New Ingredients for Sophisticated Dry MixesNew Ingredients for Sophisticated Dry Mixes
December 3, 2007
One thing about consumers, they want their cake and they want to eat it, too—but not unless it’s super easy to make, in just three minutes, in any type of oven, with all the quality and indulgence of a traditional cake, but in a single serving, and without the sodium and other ingredients that could negatively affect their health. Oh, and maybe a little nutritional fortification built in. Is that too much to ask?
Dry mixes for bakery, beverage and savory applications have come a long way in the past several years, as higher consumer expectations and trends toward better health, higher quality and improved convenience have driven ingredient innovation.
Solutions for processing pains
In creating dry mixes, processors look to eliminate or minimize issues that have been around since the dawn of processing, including flowability, moisture pickup, particle segregation, particle striation and fragile particle degradation. During processing, dry-mix particles often don’t cooperate. They struggle to flow properly into packaging; they can cake up or be too dusty if not properly formulated or at the right moisture levels; they can separate by particle size, creating uneven blends; and they can break down into undesirable particle sizes.
“Whenever you blend materials together that are not uniform in particle size, there are going to be issues,” says Eric Shinsato, technical sales support manager, Corn Products U.S., Westchester, IL. “We agglomerate ingredients like our dextrose to increase particle size, which helps flowability and improves durability during processing. Also, many of the carriers we manufacture are hygroscopic, so producing dextrose at a larger particle size creates less surface area, which helps reduce moisture pickup.” He says flowability and improved fill characteristics can also be achieved by co-processing ingredients. “For example, by co-processing a high-intensity sweetener with the carrier, we’re able to minimize dusting and create a more-even particle distribution for better flow and fill,” he says.
Kathi Johnson, international account manager, International Flavors & Fragrances, Dayton, NJ, says flowability, moisture pickup and solubility create many of the issues in processing and, ultimately, in the consumer experience. “It takes skilled formulators who understand ingredient synergism to be able to carefully balance moisture pickup in the recipe so it is just right,” she says. “Also critical is knowing the end usage point to provide the best functionality for the finished product. No one wants to get a packet in their home kitchen, open it up and find a hardened product. This can create an uneven flavor balance if it ends up only partially dissolved.”
Another concern is particle striation and segregation in the finished product. Johnson says consumers want excitement and color in their food, but giving it to them the same way every time in each package means finding new ways to incorporate vegetable pieces and colors so they are evenly distributed throughout the blend.
According to Shinsato, segregation and particle-size issues will always occur, “unless a novel process is designed to minimize the amount of breakage or particulate breakdown while maintaining a uniform mixture throughout the life of the product.”
There’s been a tremendous push in technologies over the years to improve many of these issues, according to Rodger Jonas, national business development manager, P.L. Thomas & Co., Inc., Morristown, NJ. “It’s no longer just spray-dried or freeze-dried anymore,” he says. “Now you have supercritical extraction and other technologies combined with it to help address these issues.”
Jonas says specialized ingredients really make a huge difference when solving a problem. “Just putting in more commodities doesn’t necessarily work,” he says. “You can use a highly functional ingredient at a lower use level and get the exact functionality you desire.”
Dry beverage mixes
Fast-changing technology has helped powdered-beverage manufacturers keep pace with all that consumers desire: convenience, great taste, pleasant mouthfeel, natural and organic, fortification, functional benefits like bone health and heart health, and more. “Consumers like to think they are making healthier choices without having to compromise flavor, fluidity, appearance or anything else,” says Nadeen Myers, MTS-food phosphates specialist, ICL Performance Products LP, St. Louis. And that puts pressure on manufacturers to deliver.
One issue is improving the ease with which all of the ingredients go into solution. For example, calcium phosphates are not water-soluble like their organic counterparts, but they contain a significantly higher percentage of minerals than other calcium sources, making them desirable. Under conditions where a beverage has a pH below 3.5, calcium phosphates are more readily soluble in solution, says Myers.
With flavor potentiality, which can create opportunities for flavor profiles previously not possible, and other functional delivery, techniques like encapsulation and nanotechnology can help. “With encapsulation, you can now take oils, put them into water and have the fluid stay clear,” says Jonas. “You can mix them in, and the oil will still function once it hits the water, without altering the appearance of the liquid.” Encapsulation has opened several doors in beverage development, because of its ability to maintain ingredients in solution and aid in availability, such as better mineral and vitamin delivery and bioavailability. “Nanotechnology can also help by adding shelf life to flavors and allowing changes in reaction rates, thereby enhancing the functionality you’re trying to achieve,” he adds.
Also critical in formulation development is understanding the conditions in-fluencing the ingredients, and the relationship between ingredients that may interfere with or alter other ingredients within the powder system. These issues can alter a beverage’s finished characteristics, such as pH, color and turbidity, all of which are critical for consumer acceptance.
Jonas says the best products have to be built from the ground up based on a solid knowledge base: “A lot of people call up and want to put guar gum in something, but which guar? What function do you really need? That educational piece is still lacking to some degree.” It’s understandable. Many new technologies and new uses of existing technologies help beverage formulators tackle some of the tough issues. “We try to guide formulators and determine what they’re trying to achieve,” he adds. “Then we help them build from there.” One example he gives is a new carrageenan-based gelatin substitute from P.L. Thomas that has great emulsion stability. “For those seeking a kosher product, such as a dairy-based smoothie, our vegetarian gelatin substitute offers a kosher claim plus several other highly functional benefits, including exceptional transparency and excellent flavor release,” he says.
