Condiment Cover Up

September 1, 2003

28 Min Read
Condiment Cover Up

For years, many Americans have used condiments such as ketchup and steak sauce to cover up bland foods or flavors they dont like. In fact, patrons of the spa at the Hotel Crescent Court in Dallas can literally drown themselves in barbecue sauce, during a Texas-style barbecue-sauce wrap. The pampering procedure incorporates paprika and cayenne pepper for heat; honey and cream for moisture; and tomato paste for skin-firming antioxidants, according to the spa. The treatment also includes an exfoliating pineapple-peppercorn rub and an application of cooling margarita lotion, minus the tequila.

Of course, todays product designers dont formulate condiments in hopes of their use as a body spread, and most are hoping they can do more than cover up the taste of an over-grilled steak or dry-baked chicken breast. Rather, their formulating goals more likely parallel the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionarys definition of condiment, which is anything of pronounced flavor used to season or give relish to food, or to stimulate the appetite.

In terms of usage and application, a condiment is an optional flavorant topically applied by an individual at the table, rather than by the cook in the kitchen. Our research has shown that todays consumers have a sophisticated palate but little or no time to create an extensive gourmet meal, notes Mary ODonnell, president and CEO, Robert Rothschild Farm, Urbana, OH. Therefore, our new product-development team focuses efforts on products that can be opened and served, allowing the consumer to have the look and taste of a gourmet meal, without the exhausting time and investment.

Consumers pour or spread condiments onto food, or dip foods into them, todays trendiest eating behavior. From chips and fanciful breads to fruits and veggies to meats and seafood, consumers are dipping in order to satisfy their desires for extreme flavor and variety. Lucien Vendome, senior executive chef, Kraft Foods Ingredients, Memphis, TN, adds, With condiments, a single appetizer takes on many flavor profiles, and becomes appealing to more consumers taste buds.

Appetizer trends include desire for intense flavors, unexpected textures, visual spark and ease of dipping, says Eric Borchardt, marketing manager, Kerry Ingredients North America, Beloit, WI. Consumers also want appetizers to be quick to prepare, yet gourmet, and most importantly, fun.

Indeed, some of the most popular condiments are boldly flavored mustards, barbecue sauces, salsas, chutneys and mayonnaises, as well as oils and creams with an Asian flair. These condiments complement todays dining habit of turning a meal into a social, interactive event, where sharing foods, particularly dipping-type appetizers, is part of the pleasure.

Furthermore, Consumers today are no longer satisfied with single-dimension condiments. They want condiments to have a layering of flavors, adds Vendome. Ordinary sandwich spreads are out. Now its bistro-style mayonnaise, spicy mayonnaise, or mayonnaise with different herbs and flavors.

One of the oldest condiments, mustard has provided consumers layers of flavors since ancient times. Mustard is the name of several species in the cabbage family. The seeds of three of the plants referred to as yellow, black and brown are used in the manufacture of the condiment mustard. Brown mustard seeds are sometimes called Chinese or Oriental seeds.

Glycosides, which are sulphur compounds, and the enzyme myrosinase, also known as thioglycosidase, give mustard its sharp taste. When the seed coat breaks and the contents contact water, the enzyme breaks down the glycoside, forming allyl isothiocyanate and other oily, highly volatile and sharply flavored compounds. These compounds peak in about 10 minutes and then begin to break down. Now vinegar comes into play: Manufacturers apply this acidulant to ground mustard seed after flavor development to preserve its pungency and flavor. If vinegar is added to mustard seed as soon as it is ground, the flavor reaction never takes place.

Mustard is cultivated around the world; almost every culture has its own mustard. And as Americans experiment with different ethnic cuisines, new mustard flavors enter the marketplace. Because mustard does not have a standard identity in the United States, formulators have room for creative flavor layering.

Gourmet mustards became popular in the 1990s when consumers started watching their fat intake. A single serving (1 tsp.) of most mustards, regardless of added flavoring ingredients, contains no fat and is free or very low in calories.

Todays mustards run the gamut, including honey, fruit and even various spirits. Weve even come across some specialty mustards that contain chocolate, says Barry Levenson, curator of the Mustard Museum, Mt. Horeb, WI. Whats really popular is chile-pepper mustard. It started with jalapeño, but now you can find chipotle and habanero mustards. We make a habanero horseradish mustard that appeals to all the senses.

