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Profiting from Premix ExpertiseProfiting from Premix Expertise

March 22, 2011

6 Min Read
Profiting from Premix Expertise

by Charlotte Dieroff

Fortified foods are everywhere. From calcium-fortified fruit juices to fiber-filled yogurt, almost every aisle in the grocery store is touting foods with added health benefits. In 2008, functional foods comprised a $30.7-billion market, according to Packaged Facts, and that figure is predicted to grow by 40 percent over the next five years. To capitalize on some of that success, formulators should work hand-in-hand with specialty nutrient premix companies to utilize their expertise and experience.

Working with Premix Suppliers: Advantages

Of course, product development staff could specify individual nutrient components for their formulas, but its not the best approach. Ram Chaudhari, Ph.D., FACN, CNS, senior executive vice president and chief scientific officer at Fortitech, noted sourcing from a premix supplier is often more cost effective than fully developing a blend in-house. Vitamin and mineral vendors buy nutrients in truckload quantities and are able to pass these cost advantages along to manufacturers, who would otherwise be buying just a few pounds periodically at higher overall prices. In addition, blend uniformity can be a challenge when blending nutrients internally, unless the blend is fully tested and validated. With regard to nutrition, premix vendors have extensive knowledge in the areas of nutrient delivery, sources and overages (to account for yield losses during manufacturing). They also guarantee product purity, making certain it is free of heavy metals, and other contaminants. Often, these companies have dedicated staff who routinely perform vendor audits and quality testing to ensure incoming ingredients meet stringent specifications. Reputable premix vendors provide guarantees on all their nutritional deliveries. This is well worth it for a manufacturer to transfer the analytical testing expense as well as the liability of delivering nutritional targets to their premix supplier. From a practical standpoint, premix vendors ensure premixes have the right amount of diluent or bulking agent, so that plants can easily weigh out reasonable amounts of these fortifying ingredients as opposed to minute quantities requiring four-digit balances, and reduce the likelihood of dosage error and poor blend uniformity.

Chaudhari, also a co-founder of Fortitech, explained his approach with what he refers to as the backbone questions, which set the stage for the fortification project. Questions include: What form of food or beverage is the fortification going into? What processes will the product undergo? What packaging will be implemented? What is the expected shelf life of the product? The more details you can share with these premix experts, the better chance of success. If possible, it is best to share the entire product formula while developing the premix. If this isnt an option, then supplying the vendor with a fortification-free base and an ingredient statement is a good alternative.

Challenges of Fortification

No industry is without its challenges. Inherently, many vitamins and mineral ingredients have off flavors that need masking. In addition, challenges such as nutrient solubility, mouthfeel, stability and interactions all need to be considered when formulating. Sulfur-containing molecules such as thiamine (vitamin B1) and amino acids have unpleasant flavors. Iron, copper and manganese are notorious for metallic flavors, especially in water-soluble products. Flavor houses have come a long way in developing flavor masking systems to combat these sensory hurdles.

Palatability is an ongoing battle when it comes to fortification. Michelle Cannon, senior food scientist at The International Food Network (IFN), explained how crucial it is to use the correct form and level of a vitamin or mineral when formulating. Cannon consulted for Rich Vitamins alternaVites, a multivitamin/mineral supplement targeted to those who cant swallow pills. Portioned in single-dose stick packs, the product is sprinkled on the tongue and quickly dissolves. Due to its delivery method, the vitamins and minerals needed to be immediately palatable organoleptically and in mouthfeel, resulting in a positive consumer experience. Determining the correct form and concentration of actives is paramount and usually hinges on the finished product matrix. Vitamins and minerals are available as salts, chelates and amino acid forms. Coated varieties are also offered. Knowing which form to use comes from years of experience and careful consideration of the finished food or beverage base. This is further reason to tap into the well of knowledge of a premix supplier.

Adding high levels of vitamins and minerals to foods can also create off odors. The trade refers to this as vitamin odor. As we all know, smell and taste are physiologically connected, and the chances of getting consumers to taste an off-smelling product is very low. Techniques to combat this issue are encapsulation, coating and emulsification.

Texture can also pose problems. Often nutrients come across as grainy, sandy or chalky; but, suppliers often resolve this issue by micropulverizing ingredients. Decreased particle size allows for smoother sensory perception.

Fortification Trends & Technology

Fortification is a high-tech industry utilizing complex processes such as encapsulation, spray drying, emulsification and micromilling that is always on the lookout for new developments. Cutting-edge research such as nanotechnology is finding its way into the industry. Good examples are nano-sized zinc and iron particles. Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich, are exploring nano-structured iron and zinc complexes, which exhibited enhanced bioavailability in early studies. Not only are these nano -particles easier for the body to absorb, but they take less of a toll on food stuffs in terms of color interactions, which is a common problem in iron-fortified foods. Not all nano-sized nutrients are appropriate for the food industry. Many are costly and are thus better suited for the pharmaceutical industry.

Historically, fortification was used to prevent physical diseases that were prevalent in large populations. For example, North America implemented iodized salt to prevent goiter, and vitamin D was added to milk to prevent rickets. Suzy Badaracco, president of Culinary Tides, is a trends forecaster who pointed out in the past, fortification addressed physical ailments, such as those mentioned above, while more recent fortification addresses cognitive ailments as well. Previously considered taboo, mental illnesses like depression and dementia are gaining awareness and have become target markets of the fortified foods industry.

Furthermore, Badaracco explained many of the up-and-coming fortification ingredients stem from ancient medical arenas that still need FDA testing; however, with self-affirmed GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status, many actives such as curcumin, capsaicin and resveratrol are finding their way into fortified foods. As long as they are GRAS and no structure/function claims are made, youre safe [from FDA scrutiny], Badaracco stated. Functional foods containing this new generation of nutrients highly depend on industry press and media to help consumers make the connection between these actives and their potential health benefits.

Technological progress continues to be made to help product developers formulate palatable products. Remember when working with functional foods, take advantage of reputable premix suppliers and the services they offer. What may seem monumental to food formulators is probably old hat to them.

Charlotte Dieroff is a product developer at the International Food Network (IFN) and holds a bachelors of science in food science from Cornell University and a masters of business administration from Xavier University. Her background includes developing frozen desserts, and weight-loss and dry-mix beverages. Since 1987, IFN has provided complete new product development services to the supplement, nutritional products, and food and beverage industries. (866) 778-5129.

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