber.  Gums help recreate texture and mouthfeel in low- or reduced-fat products.

Moreover, “Starch and gum synergies allow for increased viscosity and a decrease in usage levels.” They can result in improved textures and reduced graininess; reduced retrogradation and synersis; and provide a more stabilized viscosity over a wider temperature range. Another benefit is enhanced freeze/thaw stability, with the addition of cold-soluble food gums for moisture management.

Resistant starch (RS) can be used as a reduced-calorie carbohydrate ingredient in the form of dietary fiber.

“RS is the starch that is resistant to enzyme digestion and is not absorbed in the small intestine of healthy individuals. RS displays many physiological benefits of dietary fiber in the large intestine,” they stated.

Potato resistant starch is “an insoluble RS that contains dietary fiber. Its technical characteristics include the fact that total dietary fiber is minimum of 85% (dry solids basis); and dietary fiber content resists digestion in the gut.”

The health benefits of potato RS include: a source of fiber; for caloric reduction; and it is both non-allergenic and non-GMO.

Packaging claims for a vanilla almond biscotti made with potato RS are “reduced calories” and “increased fiber.” In sugar reduction, potato RS can be a 1:1 substitution for sugar and can replace up to 25% sugar in bakery products.  “Reduced sugar” or “less sugar” claims can be made, depending on the food product. There is a need to use high-intensity sweeteners to restore the sweetness, they cautioned.

Another example, a 25% reduced-sugar sugar cookie made with potato RS, is able to support claims of “reduced calories,” “increased fiber” and “25% sugar reduction.”

A “starch-based solid fat replacement system” was also explored. It is non-GMO and can replace solid fat (i.e., butter or Crisco). Because it is potato-based, it is non-allergenic. Its many functional benefits include a bland taste, creamy texture, and it maintains volume in baked goods. The health benefits are caloric and fat reduction (both saturated and trans), and cholesterol reduction.

The presenters also delved into how reduced-calorie meat products can be produced by replacing fat with a pre-hydrated, structured, potato starch gel product. 

“Carbohydrate Ingredient Systems for Weight Management,” Anne Craddock, senior applications scientist,, 303-643-1693; and Dr. Ibrahim Abbas, senior R&D manager,, 303-645-0167, Penford Food Ingredients,


Healthy Snacking Through Fruit 

Snacks are a category with enormous past and future growth. People are snacking more and eating smaller meals. Fruits and vegetables are mandated by the USDA as part of a well-balanced, healthy diet. The melding of fruits and snack foods is literally a marriage made in health heaven.

Kevin Holland, Ph.D., product developer; and Emily Munday, culinologist/nutritionist, at Tree Top Inc., discussed fruits’ inclusion in snack foods and beverages in a Prepared Foods R&D Seminar titled “Healthy Snacking Through Fruit.” 

The session began with some statistics on snacking. Snacks account for 580 calories per person, per day. Time spent on snacking has increased tremendously—where time people spend on eating went from 15 to 30 minutes, and time spent drinking up from 45 to 85 minutes per day. Moreover, beverages now account for 50% of the calories acquired through snacking.

The benefits of including fruits in snack foods/beverages are many and varied. On the health side, fruits contain fiber and antioxidants, provide energy, are gluten-free, contain no added sugar and are GMO-free. Fruits also can reduce certain health risks, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc.

Fruits are stars on the functional side, as well, providing flavor, color, sweetness, acidity and water-activity control.

“Snacks are being viewed less as empty calories,” the pair stressed. “Fresh fruit is the most widely eaten snack across many demographics, and consumers view snacks as an opportunity to eat healthier.”

The healthiest consumers snack 26% more than the average consumer, which means “R&D should tailor their products to meet the needs of healthy snackers,” averred Holland and Munday.

Some FDA-approved snack claims for fiber-containing products include, as a sample: “Low-fat diets rich in fiber-containing grain products, fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancer, a disease associated with many factors.” The requirements of such a claim are that foods must meet criteria for “low fat” and, without fortification, be a “good source” of dietary fiber. Claims must not specify types of fiber and must use “fiber,” “dietary fiber” or “total dietary fiber,” and “some types of cancer” or “some cancers” in discussing the nutrient-disease link. Other claims and health conditions were outlined, as well.