There are five basic mustards. Yellow mustard, also referred to as prepared mustard, is the mildest variety, consisting of a smooth paste of yellow mustard seed, vinegar, water, tumeric, and seasonings such as salt, clove and coriander. Dijon-style mustard, made from brown mustard seed, has a smooth appearance due to the removal of mustard bran by passing the product through a screening device, and a pungent flavor from the brown seed. Hot or spicy mustard uses the sharpest-flavored brown mustard seeds, along with vinegar, water and seasonings such as allspice, tarragon or shallots. Spicy brown mustard, sometimes called German-style, blends finely ground, pungent brown mustard seeds with vinegar, water, salt and spices. It tends to be a uniform brown color, with or without visible specks of mustard bran. Somewhat similar is coarse-ground mustard, which also goes by the names brown, country-style and old-fashioned. It contains the same ingredients as spicy brown mustard; however, it has visible specks of mustard bran.

Using light-unstable coloring ingredients, such as tumeric, in mustard (or in any condiment) exposed to ultraviolet light, requires packaging in an opaque container, as ultraviolet light fades the product. For light-colored mustards packaged in clear glass jars, the mustard in the front of the jar will appear lighter than the product in the center, something many consumers find unappealing.

Adding fruit, such as blueberries, to mustard an application sampled by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council at the 2003 Institute of Foods Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo usually requires added sweetener and stabilizer to maintain the thick viscosity consumers expect in the condiment.

Fruit flavors are a big part of the specialty-mustard business, says Levenson. No fruit is immune from imprisonment in a mustard jar. He notes that fruits sweetness complements mustard, although the amount of fruit required to be recognizable varies by fruit, and often requires the addition of flavor extracts or concentrates.

For many condiments, fruits and vegetables provide flavor, color and texture. The tomato is the most traditional condiment fruit, and the primary ingredient in barbecue and cocktail sauces, as well as the most famous cover-up condiment ketchup.

Ketchup, a thick, mild, tomato-based sauce, contains salt, sugar, vinegar and spices. Unlike most condiments, the FDA limits ketchups contents with a standard of identity (21 CFR 155.194).

Cocktail sauce, similar to ketchup but not as sweet and much more spicy, often includes red peppers, sweet peppers, paprika, cayenne pepper or horseradish. Newer variations can contain everything from tequila or rum to dill. Traditionally it is paired with seafood, particularly shrimp and oysters.

Barbecue sauce, also thick and usually tomato-based, possesses a much more intense bold flavor than ketchup. An American condiment, various regions have signature sauces. For example, Southwestern barbecue sauces utilize seasonings of the region such as dry mustard, chili powder, and red and black peppers, and sometimes contain ketchup or chili sauce. Southern sauces flavor differ slightly through the addition of hickory-smoke flavor.

Throughout the Southeast, particularly in the Carolinas, barbecue sauce takes on a more golden appearance. This, in fact, is likely the oldest and original American barbecue sauce. It combines the tart tastes of yellow mustard, apple-cider vinegar and blackstrap molasses with a touch of brown sugar and red, black and white peppers.

Midwesterners favor sauces that combine sweet with heat through the use of molasses or brown sugar and horseradish or dry mustard. Those in the West prefer a more-lightly-seasoned sauce than other regions, containing fresh herbs and tangy citrus fruits.

We offer many barbecue-sauce variations, as consumers seem to want an ethnic twist to mainstream condiments, says Suzanne Ary, marketing director, Baldwin Richardson Foods Co., Frankfort, IL. Varieties include Caribbean Jerk, Island Mango, Sweet Cajun and Smoky Chipotle. She also observes interest in alcohol-flavored sauces. For that matter, spirited accents are showing up in a number of categories, so weve created Spicy Margarita-Lime Wing Sauce, she adds.

Richardsons Charlene Belles, food technologist, says that citrus and alcohol flavors do really well with wing sauces and salsas. Citrus complements heat, with the citrus coming through first, followed by the heat sensation that tends to linger.

