Nothing says health and wellness as succinctly as fruit or vegetables. Adding juice ingredients not only cleans up the ingredient deck, but also sweetens, balances or enhances certain flavor profiles.
Aside from the obvious vegetable or fruit type, the choice may fall between a cloudy or a clarified (clear) juice, or between a purée or concentrate. All fruit juices have FDA-regulated ranges for Brix (soluble solids, which is used as a measure of sugar content), acid and pH.
Knowing the specifications of each fruit juice ingredient will allow you to pick the appropriate juice to blend with in order to meet your final product guidelines, says Erin Gipe, research and development supervisor, Northwest Naturals, Bothell, WA. This will also aid R&D in choosing what flavors and acids to use to enhance certain profiles. For example, most malic fruits are pitted fruits like apple, pear and plums. Tartaric acid is grape, and citric acid is usually all berries and exotics.
The specification for Northwest Naturals apple juice concentrate, for example, notes titratable acidity is 0.15 to 0.26% weight by volume (wt/vol) as malic at 11.5º, with a 70º Brix. White grape juice concentrate is 68º Brix and has a titratable acidity of 0.2 to 0.38% wt/vol as tartaric at 16º. Red raspberry juice concentrate is 65º Brix, and titratable acidity is 0.8 to 1.8% wt/vol as citric at 9.2º.
Apple, pear and white grape juices are often used as base juices because they offer consistency, availability and economic advantages and their relatively bland flavors make them good candidates for blending. Apple and pear work well in flavored teas and lemonades where a juice percentage is needed but a lower cost is required, says Gipe. We can start with pear and apple as our base, and then add other ingredients to customize the product, depending on the customers needs. Usage level varies, dependent upon finished product requirements and guidelines.
Blending with other more-common fruit juices is important when working with specialty ingredients. Most exotics have a low avail-ability, as well as a high variation in suppliers, cautions Gipe. Blending such products with base items like apple, pear, white grape and other juices allows you to provide consistency in color, acid and flavor.
In many products, apple, pear and white grape may provide the primary fruit solids in a beverage, while the characterizing fruit, such as açaí or pomegranate, is lower on the ingredient legend, notes Jeannie Curry-Swedberg, director of business development, Tree Top, Inc., Selah, WA. Apple, pear and white grape are neutral enough that they dont compete with the characterizing fruit. They will round out the flavor, but not overpower it, she says. However, some manufacturers have experienced crystallization issues with white grape and prefer working with apple or pear as a cost-effective fruit solid.
Exotics fruits, such as açaí, mangosteen, goji and camu camu, are still hot, notes Don Giampetro, vice president, iTi tropicals, Inc., Lawrenceville, NJ. Lots of people are looking for guava, and items like coconut water seem to be gaining interest, he says. Mango still remains popular, and items like soursop and tamarind continue to resurface. More fruits continue to make their way into the non-traditional areas. One would think that juices would still be the choice, although we are now seeing many tropical or exotic fruit items going into savory applications, such as soups, sauces, toppings and dressings.
In selecting an açaí, for example, choices range from clarified juice, clarified juice concentrate, 12 % solids purée and 14% solids pu-rée. If cost is a factor, a concentrate will be less expensive than a clarified juice. The difference between 12% and 14% solids is not much, but the level of pulp in a finished product at 14% solids may be too high compared to 12%, explains Giampetro. If a concen-trate is used, perhaps flavor will be less because the concentrate is more processed. Perhaps a formula requires all single-strength items in a finished product because you are making an NFC juice. This would eliminate the use of concentrates. There are many scenarios.
Similarly, choosing a passion fruit purée vs. a concentrate might depend on the level of pulp desired in the product, which would im-pact viscosity and mouthfeel. Cost and flavor would also come into play.
Clarified guava might be used in an application where the stone cells (gritty particulates like those found in pears) that are present in guava purée might be a problem in a dispensing unit where the nozzles in the units might get clogged by the guava purée, says Giam-petro. These stone cells are naturally occurring in guava. Some processors can make the product more smooth by decanting and/or run-ning it through a finer screen. A clarified product eliminates all the issues with stone cells because it does not have any particulates at all, and still allows you to put guava into your product and on your label.
Availability is of particular concern when formulating with exotics. For the most part, items like soursop, camu camu, tamarind, mangosteen and açaí are available in single-strength purée form, says Giampetro. Moving to concentrate is more difficult, and then further to clarified is even tougher. The issue is, do you have a market for these other variations of these items? In some cases, there is not a market just yet, so making, lets say a clarified soursop concentrate, is just not practical. There is no market for that item just yet.
With lower availability come fewer packaging options. According to Giampetro, the newer and more-exotic tropical fruits are pas-teurized and then stored frozen. Very few of them are sold aseptically packed, he says.
More-common items like mango, papaya, guava and banana are readily available in a full range of products, from purées and concentrates juices to clarified juices in aseptic and frozen forms. Frozen offers higher quality in terms of flavor and color, but is more expensive, plus has more problematic storage requirements.
Many a parent has hidden a vegetable in a dish in hopes that it would be consumed undetected. Similarly, adding vegetable juices to food products can boost the nutritional content without calling undue attention, aside from the healthful ingredient declaration.