Cake and bakery mixes
Thank goodness for Sam Matz. In the late ’50s, he investigated factors that impacted cake mix stability and provided guidance that holds true today. He examined factors related to the stability or loss of volume due to prereaction of the cake mix’s leavening system. He found that both temperature and finished mix moisture were key variables that could help control or extend a dry mix’s stability and shelf life.
Barbara Heidolph, principal, food phosphates, ICL Performance Products, points out that several factors can impact the prereaction of the leavening system and control or extend the stability of the dry mix, including the original factors identified by Matz. These factors include: the type of flour used; maintaining the dry mix’s finished moisture at 3% or less; avoiding use of flour that is freshly milled and has high temperature and moisture; restricting the age of the flour; selecting the right particle size of leavening-system components; selecting fats based upon rate and tendency to form free fatty acids during storage; and the type of leavening acid. Through manipulation or selection of these factors, cake-mix stability and functionality can dramatically improve.
“Formulation challenges still are out there, including the threat of loss of leavening during storage due to rancidity or free-fatty-acid formation,” says Heidolph. And the ramifications are not good. When pre-reaction of the leavening system occurs, both consumers and processors lose out. “Not only does the dry mix not meet consumer expectations through subpar baked volume and poor crust color, but it can also create warehouse management issues,” she says. “In warehouse settings, dry mixes can prereact. They can accumulate carbon dioxide in headspace in the package, expanding the packaging and potentially rupturing cases.”
Prereaction can be addressed through leavening-acid choice and use levels. Monocalcium phosphate (MCP) can prereact with the sodium bicarbonate. One solution is to limit the level of MCP to only that required for nucleation, or early reaction. If other leavening acids are used, choose those that are very stable with regard to leavening system prereaction in a dry-mix environment, such as sodium aluminum phosphate (SALP) and sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP).
Another strategy to reduce prereaction is selecting a larger bicarbonate particle size for the dry-mix leavening system. Heidolph suggests a preference for grade-two fine-granular particle size vs. grade-one powdered. “Larger particle size aids in reducing surface interaction between the acids and the bicarbonate, helping reduce the overall prereaction,” she explains.
While cake and bakery mixes are not typically seen as vehicles for delivering nutrition, there are examples of “better-for-you” cake-mix products, such as sugar-free and low-sugar. It is conceivable that cake mixes can be accepted as better-for-you products since history has delivered cake mixes formulated to address fat-free and low-carb concerns.
With trans-fat removal from cakes being looked at by some, could whole-grain cakes, fortified cakes, gluten-free cakes or low-sodium cakes be far behind?
Products that are low-sodium, vitamin- and mineral-forti- fied, or trans-fat-free could all be on the horizon. In fact, it’s now possible to formulate cake mixes with reduced sodium or fortified with calcium through a leavening acid from ICL Performance Products that contains calcium and zero sodium. And trans-fat removal is likely to continue as an area of focus. Formulators are looking for ways to eliminate trans fats from cake mixes without sacrificing the aeration properties and oxidative stability associated with trans-fat-containing systems. In general, with the use of emulsifiers, hydrocolloids and a modified leavening system, the volume of a cake can be maintained despite the elimination of shortening. Antioxidants and sequestrants can aid in stabilizing replacement fat systems to avoid rancidity development during dry-mix storage.
“We’re seeing consumers demand greater authenticity in flavor and require more natural or ‘clean’ labels in their dry-mix gravies and sauces,” says Johnson, “but not at the expense of easy-to-prepare.” She says the industry is developing new functional ingredients to help dry-mix gravies and sauces perform with little or no assistance from the consumer. “Let’s face it: Many of today’s consumers really can’t cook,” she says. “New thickening systems and new flavor profiles that mimic cooking techniques—like fried, braised, stewed flavors—continue to drive development work.”
Chad Peters, food scientist II, Givaudan Flavors, Cincinnati, points out that a lot of development is tied to consumers’ desire for the fatty mouthfeel of pan drippings they’d get from scratch-made, but in dry-mix forms. Another desired element is the fresh-herb taste that comes with ingredients like microgreens, which offer intense bursts of flavor. “To address these issues, we look at base note flavors with top notes bulked in, as well as eliminating any reducing sugars to avoid rancidity or caramelizing taste in the finished product,” he says.
Other popular development issues Peters cites include reducing sodium without affecting flavor, and eliminating the caking of dry mixes that are wet due to high plating percentages from things like chicken fat and oil. “The key in that case is to create flavor systems with plated fat already mixed in with the flavor,” he says. Salt reducers and substitutes often put umami to work to keep the senses engaged without delivering a bitter taste.
Clean-label concerns are also an issue. One ingredient solution from P.L. Thomas is a carrageenan that can be used in dry and wet mixes to eliminate the use of xanthan. This allows the manufacturer to claim an all-natural product with a natural suspension agent.
On the horizon
There is a strong drive toward further convenience, healthier products, improved functionality for shelf-life improvement, and overall quality improvement in future dry-mix development. “The health segment has taken off and driven all these-dry mix categories,” Jonas emphasizes. “Weight-loss products and sugar-free products are already out there. Now we see products that claim to lower a person’s glycemic index or improve cognitive ability or improve joint health. The health segment is just going to continue to grow.”
Eric Borchardt is a seven-year veteran of the conventional and organic food ingredient industry and owner of Fit Marketing Communications in Stoughton, WI. He can be reached at [email protected].
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