Friday, November 16, 2018
1. Probiotics and Fermented Foods. This past year saw probiotics and fermented foods and beverages go mainstream. Expect more of this, along with more varied applications, as new shelf-stable strains find their way into products merchandised at ambient temperature.
This presents an opportunity for the dairy industry to get aggressive with innovation. For long, many have been asking “what’s the next Greek yogurt?” The answer is probiotic dairy shots. Think Yakult and Activia, and take it to another level. These fermented drinks may be formulated with other value-added ingredients for additional benefits. Think “beauty from within” in a collagen shot. How about a relaxing shot containing dairy bioactives?
2. Healthy Fats and Keto Friendly Foods. The Whole Foods forecasters say fat is back in a big way, and keto diet-friendly foods will be a big call out in 2019. It’s all about fat and protein, and milkfat and dairy proteins make for delicious innovations. When carefully crafted, no-added-sugar claims are possible.
Rebel Creamery offers a premium, high-fat, low-carb, no-sugar-added ice cream. Rebel Ice Cream uses only all-natural, keto-friendly ingredients that won’t raise blood sugar, raise insulin levels or kick you out of a fat-burning state. The focus of this grain-free, gluten-free keto-friendly product is to be very low in net carbohydrates. One pint contains 5 to 8 grams and no added sugars. This is achieved through the use of erythritol, monk fruit and chicory root fiber. Fat is also a priority. The use of cream and egg yolks make Rebel one of the highest fat ice creams in the market. One pint contains 56 to 76 grams. A half-cup serving contains 150 to 200 calories, 14 to 19 grams of fat, 2 to 3 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 7 to 10 grams of sugar alcohol, and 2 to 3 grams of protein, depending on variety.
SmashPack manufactures Protein Smoothies, a line of all-natural, high-protein and real fruit nutritional snacks that come in spouted squeeze packs. Each shelf-stable pouch is packed with 14 grams of high-quality whey protein, one serving of real fruit, 5 grams of healthy fats and only 180 calories. The company recently reformulated the smoothie snack with medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oils, which are trending as one of the hottest health and wellness ingredients for 2019.
MCT oils are healthy fats recognized as optimum fuel sources for both brain and body, and, when part of a high-protein and very-low-sugar product, appeal to the growing number of consumers following a ketogenic diet. They pair great with value-added dairy proteins to make nutritional snacks on target with today’s consumers’ health and wellness goals.
3. Hemp. That’s right, hemp. And why add it to value-added dairy foods? Hemp seed oil is extracted from cannabis plants but it doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the chemical responsible for most of cannabis’ psychological effects. The oil is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and is a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes. It is reported to improve skin, hair and nails; reduce risk of heart disease and cancer; aid in weight loss; lessen inflammation and help with better brain function. And, being an oil, disperses best in a fat-containing system, including dairy.
4. Plant-based evolution. The plant-based movement has been firmly established in consumer eating habits. It’s now evolving as consumers discover what they like, and what they don’t. Plant-based foods are not necessarily vegan and many are designed to have broad appeal to consumers who are intrigued by health benefits and have concerns about how their food is sourced. (Don't forget, hemp is a plant!)
Innovators are creating new product categories and disrupting old ones. The movement is becoming one situated in the larger context of sustainability: intertwined with upcycled products, as more companies turn to root-to-stem ingredients to combat food waste; snacks made from rescued bananas, or flours made with spent grains or pulp, according to the Specialty Food Association.
Think “the blend.” These are burgers, meatballs and other ground meat formats, which, on average, are a 50-50 blend of beef with umami-rich mushrooms. By mixing plant with animal, the nutritional profile of the product is improved and there’s an environmental story with energy, water and land savings.
Dairy blends well with plant-based ingredients, including legumes, fruits and vegetables. Think Darling Foods’ Darling Pickle Dips, a line of refrigerated dips made from a cream cheese and white bean base. The base is blended with pickled vegetables, herbs and spices. The cream cheese gives the dips richness, while the pureed beans provide a slightly chunkier texture than most creamy dips. Each variety has some taste of dill pickle without being overwhelming.