Vegetable juices deliver fresh flavor and accent natural top notes with virtually no color impact and no aftertaste, suggests Jeff Wells, marketing manager, Vegetable Juices, Inc., Bedford Park, IL. They are an excellent way to add natural flavor, and yet keep a clean in-gredient statement, he says. They allow for easy blending compared to powders. The juices are often used in products like dressings, soups, sauces, marinades and beverages.
Varieties range from the ubiquitous tomato juice to juices that might work better as an accent flavor. For example, onion juice plays a perfect supporting role, especially when used with garlic juice, says Wells. It adds a subtle, natural sweetness.
Cucumber juice imparts clear, cool, green, fresh notes, and decreases bitter notes. It is related to the cantaloupe and, when used in a fruit blend, it will push up the melon aspect of fruit items. One example would be as a natural enhancement of strawberry flavor, says Wells. It also cloaks strong odors.
Clarified tomato juice adds berry-style properties when included as a clarified juice in combination with other berry flavors, says Wells. Additionally, it provides top notes that are missing in tomato paste or thermally concentrated tomato juice. It works well with acids in cocktail mixes with lime juice or salad dressings with vinegar, among other applications.
Ginger juice adds a full flavor profile and floral top notes beyond simple heat, as compared to ginger powder, in applications like dressings, ginger beer, ice cream and baked goods.
Our frozen concentrates are all natural, containing only the original ingredient with no additives, says Chris Stepan, corporate chef, Vegetable Juices. The benefit is these fruit and vegetable ingredients feature top notes that dont come through in some of the more-processed products. Concentrates can be used at a lower percentage in formulation using less water while supplying greater flavor.
Cold concentration technology creates concentrates that help increase the vegetable portions per serving size, says Stepan. A normal purée would be one serving of vegetables, but our technology multiplies that by five. Both purées and concentrates can be utilized to increase vegetable portions within formulation, to enhance flavor and improve the sweetness profile. When you utilize some of these in a soup, then you can double up the vegetable serving without any vegetables visible. I believe we could use it in confections, or in ice cream. Ive used vegetables such as tomato or cucumber to support fruit vinaigrettes, especially strawberries. Tomato and cucumber can enhance and push up the strawberry flavor after it equilibrates. The juices range anywhere from 20º to 40º Brix depending on the vegetable, fruit or blend.
Stepan has used lemongrass purée in baked applications, salad dressings and beverages. Ive found in a lemongrass cheesecake, a bit of French brandy or cognac plays up the lemongrass flavor nicely, with just a trace of cardamom, less than half a percent.
Pasteurization is an advantage of using chile purées, such as the guajillo pepper purée. Weve created a more-concentrated product through our processing to bring out the oils and flavor elements and to create an ingredient more easily able to equilibrate, he says.
Sometimes, it pays to use a custom blend. The processor saves time and overhead costs by batching with fewer ingredients, ex-plains Wells, citing a salsa blend that combines 14 different ingredients. A product developer can make salsa simply by blending it with diced tomatoes, lowering the procurement from 15 ingredients to two. In addition, the product developer has the assurance that every batch is made according to the same specifications and, therefore, will provide the same quality and flavor every time.
Vegetable and fruit juices are becoming a prominent benchtop development tool, even providing answers to formulation challenges. Aside from their use as clean, natural flavors, developers are finding that vegetable and fruit juices can be used to reduce sodium con-tent and even replace high-fructose corn syrup, says Wells. For example, a mirepoix blend of onion, carrot and celery juices enhances the flavor of soups and sauces and allows developers to reduce sodium content. He notes that they replaced 15% of the water in a chicken soup with the mirepoix juice concentrate, and were able to easily reduce the sodium content by 20% while, at the same time, actually improving the flavor.
Parsnip, another ingredient sometimes associated with mirepoix, is making a comeback, suggests Stepan. When we process it, we get an end result sweeter than carrots or sweet potatoes, he says. As a concentrate, it can help replace high-fructose corn syrup.
Juice concentrating technology creates a juice concentrate that is a close match in sweetness to 42 HFCS. Our most-successful match at the moment is a sweet-potato juice concentrate which, depending on the application, can replace 100% of the corn syrup in equal amounts, says Wells. The sweet potato juice contains mostly sucrose. Total HFCS replacement has been achieved in a chewy granola bar, baked goods, dressings and sauces. The company is currently working to develop a higher-concentrated version that would be more suitable for applications that use 55 HFCS.
Currently, to replace 5% HFCS in the formula, we would have to use 10% to 13% of one of our juices, equal to what I would use if I were replacing HFCS with honey, adds Stepan. We can get our concentrates up to 40º Brix, and were experimenting with 60º Brix. A 40º Brix is less viscous than a 55 HFCS or a 60º Brix fruit concentration, so at 40º we blend in some whey protein concentrate.
De-ionized fruit syrups, designed to yield fruit-derived sweeteners with only natural sugars from the fruit and very little color, flavor or acids, can also replace conventional sweeteners. Its a bland, natural sweetener used for replacing sugar or corn syrup, explains Curry-Swedberg. Applications include canning, confections, bakery and syrups.
No doubt, as developers continue to explore the nutritional and functional benefits of fruit and vegetable ingredients, they will con-tinue to find more applications where these ingredients can improve, enhance and help market their productsas well as even more un-expected solutions.
Cindy Hazen, a 20-year veteran of the food industry, is a freelance writer based in Memphis, TN. She can be reached at