Because ketchup and some barbecue sauces can contain high sugar levels and are eaten in greater quantities than more intensely flavored condiments such as horseradish and mustard, diabetics and those counting carbohydrates have eliminated or reduced use of these popular accompaniments. However, theres a fix. At the 2003 IFT Expo, Nutrinova Inc., Somerset, NJ, sampled a no-sugar-added barbecue sauce sweetened with the high-intensity sweetener acesulfame-K.

The barbecue sauce used only 0.05% Sunett® acesulfame-K, says William Riha, manager of food and beverage technology at Nutrinova. To compensate for the solids that sugar provides, formulators added some starch and Avicel® cellulose gel. A little bit of caramel color assists with mimicking the color that develops when sugar goes through the Maillard reaction, he adds.

Acesulfame-K is not yet FDA- approved for use in barbecue sauce; however, Nutrinova expects FDA to accept its general-purpose petition within the next few months. This will enable condiment formulators to reduce the sugar content of their products, Riha notes. This barbecue sauce contains less than 1% sugar per serving, and calories are reduced by 75%.

For a tomato condiment with a bit of heat and texture, theres the very popular salsa. Peeled and diced 3/4-inch-cut tomatoes typically serve as the base. Smaller dices tend to cost more because of juice lost during processing; to improve yield, they often retain their skin. To emulate a more authentic salsa, some manufacturers use whole, peeled tomatoes and rely on the manufacturing process to crush them. These industrial tomatoes typically come in cans, drums or pouches.

Whatever form of tomato used, manufacturers often add calcium chloride as a processing aid to help maintain the tomato structure. The additive reacts with the soluble pectin substances in the tomato to create a water-insoluble calcium-pectate gel, which helps the tomato maintain rigidity, even if heat-processed.

Designing salsas to have a pH below 4.5 prevents the growth of Clostridium botulinum, plus adds to the tart flavor. Acidulants such as citric acid or vinegar lower the pH.

Salsa ingredients vary widely in number and percentages, but in addition to tomato and acidulants, the most common flavoring ingredients are chiles, jalapeños and cilantro. Vegetables include diced bell peppers and onions, as well as whole black beans and corn. Fire-roasted vegetables are also common fire-roasting produces an intense vegetable flavor with a smoky accent.

Many formulators are exploring the addition of fruit, which helps keep this condiment on the culinary edge. When adding fruits, including the antioxidant ascorbic acid helps prevent browning.

Most salsa manufacturers use individually quick-frozen (IQF) fruits, vegetables and herbs. These are cleaned and frozen rapidly to preserve color, flavor and structural integrity. Dried or dehydrated products work well in salsas and tend to be more economical than IQF products.

Mango, with its unique texture and flavor, is one of the trendiest salsa fruits. Once thought of as exotic, it is showing up in relishes, dipping sauces and chutney, salsas distant cousin. In all condiment applications, this fruit works well with jicamas crisp, crunchy, radish-like texture and flavor that tastes like a cross between water chestnut and apple. IQF diced mango is a manufacturers best choice to ensure integrity.

With salsa, it is a good rule of thumb to keep the fruit and vegetable percentages high and carefully protect the natural flavor profiles when selecting the amounts of additional ingredients, says Chris Chickering, culinary director and R&D manager, American Spoon Foods Inc., Petoskey, MI. When adding fruit such as mango, it is important to let the individual fruit variety guide flavor development. Each fruit has its own processing, flavor and texture strengths and weaknesses.

Too many overpowering flavor ingredients will diminish the fruits natural, subtle aromas and taste nuances, Chickering adds. This is also true with texture and functional ingredients. Starches, pectin and gums are a necessary reality in processing fruit, but when used with a heavy hand and without regard to the primary ingredients original texture and mouthfeel, those elements can be lost.

When formulating fruit-based condiments, Chickering recommends conceptualizing the desired end flavor and making a list of necessary ingredients such as acidulants, sweeteners, spices and herbs. Throughout this process, it is critical that you keep in mind the primary fruit or flavor of the product, he says. Most often you can quickly trim this list to one or two choices of each type of ingredient. Often condiments with fruit have a gourmet positioning, so it looks good to use natural ingredients whenever possible.

Coloring with vegetable powders, stabilizing with cornstarch or arrowroot, and acidifying with citrus juices and vinegar are some of your best bets, Chickering says. But keep in mind, it is not always possible to achieve desired results by limiting additives to the perceived natural variety. Plus, many food companies have different target consumers and price points, so natural is not always necessary, or practical. He suggests the following strategies when preparing high-quality, fruit-based condiments such as salsa: Produce small batch sizes, add ingredients throughout the cooking process to preserve aromatics and identity, use short fill runs and cool finished jars rapidly.