5. Healthy Aging and Edible Beauty. Noted as emerging by last year’s Specialty Food Associations’ Trendspotter panel, collagen is a full-fledged trend in 2019, and part of a bigger move to develop products that promote skin health and appearance, and overall beauty from within.
It’s all about healthy aging. And, adding dairy bioactives back into dairy foods makes sense.
Food and drink will build on today’s dialogue about wellness and transition into more solutions for healthy aging, according to Mintel. Formulations can be developed for people of all ages to efficiently consume vitamins, minerals and other ingredients that are potentially beneficial for bone, joint, immune system, brain health and overall wellbeing. Mintel cites fairlife milk with DHA Omega-3 as an example.
The lines comes in 2% and whole fat formulations. The milk is lactose free and concentrated in protein as a result of being processed using ultrafiltration.
“As a dairy company rooted in innovation, fairlife is dedicated to consistently launching great-tasting products that provide essential nutrients and vitamins. And, as a mother and grandmother of triplets, I understand the health benefits derived from good nutrition and I want nothing more for my family,” says Sue McCloskey, dairy farmer and co-founder of fairlife LLC. “Scientists have linked these fatty acids to a variety of health benefits throughout life, including brain health and health aging. I’m thrilled to say that our new ultra-filtered whole milk option offers 125 milligrams of DHA omega-3 fatty acids in each serving. That’s more than triple the amount found in other DHA-milks.”
Both sets of my grandparents were Polish immigrants. This is not how I remember my busias and dziadzias. Check out this VIDEO.
6. Flavor Adventure. And for goodness sake, if you are going to get creative and push the envelope in terms of dairy innovation, please do not limit flavor offerings to chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. Mixed berry is no longer edgy, by the way, and strawberry kiwi is dead. Younger generations—Millennials and Gen Z--have had unprecedented exposure to global culture and cuisine from an early age. They are adventurous and seek experience in their travel and in their food, which has led to a shift in interest to authentic regional fare.
Targeting increasingly adventurous consumers, set on new discoveries and experiences, will be key to developments in the food and beverage industry in 2019, according to Innova. The connected world has led consumers of all ages to become more knowledgeable of other cultures, contributing to 35% growth of “discovery” claims, when comparing 2017 and 2016 new product launch numbers.
Thursday, November 8, 2018
Get a taste of what reThink Food is all about HERE.
“Earlier food revolutions changed the course of human history, beginning with the first agricultural revolution, followed by the industrialization of food and then the Green Revolution,” says Jacquelyn Chi, director of programs and special projects at CIA. “Today’s explosion of information technology, with its attendant impacts of massive high-speed computation and mobile connectivity, has unleashed a global conversation about needs, values and aspirations around food and food systems.
“Increasingly, consumers want to know where their food comes from, how it was grown and prepared, and how good—or bad—it is for them,” she says. “As a result, a critical imperative of this current revolution is that companies must embrace fundamentally new approaches to transparency, an imperative that itself is accelerating the pace of change.”
Think Impossible Burger, cricket flour and even almond milk. Many consumers are very open to science and the food innovations that result. There’s a great deal of “clean-label” science available to dairy product innovators.
We need more companies to push the envelope. That’s what fairlife milk did and it has changed the way many of us drink milk.
And have you heard about General Mills’ success with oui? Launched in July 2017, this French-style cup-set yogurt comes in 5-ounce single-use glass jars. Not much more than a year after its launch, oui is now a $100 million brand in what is a declining category. This product appeals to the young and old. It’s all about the ingredients, the experience and the connection with the consumer.
