Selecting Ingredients to Meet Nutritional Targets

Manufacturers and product developers face a number of competing priorities in the bakery industry. These include such areas as recipe cost optimization; delivering great flavors, textures and appearance for consumers; ease of manufacturing; reducing or replacing ingredients or categories of ingredients traditionally used, such as gluten-free, or vegan products; and ensuring that products meet a variety of nutritional targets – which could mean a decreased or increased level of certain macronutrients and micronutrients.

by Mike Adams, Product Innovation Lead at Campden BRI

Nutritional targets for many foods have been in place for a significant time, with manufacturers spending considerable resources to deliver healthier products that still convey the same taste and texture. Examples include staple products such as high-fiber bread and sugar-reduced biscuits.

Many product developers are focusing on some specific challenges that have arisen since consumers have become more attentive to the foods they eat. Focus is on creating clean label products and increasing a product’s level of fortification. This often results in creating products that would be perceived as ‘healthier’, but it means that targets are getting more difficult to achieve, which increases developmental costs and time. Adding to this the myriad of certification bodies, pressure groups and competing interests means it can be a significant challenge to deliver on all the priorities outlined above.

When designing or redesigning products to meet certain nutritional targets, one of the key areas to consider are the ingredients that the product will be made with. While certain processes have a significant impact on the nutritional profile of a product, such as frying, the nutritional content of most products is mainly influenced by the recipe and the choices made when selecting ingredients. These choices are significantly impacted by the priorities outlined earlier – a nutritionally advantaged ingredient is useless if it is too expensive to be included, negatively affects the ability to manufacture the product or doesn’t taste very nice. Therefore, it’s important to understand these trade-offs in advance so time is not wasted in prototyping products that are not commercially viable.

WHAT DO THE INGREDIENTS DO?

One of the most important things to understand about an ingredient is its role in the finished product or the manufacturing process. Most of the nutrients of interest will have an impact on the product, and it’s important that these can be replicated by other ingredients, should they be removed. Alternatively, any negative functionality of newly incorporated ingredients would need to be mitigated by the addition of other ingredients or processing alterations.

An example of this would be salt. Salt plays a significant role in many foodstuffs. In some cases, it affects not just the finished product, but also the processability of the product as it is manufactured. A good example of this is its application in bread. Salt does not only improve the flavor of bread and other baked goods but also has a significant impact on other properties such as the hydration and formation of the crumb structure, gluten protein and the product’s shelf-life. When reducing the level of salt in a product, it is therefore important to understand what mitigation is required to reduce any potential negative effects.

Another example would be the inclusion of fiber into products. Fiber is an important nutrient, with its role in human health gaining significant interest recently as an increasing amount of research links fiber with improved gut health and general wellbeing. Fiber has many sources, with a common source being unrefined flour and grains, which contain significant levels of fiber from the bran. Another source of fiber that has grown in importance within the food and drink industry over the past few years is inulin. Inulin is a polysaccharide, most commonly extracted from chicory root. Its use within foodstuffs as a fiber source, combined with its functional properties, has made it a popular choice with developers to reduce sugar while increasing fiber levels. However, it does have a functionality very different from bran, so its inclusion will often require a number of other changes to both process and product to ensure that other negative changes are not observed.

WHICH INGREDIENTS CAN I USE?

Meeting nutritional targets that involve micronutrient levels has traditionally involved fortifying food with vitamins and minerals.  More recently, a popular trend has explored using natural ingredients with significant levels of micronutrients in place of synthetic vitamins or minerals to fortify foods. Ingredients such as acerola cherry or seaweed can offer significant levels of vitamins or essential nutrients and can be included in foods and drinks to create a “cleaner” ingredients declaration.

A number of ingredients that have very high levels of micronutrients are relatively new to the food and drink industry, so care must be taken to ensure that regulations allow their use in the foodstuffs that are being fortified. A good example of this are chia seeds (Salvia hispanica). Chia seeds can be a source of a number of important nutrients, such as fiber, minerals (manganese, phosphorus), vitamins (B3, B1) and omega-3 fatty acids, and are therefore used by manufactures to improve the nutrient profile of foods and beverages, as well as offering some functional effects due to the production of mucilage. However, chia seeds are classed as a Novel Food under EU legislation, and their use is governed by a number of pieces of legislation (including Regulation (EU) 2017/2470 establishing the Union list of novel foods with amendments via Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/24 authorizing an extension of use of chia seeds). This means the level of inclusion and food categories that chia seeds are allowed to be used in, is controlled. It is therefore important that regulatory approval is sought when choosing ingredients, to prevent any issues when bringing the product to market.

An additional challenge when using more natural ingredients to meet a nutritional target is the variability that can occur within a food. Many natural ingredients contain variable amounts of vitamins and minerals, and the level of these can be affected by several factors, including growing conditions, variety, storage time and the impact of any further processing, such as drying. This means that a natural product, like a carrot powder for example, may not in fact contain the level of vitamin A (and its equivalents) that is expected by referring to a reference source. This is an important consideration if any health or nutrition claims are to be made, and standardized ingredients that have a stated vitamin content should be sourced wherever possible.

You can read the rest of this article in the November/December Issue of European Baker & Biscuit magazine, which you can access by clicking here.

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