As you walk down the aisle of your local grocery store nowadays, you’ll find more better-for-you snack and bakery choices. Companies know that consumers are reading ingredient labels more closely—and even private label is getting in on the game.

Clean-label detailed
“When it comes to sourcing, consumers are increasingly more knowledgeable about food ingredients, which influences the products they purchase,” says Frank Flider, oils expert, QUALISOY, Chesterfield, MO. “They are no longer satisfied with merely knowing that a food is nutritionally beneficial—they want to know why.”

In baked goods, shortenings are important ingredients for cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pastries and icings, notes Flider. “Nutritional needs must be balanced with the desired performance of the oil or shortening in question.”

When it comes to fats and oils, the main nutritional attributes that are considered include low saturates and high monounsaturates. High-oleic soybean oil, which can be used as a fat source or a frying oil, contains lower saturated fat and three times the amount of monounsaturated fatty acids compared to conventional and other high-stability oils, explains Flider.

“Oils are typically 20 to 30% or more of snack foods and baked goods,” says Mary LaGuardia, Omega-9 Oils market manager, Corteva Agriscience, DowDuPont, Johnston, IA. “Formulating these foods with oils that have a healthier profile—for consumers and the environment—delivers the better-for-you options consumers crave while still providing the functionality and performance producers require.”

More consumers now look for foods produced in a sustainable way, remarks LaGuardia. She notes that high-performance oils such as high-oleic Omega-9 Canola Oil meet this requirement.

“Omega-9 Canola Oil is naturally stable, so foods stay fresh without additives or artificial preservatives,” adds LaGuardia. “The unique fatty acid profile in Omega-9 Canola Oil was developed through traditional plant breeding, providing manufacturers a Non-GMO Project Verified option.”

Some fibers are more label-friendly than others. FDA announced this past June that chicory root fibers will enter the newly established list of approved dietary fibers, says Jon Peters, president, BENEO, Inc., Parsippany, NJ. This means that BENEO’S ingredients (Orafti inulin and oligofructose) will continue to appear as dietary fibers on the Nutrition Facts panel.

Consumers are largely aware of the beneficial effects of dietary fibers, but the majority of U.S. consumers still have difficulties reaching the recommended daily intake of 25 grams per day, notes Peters.

Cargill’s Oliggo-Fiber chicory root fiber offers a label-friendly option to incorporate more fiber into almost any baked good or snack, without affecting the taste or texture of the final product, says Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs manager, Cargill, Minneapolis.

“Chicory root fiber can aid in sugar reduction. It provides key functional properties, including helping to modulate the flavor of some high-intensity sweeteners and acting as a bulking agent when removing sugar from a formulation,” says Stauffer.

Fiberstar, Inc., River Falls, WI, recommends Citri-Fi to boost the nutritional profile of baked goods, in addition to improving texture and quality over shelf life, says Jennifer Stephens, vice president of marketing.

“Some product developers look to reduce fat or oil within baked goods. Because Citri-Fi holds water tightly, this natural ingredient can be used to replace up to 50% fat or oil within bakery items like cakes or muffins,” explains Stephens. “The moisture retention over time improves the fresh keeping over shelf and creates a texture and mouthfeel similar to the full-fat version.”

Added sugar is also seeing increased scrutiny. “To decrease the burden of diseases such as diabetes and tooth decay, the WHO has recommended that the intake of free sugars should not exceed 10% of total dietary energy intake,” says Els Vandenberghe, Ph.D., product development technologist, Taura Natural Ingredients, Olen, Belgium. “However, sugar reduction through reformulation is challenging because it can cause changes in flavor and texture balance, food functionality, shelf-life, and cost.”

Taura recently released its JusFruit no-added-sugar fruit pieces, which can be added to cookies and other baked goods. In a blind taste test, 26 panelists tasted a full-sugar cookie, a cookie with 30% reduced added sugar, and a cookie with 49% reduced added sugar with JusFruit pieces. The cookies with the JusFruit pieces outscored the other two versions on overall taste, says Vandenberghe.

“Not only were the cookies with our pieces perceived as just as sweet as the full-sugar version, they were also liked more, making them an ideal solution for sweet bakery products,” Vandenberghe adds.

Stevia-based ingredients are also creating new opportunities for reduced-sugar baked goods and snacks, says Stauffer. With Cargill’s ViaTech stevia sweetener, snack manufacturers can achieve optimal sweetness and significant sugar reduction, without sacrificing taste, she notes.

Another ingredient that consumers are looking for on the shelves is protein. “Consumers demand for products made with plant protein is here to stay, but uncompromising expectations for great taste and texture come with its mainstream appeal,” says Matthew Jacobs, global product line leader, plant proteins, Cargill. “With that in mind, Cargill recently signed a joint venture agreement with PURIS, the largest North American producer of pea protein.”

Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate also offers customized, protein-fortified products leveraging various protein sources from dairy to plants, says Gretchen Hadden, marketing communications manager. Food manufacturers can leverage these capabilities to maximize great-tasting products, while also creating opportunities for high-impact packaging claims around protein.

Sweet potato ingredients naturally add better-for-you allure. “Shoppers are interested in unique ingredients in unexpected places—especially ingredients that offer nutritive benefits,” says Paul Verderber, vice president of sales, Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients, Inc., Nashville, NC. “Our sweet potato ingredients fall right in line with that trend.”

According to USDA, sweet potato consumption has increased more than 70% in the past 12 years, as consumers have grown more aware of the sweet potato’s richness in vitamin A, beta carotene, complex carbohydrates, mineral content, and fiber, adds Verderber. He recommends sweet potato ingredients for products like chips, bars, muffins and cookies.

Sodium reduction is also a priority for manufacturers. “Last year, Cargill invested in a new potassium chloride facility in Watkins Glen, NY,” says Janice Johnson, Ph.D., technical and applications service lead, Cargill Salt. “Potassium chloride can help enable sodium reduction rates of up to 50% in a wide range of applications, including baked goods and snacks.”

FDA is enforcing a new Nutrition Facts Panel, starting January 1, 2020, for companies earning $10 million or more in annual food sales. The change requires potassium amounts and percent daily value to be listed, and lowers the daily value of sodium from 2,400 mg to 2,300 mg.

SaltBrite from FlavorHealth, North Brunswick, NJ, helps manufacturers maintain desired salty taste while enabling a 30 to 50% reduction in sodium content. “In sensory tasting, consumers preferred a 40% reduced sodium cheese sauce made with a SaltBrite natural flavor solution over the control sauce,” says Ryan Loy, Ph.D., assistant director, technical product management.

Some bakers opt to use baking mixes to simplify production, as these are going clean label, as well. Dawn Foods, Jackson, MI, now offers clean-label bases and mixes, including for crème cakes, brownies, and yeast-raised and cake doughnuts, notes Adam Graber, senior director, global innovation. They have no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or sweeteners, and contain no PHOs or HFCS.

In October, Dawn Balance Cleaner Ingredients will be available, a portfolio expansion with 14 new offerings that complement Dawn’s other clean-label products (previously referred to as Bakers Truth).

Forward-trending products
Freshyfare, Union, NJ, creates collagen-infused products. Christie Lombardo, CEO and founder, notes that the company offers BreakFast Bars, a meal-replacement bar that includes collagen, amino acids, grass-fed whey protein, fiber, cocoa nibs and chia seeds. Other protein-focused products include Protein Pound Cake, Rice Christie Treatz and Whey Better Browniez.

NuttZo Bold BiteZ bars, which also include collagen, were released in January 2018. The bites are available in two flavors: Power Fuel + Collagen, and Peanut Pro + Collagen.

“Better-for-you foods also go hand-in-hand with a green lifestyle—sustainability, in particular. Consumers, when given the choice, tend to opt for more-sustainable oils,” says Flider.

TERRA chips made with avocado oil hit shelves in March 2018. The sweet potato chips are available in both TERRA Sweet Chipotle and TERRA Sweets Medley flavors.

A Sweet Sriracha chickpea snack from The Good Bean, Berkley, CA, was released in February 2018, and is cooked in coconut oil. The brand recently released a Grab and Go line. “We are very excited about the Grab and Go line, because we think it is the perfect discovery size. Our category is still emerging, and there is a lot of runway with regard to encouraging awareness and trial with new consumers to the space,” says Sarah Wallace, founder and CEO.

Wallace says people often have the impression that healthy snacks don’t taste good. “Our snacks taste like delicious corn nuts, except lighter and crispier. And our flavors are addictive.”

Ideal Snacks Corp., Liberty, NJ, recently developed a Blueberry Cobbler Breakfast Popper. “Consumers love to snack, and they love to eat their breakfast on-the-go,” says Gunther Brickman, vice president, contract manufacturing. “As we think about this space, we think brands that already have some equity in the breakfast market have a great opportunity to expand their business with on-the-go consumers.”

As long as better-for-you products continue to taste delicious and have clean labels, consumers will continue to flock to the better-for-you aisle.

“Today’s snack and baked goods products are of a much higher quality than those of the past, particularly in terms of flavor and texture,” says Flider. “Many of today’s better-for-you snacks and baked goods are as satisfying as the foods they’re meant to replace.”