Clean Label Ingredients and Processing Technologies
Posted by Walt Zackowitz on Apr 26, 2017
Clean Label is on the rise, and although it has no formal definition, there is a strong movement amongst consumers to pay a premium for a "cleaner" label. As well, there is a similar willingness not to purchase products that violate their "clean" expectations.
As food companies seek to thrive in the clean label landscape, developing formulas that trigger repeat purchases still require that foods and beverages meet the age-old consumer expectations: taste, texture, visual appeal, convenience, safety, and affordability. But now, development must also deliver on new demands for ingredient statements that favor fewer, familiar and less chemical-sounding ingredients and don't violate expectations for sugar, salt and other ingredients with negative quality-of-life implications.
As a specialty ingredient company, IFP's expertise is fluid-bed encapsulating and agglomerating. We modify the functional properties of an ingredient to improve performance in specific applications. Over the past 35 years, our innovative team has created coating blends that survive the most challenging of conditions and consistently release to perform desired functionality.
About seven years ago, like many companies in our industry, the IFP team realized that many of our coating modifiers, such as those made with partially hydrogenated oils, were at-risk of becoming redundant. We set in motion to address the possibility of losing some of our functional tools.
Our first step was to identify ingredients that we considered at-risk of regulatory or consumer dis-favor. We prioritized our list starting with the most likely to need replacement (i.e. Partially hydrogenated oils – PHO's). We next created a second column cross-referencing potential replacement ingredients, then a third column identifying the functional property that we were seeking to replace.
With our prioritized cross-reference list in hand, we met with our raw ingredient suppliers to see if they had other/additional replacement suggestions and we repeated our conversations with other suppliers who offered innovative ingredients with potential to replace our targeted functions.
What we quickly discovered is that many of our "modifiers" are longer required. Partially Hydrogenated Oils were added perhaps 30 years ago to reduce the brittle nature of fully hydrogenated oils. But, our computerized and otherwise enhanced processing equipment was now consistently applying more and thinner coating layers that create a stronger barrier against physical abrasion and moisture migration. This processing technique allows for reduced coating levels and cost-efficiencies. The greater number of layers, the greater the flex properties to mitigate stress and cold conditions – eliminating the need for "modifiers"!
While not yet a target for general elimination, some applications, especially those functional food and beverage products targeted to medical foods and other health-related and quality of life premium foods, hydrogenated oils are not favored. To replace the function of Hydrogenated Oils, we now utilize the solid (grease) fraction of palm salad oil. This material has an approximately 140'F melt point and is labeled simply palm oil. It has no trans-fat and can be sourced RSPO (rainforest friendly) certified.
Other tools coming into greater use include, but are not limited to, Alginates, Cellulose, Maltodextrin, Starch, Hydrocolloids, Gelatin and Salad grade soybean oil, Cottonseed oil and Palm oil.
In short, our most effective action item to find replacements into Clean Label Ingredients quickly focused on looking at our processing technologies. To replace the performance of modified ingredients that have fallen into disfavor, we have resorted to applying our years of expertise to drive innovation and performance of clean label ingredients.
Let me share two ingredients that originally were designed utilizing ingredients which have now been removed or replaced, and how we met the challenge of a Cleaner Label. Two encapsulated ingredients, PrimeCap® Encapsulated Pretzel Salt and PrimeCap® Sodium Bicarbonate have been redesigned using ingredients that are cleaner label, but our processing technologies are the key to making the cleaner label ingredients work to performance standards.
• PrimeCAP® Encapsulated Pretzel Salt was launched shortly after 9/11 when new security rules limited food vendors to entering stadiums multiple hours before the gates open. Salted pretzels were becoming stale early in the games.
- o The physical stress of surface sanding onto the pretzels required more flexibility than a fully-hydrogenated oil alone, so a Partially Hydrogenated Oil (PHO) was added to the coating blend. PHO’s have lost their GRAS status, so are required to be eliminated.
- o A variety of blends with liquid oil additives provided a cleaner label option to PHO Blends, but it was quickly observed that our ability to apply longer and thinner coating layers had already provided a more flexible coating – so the solution was simply to remove the PHO additive leaving a simple ingredient statement: Sodium Chloride, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil.
• PrimeCAP® Encapsulated Sodium Bicarbonate was originally designed for use within refrigerated doughs. The cold conditions put our coatings at greater risk of physical mixing stress cracking and the baking process drove down water activity levels in the dough putting the consistency of the chemical leavening system at risk.
- The early solution was to add partially hydrogenated oil (PHO) to improve the flex-properties of the coating blend, and an emulsifier to improve moisture management around the sodium bicarbonate particles.
- Driven by the challenge to remove PHO’s and emulsifiers, IFP found that our new computerized equipment was capable of creating the needed flex-properties without additives and our new Non-Hydrogenated coating melted away a bit earlier in the baking process when moisture levels were high enough to not require the support of an emulsifier additive.