The same guidelines hold true when producing chutney, a condiment with Eastern Indian origins. In Indian cuisine, where it is referred to as chatni, this spicy relish is consumed as a side dish to add excitement to less-piquant foods, such as rice. It blends spices and herbs, including chile pepper, coriander, garlic, ginger and mint, which are ground into a paste with fruits such as coconut, lime or tamarind. Diced fruits or vegetables, commonly mango, are added. Other ingredients that appear in chutney include cherries, pumpkin, radishes, tomatoes and walnuts.

Product designers can add flavors to chutney, too. For example, pure vanilla smoothes out the acidity of fruits such as cranberries and pineapple, says Dan Fox, director of sales, Nielsen-Massey Vanilla, Waukegan, IL. It also complements traditional chutney fruits, helping marry tart with sweet without becoming overpowering.

Chutney formulators, both here and abroad, know no boundaries. There is no U.S. standard of identity for chutney; however, a true Indian chutney is always vegetarian and has a sour tang.

In foodservice, chutney is typically prepared and served fresh. Most commercial products are cooked, which removes water, caramelizes sugars, and intensifies the fruit and vegetable flavors while mellowing spices and vinegar. This creates a very stable product environment capable of approximately one year of shelf life. Cooking the product to 60° to 65°Brix removes the water available for microbial growth while increasing sugar-solid percentages, Chickering notes. It also helps that chutney has a relatively low pH of 3.5 to 4.5. Modifying pH or acid levels and adjusting fill temperatures and Brix can help a formulator create a signature chutney, he adds. General formula parameters are 36% fruit, 30% sugar and 20% vinegar, with the remainder consisting of savory vegetables such as onion or bell pepper, spices and seasonings.

Leading chefs have added spices and herbs to mayonnaise and its cousin, salad dressing, to create gourmet condiments for years. The most recognized example is aïoli, also known as garlic mayonnaise. After all, with their smooth, creamy and rich consistencies, mayonnaise and salad dressing make ideal carriers for bold tastes and flavorful particulates. In fact, commercial condiment manufacturers use mayonnaise and salad dressing as the base of many condiments for example, tartar sauce is a blend of pickle relish, and sometimes chopped capers and red peppers, with mayonnaise. Ranch, Thousand Island and blue-cheese dressings traditionally are mayonnaise-based.

Although mainstream condiment manufacturers have only recently caught onto the idea of adding spices and herbs and positioning a spread as a flavored mayonnaise, specialty manufacturers have been experimenting with adding flavor for some time. Regardless of the processor, if its a packaged product and sold in the retail environment, product designers need to proceed with caution when getting creative with products labeled mayonnaise, which the federal government regulates in 21 CFR 169.140.

FDA defines mayonnaise as an emulsified semi-solid food prepared from not less than 65% vegetable oil. The emulsion also must include a specified acidifying ingredient and one or more specified egg-yolk-containing ingredients. Other optional ingredients include salt; nutritive carbohydrate sweeteners; and any spice or natural flavoring, provided it does not impart a color simulating that imparted by egg yolk, as is the case with saffron or turmeric.

None of the other optional ingredients listed encompass flavorful particulates such as sun-dried tomato or the stabilizers and preservatives necessary to keep the particulates looking good throughout shelf life. This is when it makes sense to use a lower-fat mayonnaise as the base for adding flavorful ingredients. When a standardized product falls out of the standard as a result of fat reduction, certain ingredients can simulate the fat reduction. This presents many flavoring opportunities.

Salad-dressing ingredients are specified in 21 CFR 169.150. The main difference between salad dressing and mayonnaise is that the former only requires a minimum 30% vegetable oil and 4% egg yolk. The standard allows a starchy paste, along with other stabilizers and thickeners. The spices typically added to salad dressing impart a more piquant flavor than the spices included in mayonnaise.

Egg yolk is critical in the formulation of quality mayonnaise and salad dressing, including lower-fat varieties. Most importantly, it acts as an emulsifying ingredient to keep oil and vinegar from separating. In fact, synthetic emulsifiers are not permitted in mayonnaise.