Some possible marketing claims that can be considered when formulating with fruit are “made with real fruit,” “made/sweetened with fruit juice,” “contains no HFCS” and “no added sweeteners,” as well as antioxidant claims. However, beverages with juice typically have to declare the % of juice, and a company cannot make any claim towards preventing or treating any disease or symptom beyond what the FDA allows.

Before starting a project with fruit, Holland and Munday advised asking the following questions:

  1. What is the target moisture/AW/texture?
  2. What piece identity are you looking for?
  3. What treatment or process meets your needs?
  4. What other functional ingredients are allowed?
  5. What label claims are you making?
  6. What are the target shelflife and storage conditions?
  7. What is your cost target?

Once the decision has been made, what fruit ingredients should product developers turn to for their products? Top fruit ingredients according to Mintel’s GNPD, include the leaders (lemon juice concentrate, apple juice concentrate) and some interesting newcomers, including blueberry juice concentrate, pear juice concentrate and raspberry purée. Moreover, “Juice concentrates provide natural sweetness; fruit flavor shines through in application,” said Holland and Munday.

Some commonly available fruit forms outlined in the presentation included fresh; frozen (IQF and solid pack); purée (single-strength and concentrate); juices (NFC, concentrate and WONF blends); and fruit preps and dried fruits (infused, air- or drum-dried powder, freeze- and formulated-dried).

Varieties of strawberry fruit forms were discussed in depth, with an examination of purée, juice and fruit prep, as well as drum-dried powder, freeze-dried and fruit clusters.

Formulation with Tree Top’s fruit bases has many benefits. They are customizable, depending on formulation needs. They are also suitable for a variety of applications, including beverages, sorbets, ice cream, stabilized bakery fillings and sauces.

Fruit bases can be formulated to the customer’s specification. Tree Top’s product developers are well equipped to work with a range of ingredients to meet the target, and their fruit knowledge allows them to choose the right fruit ingredients. Specified attributes can include Brix, pH, fruit servings or percent, viscosity, water activity, allowable ingredients, etc. Fruit bases are a convenient, consistent approach to add fruit and take the guess-work out of fruit formulation.

Some examples of formulations made with fruit (demonstrated in the presentation) included snacking mix, fruit smoothies, and a fruit and chili dipping sauce.

“Healthy Snacking Through Fruit,” Kevin Holland, PhD, product developer, Tree Top Inc., 509-697-7251,; and Emily Munday, culinologist/nutritionist at Tree Top,


Creating Healthy Formulations That Satisfy

Food is designed by manufacturers to meet consumer demands, and while health and wellness are trending, so are indulgence and convenience. As an industry, there is a need to provide all the food choices consumers want, and food science innovation is key to being successful in this area. In 2050, the population will have grown to 9.5 billion from today’s 7 billion; enough food will need to be produced, providing an amazing opportunity for food companies.

“The biggest health and wellness trends today are sugar and calorie reduction, fiber fortification and sodium reduction. Predictions are that these trends will be key revenue growth drivers over the next three years,” discussed Luis Fernandez, senior vice president-global applications, Tate & Lyle, in his PF R&D Seminar presentation titled “Creating Healthy Formulations That Satisfy.”

People are not eating enough fiber; because of this, there is a health consequence. The food industry has the opportunity to motivate people to increase daily fiber intake by developing products with added fiber. The situation for sodium is opposite; people are eating more sodium than recommended, creating a major opportunity to reduce sodium.

Ingredients innovation can provide solutions that enable manufacturers to take of advantage of these opportunities. Open innovation is becoming more popular. Sharing ideas and leveraging knowledge across global networks, universities, countries and sometimes companies can be a win-win opportunity.

For example, 30 years ago, sucralose originated was discovered by Tate & Lyle in collaboration with the King’s College of London.  After 20 years of approvals, it is now an important tool in sugar and calorie reduction.

“Opportunities for sucralose continue to be strong, but the consumer trend is ‘natural,’ so the opportunities for the high-intensity sweeteners, like monk fruit extract and stevia, cannot be denied,” stated Fernandez.

As for fiber, many different sources and ingredient solutions, both soluble and insoluble, exist. For example, polydextrose and soluble corn fiber are well-tolerated at the FDA’s recommended intake of fiber at 25-40g/day and function in a number of applications.