“We’ve been hearing that Millennials are outpacing older generations in driving an unprecedented embrace of culinary adventure,” says Chi. “From experimentation with far-flung global flavors to the embrace of new product, restaurant, hospitality and retail concepts that completely upend old models and categories, consumers have indicated their willingness—indeed, eagerness—to re-think food as never before.”
source: FleishmanHillard, Shaping the Future of Food, 2018
At the reThink Food conference, Kristie Sigler, senior vice president partner at FleishmanHillard, Kansas City, presented findings from a new report that shows when it comes to food and nutrition, there’s an emergence of shared beliefs and behaviors among Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Boomers.
“We call these cross-generational influencers ‘Gen Food’ because food defines them and is an important part of their values and belief system,” says Jamie Greenheck, global managing director of FleishmanHillard’s Food, Agriculture and Beverage practice. “They’re taking personal responsibility for improving the way we eat and drink, which provides a tremendous opportunity for brands looking to connect and drive action through food.”
The study of engaged consumers shows food unites more than it divides Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Boomers. Sigler shared some key findings, including:
- 91% say food is an important part of their values and belief system.
- 35% say that food defines them.
- 79% feel it’s their role and responsibility to share food information with others.
- 81% believe they can make a difference in the kinds of foods we eat and how they are grown.
- 78% have taken action to address food issues important to them, with reducing food waste emerging as their top priority.
- 60% say they bear the responsibility for improving what and how we eat, more than food companies, government entities or health professionals.
“The implications for food, agriculture and beverage companies are profound,” says Greenheck. “Speaking Gen Food’s language and understanding their values is important to having relevant conversations about everything from sustainable nutrition to agricultural practices and food waste. It’s also vital to focus on the benefits of innovation as they become the primary drivers of food choice. Additionally, companies should make it easy for consumers to participate and contribute to a better, more responsible food system.”
The biggest news here is that everyone in the dairy foods chain has the potential to be more effective and efficient by focusing on this highly engaged group of influencers as a way to communicate across all generations. Never forget for Gen Food, food is a personal, connective, human experience.
source: FleishmanHillard, Shaping the Future of Food, 2018
FleishmanHillard’s Shaping the Future of Food study was conducted by its TRUE Global Intelligence practice, which conducted an online survey with 2,001 nutrition-forward consumers September 14-20, 2018, and evaluated drivers related to food, influences and behaviors. Respondents were screened for engagement on such factors as seeking information about food, sharing content about food and paying attention to ingredient lists. You can download the report HERE.
source: FleishmanHillard, Shaping the Future of Food, 2018
“At the center of this new food revolution is the innovator,” concludes Chi. “This is everyone from individual entrepreneurs, chefs, farmers, early-stage companies and innovative larger companies who are disrupting current business practices and re-inventing our agriculture, food systems, cooking and food experiences. They typically leverage new information tools as soon as they are invented or developed, giving them faster access to market trends and opportunities.”
It’s time for all players along the dairy industry supply chain to unite to ensure that butter, cheese, cultured dairy, ice cream, milk and yogurt—as is, or in out-of-the-box innovative new formats--are part of the future of food.
Thursday, November 1, 2018
For example, let me introduce you to Numa Milk Chews, which are milk-based chewy snacks infused with nuts and dried fruit. They are inspired by Taiwanese nougat, an extremely popular Asian treat, which until now has only been available in the U.S. as an imported product.
The name Numa comes from the Chinese characters for daughter (nu) and mother (ma), and that’s who developed this new shelf-stable dairy snack: Joyce (the nu) and Jane (the ma). The all-natural chews are described as tasting like candy but performing like a bar. Not too sweet, they are a good source of calcium and iron with one serving (two chews) providing 4 grams of protein. Packages state: You’ve never had milk like this before.
Made with just six ingredients—with Grade A Pasteurized Milk the second ingredient—Numa made its launch in an Original flavor (with peanuts and dried cranberries) in 2017 in select New York City stores and through Amazon in early 2018. The mom and daughter team just launched a Kickstarter campaign to assist with the rollout of Chocolate and Strawberry flavors.