The high-emulsification properties of egg yolk come largely from the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) fraction of egg yolk, which is the major component of yolk plasma, says Glenn Froning, food science and technology advisor to the American Egg Board (AEB), Park Ridge, IL. The superior emulsifying properties relate to the structure of the proteins and phospholipids in the LDL fraction. Complexes with proteins such as phosvitin likely contribute to the yolks superior emulsifying properties. These surface-active agents form a film around oil globules and prevent coalescence and fat separation. The emulsifier orients itself with the non-polar part of the molecule, extending into the oil and polar part of the aqueous phase.

In AEBs recently published Egg-Ceptional Innovations Application Guide, the suggested formula for mayonnaise calls for 76% vegetable or light olive oil, 13% yolk and 9% vinegar or lemon juice. Other ingredients include salt, dry mustard, white pepper and paprika.

Salted (10%) egg yolk is commonly used in mayonnaise since it produces a thick and creamy product, says Froning. Dried egg yolk also works effectively in mayonnaise formulations. It will also produce a very thick mayonnaise when it is on an equal solids level to that in salted yolk. Research shows that increasing egg yolk in mayonnaise or salad dressing will increase viscosity and produce optimum stability. It is necessary that enough of the surface-active components from the egg yolk are present to surround the oil globules and stabilize the emulsion.

Marketing flavor trends indicate the popularity of bold flavors and highly spiced food, says Bill Cawley, manager of culinary and technical services, Eatem Foods Company, Vineland, NJ. Consumers like peppers and spicy condiments, which is the single most convenient way to season up a menu. For instance, a consumer can put salsa on salads, in sauces, add it to mayonnaise for a sandwich spread or pour it over chicken before baking, instantly creating a completely different dish.

Often times the bolder the flavor, the more apparent it is to the discriminating consumer when there is an inconsistency. It is helpful for formulators to source flavorful bases or concentrates in efforts to produce the same-tasting condiment time after time.

The foundation flavor in Eatems bases and concentrates is developed through a unique process. The range of tastes is achieved by the addition of complementary spices created by our chefs and technical team, says Cawley. For example, our pepper bases are a natural tool for anyone making salsas. We start out with fresh peppers and vegetables, which are blended, enhanced with seasonings and concentrated further until strict specifications are met. These concentrates offer a flavor standard to enhance other ingredients in the salsa formula and maintain flavor consistency especially when you consider the seasonal flavor variation of the added peppers.

They assure flavor uniformity during food processing. There is also less handling. There is no roasting, peeling or chopping peppers, which makes it easier for product developers, he adds. Specific flavor combinations are left to the imagination of product developers.

After bold and spicy, Asian flavors are where the action is. These include ginger, horseradish, lemon grass, peanuts, sesame, soy sauce and wasabi.

Fresh and dried ginger differ in flavoring effects, with fresh ginger imparting a peppery, slightly sweet flavor with a hint of lemon and rosemary, and a spicy, pungent aroma. Dried ginger is milder in all aspects, and lacks pungency. The degree of pungency in fresh ginger, which comes from the nonvolatile compounds gingerols, and the aroma and flavor of ginger in general, vary according to many factors including the region of origin, cultivar, conditions in which grown and stage of harvesting.

Horseradish has nothing to do with horses and it is not a radish. It belongs to the same family as mustard, and develops its flavor in a somewhat similar fashion. The pungent odor and hot taste of horseradish is due to sinigrin, which when decomposed by the action of enzymes, liberates a volatile oil containing sulphur. These volatiles only release when the root is cut or bruised. An unbroken root has no smell.

To prepare horseradish, the root is ground and mixed with vinegar to stabilize the heat, in much the same way mustard seed is prepared. Formulators can add spices and other ingredients such as salt, sugar, cream or vegetable oil to this mixture. A number of horseradish products are available, including cream-style prepared horseradish, horseradish sauce and beet horseradish, and other condiments are commonly flavored with horseradish.

Lemon grass is a perennial valued for its lemon flavor, which its stalks release when crushed and chopped. It is typically treated as an herb.

Peanuts have long been associated with Asian foods. Peanut flavor can be added to condiments in the form of chopped peanuts, or through the use of peanut oil or even peanut butter. For example, Asian chefs will create a signature peanut dipping sauce by combining crunchy peanut butter with some peanut oil and a variety of spices.

