Functional Ingredients: What’s in Your Loaves?

November 07, 2007
loafIngredient companies have not been slow off the mark to do their research and development in order to be ready to supply commercial bakers with functional ingredients for today’s consumers who are looking for products that address specific health needs.  Food technologists and scientists have been working away in labs for years, testing the properties of various functional compounds to determine the extent to which the health benefits survive through the baking process.
Blair Collins, Nutritional Product Manager, North America, of Mitsubishi International Food Ingredients, Inc., a leading supplier of functional ingredients for the food, beverage and bakery industries, discussed probiotics – the active, “good” bacteria that Canadians are just learning about, but the Japanese have been demanding in their products for years.
“In Japan, probiotics are used, not from a functional food standpoint in baking, but to add a fluffy texture to sponge cakes,” said Collins.  Since extended exposure to liquids can be harmful to the stablility of probiotics – depending on the process – no health claims are made.  Japanese customers simply want to see ‘probiotics’ listed as an ingredient, even if it does not provide a functional health benefit.”
The Japanese market, in that sense, is the antithesis of the North American one that Collins is developing.  His customers want a probiotic that will withstand their processing so that a health claim can be made about the finished product – it’s what North American consumers are looking for – the value-added health benefit.  For instance, one of Mitsubishi’s shelf-stable probiotics is sold through Whole Foods markets, in Canada and the U.S.  A “triple-defence” powder for kids, it boosts their immunities and can be taken, as is, by mouth, or dissolved into water.  Extensive scientific research backs the efficacy of the product – Collins gives it to his young daughter daily, and believes it helps her body defend itself against flu and cold viruses.
Canada is considered a tough market for probiotics, according to Collins.  Mitsubishi has launched a new product here through a distribution network, in order to gauge interest in a probiotic complex.  If it succeeds here, it should be a virtual slam-dunk in the U.S.

Collins’ enthusiasm for probiotics is infectious.  “It’s going to be a fantastic market,” he said.  “Yes, there’s an educational curve for consumers, but once they understand the benefits of live cultures, probiotics are going to take off.”

Cargill, another international provider of food products and more, has a division entirely devoted to developing, processing and marketing science-based, health-promoting ingredients for food and dietary supplement industries – Cargill Health & Food Technologies (CHFT). Steve Snyder, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing, CHFT, sees the proprietary dietary components they’ve developed “generating an advantage for manufacturers to create foods with mass-market appeal that address consumer health concerns, such as digestive and bone health.”

A line of plant sterols – an important functional food ingredient – has been developed by CHFT that is eligible for an approved FDA heart health claim. They can be incorporated into a variety of food and beverage applications.

Chicory roots were the inspiration, not to mention the source, for CHFT’s range of natural soluble fibres, which have a number of health and functional benefits. In particular, according to Snyder, this range of natural fibres may help to promote bone health by boosting calcium absorption. One product in the line also promotes a healthy digestive system by stimulating the growth of beneficial bifido-bacteria.

As part of Cargill’s “Accelerating Health Innovation”™, their scientists developed a proprietary soy protein isolate – bland-flavoured – that creates better-tasting products compared to other isolates on the market. This soy protein isolate also imparts improved texture and mouth feel to products, which will help bakers expand their sales of health-promoting goods that taste as good as they look.

“We understand the importance of supporting consumers who are trying to eat a sensible diet and are committed to living a healthy lifestyle,” said Snyder. “With these functional ingredients, we can ensure that our customers will meet the needs of these consumers credibly, successfully and profitably. At CHFT, we constantly seek innovative ways to generate health advantages for food manufacturers.  It’s all about customer solutions and getting successful products into the marketplace with them.”

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