For sodium reduction, 64% of global consumers say they try to minimize or avoid foods high in salt, but they do not want it to affect the taste of their food. From a manufacturing standpoint, salt is cheap, with many functions, and it is very challenging to replace. The perception of low-sodium foods is generally that they will not taste good, which is why consumers often reject them.

“The challenge,” explained Fernandez, “is how to communicate to consumers that a food is low in sodium, but still tastes great.”

Fernandez discussed a proprietary ingredient that allows a 50% sodium reduction without any change in taste. The proprietary technology transforms salt into hollow salt microspheres, giving the same taste with less salt. Acacia gum or maltodextrin also are used in the commercial manufacturing of the salt microspheres, to obtain the hollow microstructure. They are very stable, except in water, and work well in bakery applications. Snacking is also a growing category, and healthier snacks are often seen baked, rather than fried, and with less sodium. 

In summary, the big three health and wellness opportunities include calorie and sugar reduction, fiber enrichment and sodium reduction. Consumers are looking for clean labels and good taste. In order to achieve the best of both worlds, solutions need to play between science, technology and consumer perception.

“Creating Healthy Formulations That Satisfy,” Luis Fernandez, senior vice president-global applications, Tate & Lyle; for information contact Kelly Noonan, 847-396-7531,
—Summary by Elizabeth Pelofske, Contributing Editor


Preserving Cellular Health Through the Aging Process–Central Roles of Glutathione and Hyaluronic Acid

Glutathione, essential for the survival of all living organisms, is a tripeptide made from glutamic acid, cysteine and glycine. The acronym AID stands for its functions in the human body: antioxidant, immune booster and detoxifier. Glutathione plays a crucial role in protection from harmful compounds produced in the human body and in the environment. Synthesized in the liver, glutathione escorts fat-soluble compounds, like pesticides and herbicides, out of the body. Glutathione can also be obtained from diet; it is found in liver and some fruits and vegetables.

“The ability to produce glutathione tends to decline as we age, and as this happens, aging is accelerated. The biggest decline is seen between ages 60-80. If someone is able to live into their 80s, it is often found they have higher levels of glutathione,” explained Michael Murray, consultant to Mitsubishi International, Food Ingredients, in his PF R&D Seminar, “Preserving Cellular Health Through the Aging Process–Central Roles of Glutathione and Hyaluronic Acid.”

Glutathione potentiates all antioxidants and vice versa. Protecting against lipid peroxidation, glutathione supplementation is used in treating lung diseases by boosting glutathione content in the respiratory lining. It also has a role in alcohol detoxification, where it is used in Asia to scavenge the acid aldehyde (intermediate compound) in alcohol that damages the liver. It has been shown to reduce the blood alcohol level by 50% and provide a significant reduction in hangover symptoms. Dietary glutathione can also positively affect diabetes, Parkinson’s and autism, showing its importance in brain functions.

Murray noted, “In diabetics, increased oxidative damage occurs when glucose molecules attach to proteins (glycation), which leads to reduced glutathione synthesis. When given a glutathione infusion, Parkinson’s patients’ symptoms disappeared. There is also a link between glutathione and autism—autistics having shown reduced glutathione levels and 33% more inactive glutathione.”

Another compound promoting cellular health is hyaluronic acid (HA), a polysaccharide found in the extracellular matrix, and often referred to as “our intercellular cement.” HA holds the body together, attracting water into connective tissues and skin. A rapid drop in HA occurs in humans around age 45. By age 80, approximately an 80% decrease has been shown, explaining why wrinkles start showing at about age 45 and progress as people age. Cells lose the ability to hold moisture, leading to loss of integrity and structure.

A key strategy to promote longevity in Japan is a diet high in HA, as shown by the number of 80- or 90-year olds with no wrinkles. This highlights the importance of maintaining the extracellular matrix. HA acts as a storage depot for water, maintaining cell integrity and supporting connective tissues, ligaments and cartilage. It also helps fight inflammation and controls cancer growth. Osteoarthritis (OA) is another area for application of HA, with supplementation improving overall function of joints, especially in those with higher pain.

“Time and money spent on beauty is increasing, and HA is a major supplement in the beauty-from-within category,” Murray stated. The skin is high in HA, and as people age, HA content decreases. HA helps skin look smooth and retain water; and reduces fine lines and wrinkles. Skin contains 50% of body’s HA, which explains why in aging, skin decline is typically seen first.