Sesame is an annual herb that bears edible seeds. Both the seeds and the oil extracted from the seeds can flavor condiments. However, sesame-seed oil burns easily when heated, so it is best to mix it with another oil, such as peanut, prior to adding to the other ingredients during cooking.

Soy sauce, a fermented soybean and wheat protein extract combined with water and salt, is a bit more complex. It is a formulated product, and on its own can act as a condiment, or can flavor other condiments.

Lastly, wasabi is a perennial herb that resembles horseradish with its pungent odor and hot flavor. As an ingredient, it is available in the form of paste or powder, with a little going a very long way.

Oftentimes, fruits and vegetables that go into condiments require a flavor boost. Wholly distilled from fresh fruits and vegetables, natural distillates provide a cost-effective way of adding fresh, top-note characters to flavor blends without increasing the acid levels of condiments. A very small amount furnishes a lot of authentic flavor. Because distillates are derived from real fruits and vegetables, they are very attractive on ingredient statements.

Roasted-bell-pepper distillate, which is produced from fresh green, red and yellow peppers, provides a typical roasted, capsicum flavor with grilled and astringent top notes, says John Boddington, manager of natural products, Treatt USA Inc., Lakeland, FL. The peppers are flame-roasted prior to processing and the char-roast notes enhance the methoxypyrazine pepper character. At a usage level of just 500 ppm, this flavor imparts an intense roast-pepper flavor, while at 100 ppm it adds green, sautéed, roasted notes. At this dosage level, the roast character does not overpower the pepper component and in some applications, such as those that are tomato-based, the capsicum peppery flavor can predominate.

The companys celery distillate derived from celery stalks has a leafy and exceptionally fresh, sulphur character with balanced green, nutty and creamy undertones, Boddington adds. A novel technique processes the fibers in the celery stalks to efficiently release the full vegetable flavor. Because of these enhanced volatiles, the celery distillate has a strong, savory impact at just 100 ppm, he says.

Beer, wine and distilled spirits the real thing or its concentrated form can also flavor condiments. By formulating consumer packaged foods with real liquor, processors can achieve a true flavor and market the liquors inclusion. However, this sometimes creates a paper-trail nightmare, because alcoholic beverages purchased for use as a food ingredient are subject to special taxes. However, If a food manufacturer can show that the food made with the alcohol is unfit as a beverage, then the manufacturer can file a claim to regain the taxes paid. This is called getting a drawback, says John Crandall, a spokesperson for The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. (See 27 CFR 17.)

Todhunter Foods & Monarch Wine Co., West Palm Beach, FL, provides reduced wines, beers and distilled spirits. A computer-controlled, time/temperature process produces these 10-fold reductions, resulting in a consistent flavor profile, says the company. As a 10-fold natural reduction, these ingredients provide 10 times more flavor than the non-reduced product, notes Ron Call, vice president of quality control at the company. The savings on freight and storage are a real perk. And because the reductions contain less than 0.5% alcohol by volume, they are not taxed and the alcohol does not need to be declared on ingredient labels.

To retain as much flavor as possible, it is best to add the liquor ingredient, regardless if it is the real thing or a concentrate, as late in the process as possible. Usage levels vary, and with the reductions, a very little goes a long way. Our reduction process replicates the culinary technique used by chefs, adds Jim Polansky, national sales manager for Todhunter. With wine reductions, the acidic, sharp notes are removed, with the true character of the wine remaining.

James Brisson, Todhunters corporate executive chef, says, Wine reductions boost the flavors of current condiments. Usage levels vary from 0.25% to 1.5%, depending on the application. For example, as little as 0.5% of a Chablis reduction escalates ordinary mustard into a gourmet product. The malt concentrate makes a great beer mustard.

Fruits and vegetables can also reduce and, instead of adding just flavor to condiments, can naturally boost color profiles. Tomato-based colorants color sauces with flavors such as red pepper. They also enhance red colors in products already containing tomatoes such as ketchups or cocktail sauces, says Jeannette Quinn, food scientist, GNT USA Inc., Tarrytown, NY. Pumpkin-based colorants can be used to make mustards a more appealing shade of yellow.

In the case of salsa and chutney, fruit- and vegetable-based colors help enhance the color of ingredients such as mangos, which tend to be costly, Quinn adds. In foodservice applications, reducing the volume of mango chunks and adding colorant to a less-expensive mango puree could be more cost-effective.

Fruit- and vegetable-based colors are typically very stable, surviving any hot filling or pasteurization that may occur.

Some foods, such as cheese and honey, naturally fall into the category of condiments. They can be a condiment by themselves, or add value to other condiments.

One of the most traditional ways to use cheese as a condiment is to sprinkle some grated Parmesan onto salads or soups, says Dana Tanyeri, director of national product communications, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB), Madison, WI. However, cheese can do so much more for condiments. Real-blue-cheese chunks do wonders for wing dipping sauces, and Cheddar bits liven up ranch dressing.

Ethnic-food trends have created new opportunities for using cheese as a condiment, such as crumbling fresh Hispanic-style cheeses over traditional Mexican-style foods or feta cheese over Mediterranean salads, dips or diced into salsas, Tanyeri continues.

On the sweeter side of things, Honey is literally a natural complement to condiments. Its smooth texture and subtle sweetness works particularly well with barbecue sauce, mustard, salsa and chutney, says Marcia Cardetti, director of scientific affairs for the National Honey Board, Longmont, CO. Honey blends easily into other flavors.

Along with taste, honeys functional properties are its best asset, Cardetti continues. Its texture helps bind ingredients and its flavor smoothes out sharp flavors such as mustard and vinegar. It also assists with developing viscosity for a better cling of the condiment to the food, which is very important for dipping foods.

Researchers at Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, through funding by the National Honey Board, evaluated the use of 5% honey in salsa and its impact on consumer preferences. Research indicated that a potential market exists for consumers who are willing to try sweeter-tasting salsas, Cardetti says. Honey helped decrease the perception of burn while maintaining flavor in heat-processed salsa. It also reduced water activity and moisture in processed and fresh salsa, which helps extend shelf life.

Fruit pastes and powders also provide viscosity to condiments. However, the finished products often require stabilizers for desired viscosities, particularly dipping sauces, where the condiment must adhere to the food being dipped. Because these ingredients can impact flavor and flavor release, selecting the right stabilizing system is not always easy, particularly with some of the more exotic, bolder flavors with which designers are experimenting.

For most condiments, salt-tolerant gums such as xanthan and guar may be used as thickeners or suspending agents, says Florian Ward, vice president of research and development, TIC Gums, Belcamp, MD. Usage levels are at around 0.5% to 1.0%, depending on the product. In condiments with high oil levels, an emulsifying gum like propylene glycol alginate may be used in addition to xanthan gum or guar gum. A shear-thinning hydrocolloid, xanthan gum regains viscosity once shear is removed, which makes it ideal for applications that require pouring or squeezing.

Starches can also stabilize condiments, with modified cornstarch typically used because of its flexibility in processing tolerance, particularly with low pH, excessive shear and high temperatures. However, starches can be derived from a variety of sources, with each starch possessing unique characteristics. For instance, tapioca- and potato-based starches, which both have a very bland, clean flavor due to their low lipid and protein content, behave differently in condiments. Tapioca starch gives a smooth, shiny texture, while potato starch provides pulpiness. The latter can cut costs in salsa, as it allows for a reduction in fruit solids.

At IFT, AVEBE America Inc., Princeton, NJ, offered samples of a cold-processed, solids-reduced mild salsa made with 3% cold-water-swelling, modified potato starch. The starch provided body and viscosity, gave the salsa a slightly pulpy texture, and reduced solids by 20%.

The types and amounts of starch and gum vary depending on the application, and whether the condiment is to be poured, spooned or squeezed. Over-stabilizing condiments can make the product overly thick and unnatural, and can reduce the functionality of the system or mask flavors.

Indeed, the current food trend is a desire for many flavors. Product designers must remember that consumers crave the different but not too different and convenience continues to play a very important role in the condiment craze.

Donna Berry, president of Chicago-based Dairy & Food Communications, Inc., a network of professionals in business-to-business technical and trade communications, has been writing about product development and marketing for nine years. Prior to that, she worked for Kraft Foods in the natural-cheese division. She has a B.S. in food science from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. She can be reached at [email protected].

 

 

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