“Preserving Cellular Health Through the Aging Process –Central Roles of Glutathione and Hyaluronic Acid,” Michael Murray, consultant, Mitsubishi International, Food Ingredients, 480-659-6733,  
—Summary by Elizabeth Pelofske, Contributing Editor


Nutritional Formulations for Prepared Foods

Fortification involves much more than just blending nutrients. Most pre-blends are customized and specific to particular uses. Blends can contain a variety of nutrients; are designed around customer label and claim needs; and may be specific to certain age groups or daily value (DV) requirements.

Nutrients with high DVs, such as vitamin A at 5,000 IU per day, are more difficult to incorporate into small products. Alice Wilkinson, vice president–quality & nutrition, at Watson Inc., discussed considerations when fortifying. She summarized this information in a presentation titled “Nutritional Formulations for Prepared Foods.”

Nutrient form can be huge. “For example, vitamin A palmitate is more stable and usable than other forms. Beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) has no toxicity issues (like vitamin A palmitate at high levels) and is often found in women’s and pregnancy vitamins for that reason. Dark-orange in color, challenges occur when adding it to light-colored foods, such a vanilla shake,” she explained.

Vitamin D increases calcium and phosphorus absorption, promoting healthy bones and teeth. Since cholcalciferol (vitamin D3) is from cholesterol (animal sources), there is a big push to use ergocalciferol (D2) instead.

“Vitamin K helps prevent internal bleeding and promotes proper blood clotting, but it is regulated, and not all foods can be fortified with it,” Wilkinson advised.

Thiamine (B1) has a problematic benzoate-like flavor; riboflavin (B2) has color issues but is more stable than thiamine. Niacin (B3) is the most stable of the B vitamins, but it is easier to work with niacinamide than niacin alone, which can cause face flushing. 

Biotin has gained interest for hair, nails and skin, but very little is needed, making homogeneity difficult. Folic acid has been shown, at the right levels, to decrease neural-tube defects occurring as early as day two or day three in pregnancy. Therefore, appropriate levels of folic acid in the population are important.

Wilkinson noted that “folic acid is the unsung hero of the vitamins; it is easy to work with, good stability, but a little overage is needed.”

“Choline,” explained Wilkinson, “while having no DV, is a nutrient of interest with potential positive effects in Alzheimer’s patients. Although choline can pick up water and taste fishy, there is a huge surge in its use in medical foods.”

As for minerals, calcium is well-known for bone health and other benefits. Its large DV poses challenges, especially in small products. With a calcium claim, a phosphorus claim is nice too, as they work synergistically. Using di-calcium phosphate can help achieve both.

Magnesium is important for nerve and muscle function, and its relatively low 400mg DV is offset by its reactivity with other ingredients and pH. “And, since teenage girls decided they do not need red meat, they are tremendously deficient in iron. Adding iron to food can be challenging, but elemental iron is a little less reactive and more stable than other forms, but has magnetic properties,” cautioned Wilkinson.

“Often, compromise is necessary to make a product functional but still taste good,” Wilkinson added. It is easier to start with the desired label and understand the finished product.  A premix can be engineered to customer needs. Chocolate and peanut butter cover up a lot of off-flavors and are easier to incorporate pre-blends into than some other foods.

“The key,” stated Wilkinson “is to ask a lot of questions; understand processing conditions and overages needed. For example, with vitamin A, a cold product might need 20% overage, but a product with heat retort or a two-year shelflife would need more. The later in the processing that the vitamins are added, typically less overage is needed.”

Particle size adjustment is important in pre-blends, as every gram needs to be identical—no variability is allowed. Various types of encapsulation can help eliminate bad taste, and unique particle sizes can be created for textural and other functional effects. 

“Nutritional Formulations for Prepared Foods,” Alice Wilkinson, vice president–quality & nutrition, Watson Inc., 203-932-8266, Encapsulation surrounds each particle in a powder with a protective layer or barrier. The critical property for hot melt encapsulation is the quality of the coating. When determining which agent should be utilized for hot melt encapsulation, that melting point needs to be higher than the product processing temperature.
—Summary by Elizabeth Pelofske, Contributing Editor