Here’s a few more out-of-the-dairy-department innovations. PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division is rolling out a range of yogurt- and cheese-based snacks. Targeted to kids, new Imagine brand shelf-stable snacks make dairy the star ingredient.
Imagine Cheese Stars are poppable crackers with real cheese as the first ingredient. Initial offerings are Parmesan and White Cheddar, which both containing 6 grams of protein per serving. Imagine Yogurt Crisps combine real fruit with real yogurt for a crunchy whole grain snack that comes in Apple Cinnamon and Mixed Berry. Nonfat yogurt powder is the first ingredient, with a serving containing 4 grams of protein and 8 grams of whole grains.
TSC Food Products GmbH, Austria, which worked with Prairie Farms on Milk Snacks, showcased similar new products at SIAL 2018. Product will be rolling out to select European markets under the Cadbury and Milka brands.
Vilvi, Lithuania, showcased its quark bars at SIAL. These bars are composed of an inner filling of quark (fresh cheese curd) encased in a thin chocolate coating. The quark comes in many flavors, including basics like chocolate and vanilla, as well as more adventurous like poppy seed, mascarpone and pistachio.
Imagine if these perishable bar snacks included an extra dimension of taste and texture by having the chocolate coating topped with flavorful whey protein pods. This would boost protein at the same time. They could even be colored for extra allure.
Another innovation that debuted at SIAL was Cheese Crumble from Granarolo Italian Milk and Dairy Group. This new topper combines the company’s classic oven-baked 100% Italian cheese crisps with other flavorful ingredients, namely dried fruits and seeds. The topper is intended to be used in salads, soups or any food that can benefit from some extra flavor. Think cottage cheese and plain yogurt. The three varieties are: Blueberry and Seeds (flax, pumpkin and sunflower), Dried Tomato, Oliva and Seed (sunflower) and Goji Berry, Pear and Seeds (flax and sunflower).
The story of Valio MiFU products started when Valio’s internal innovation team was assigned the task of coming up with a new way to use the casein protein found in milk. The starting point for product development was to find alternative protein sources to meat. Many challenges had to be overcome before the successful end result.
“One of the most important tasks of product development was developing a texture that could be pan-fried. Creating a good texture and mouthfeel, however, wasn’t enough: the product also had to remain the same when heated and be easy to use in food preparation,” says Niko Nurmi, a researcher at Valio. “The nutritional values we aimed for were a high protein and a low fat content, without compromising good taste.”
MiFU is best when used in hot meals as is or after browning in a frying pan. MiFU maintains its texture and mouthfeel well when heated. Valio MiFU is 24% protein and is free of lactose, gluten, eggs and yeast, so the strips are suitable for many special diets.
Back in the States, another new concept in dairy snacking is Jouzge, a line of dairy-based shelf-stable snack bars developed to promote healthy eating and a healthy self-image among young women. Created by University of Wisconsin-Madison (CDR) alumnus Dana Wendt, with formulation assistance from the Center for Dairy Research, Jouzge bars were born out of Wendt’s desire to create a dairy-based snack for young girls that would fuel their self-love, rather than disparage it.
“Years ago, I was eating a particular bar that had a weight management message attached to its name and marketing,” says Wendt. “My daughter saw me eating this bar and asked if she could take it to school as a snack. While the nutrition was acceptable, I began to worry about the message the bar was trying to send to my daughter. It basically said, ‘you’re not the right size, but if you eat this, you’ll be better.’”
Growing up in the dairy industry, Wendt was aware of the health benefits of milk and milk products, so she was eager to create a dairy-based bar. For several months, she worked with researchers at CDR and experimented with a variety of different formulas, bar shapes, sizes, coatings and drizzles. Utilizing dairy proteins was an important part of the formulation process, which included the use of whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, milk protein isolate and whey protein crisps, which created a crunchy texture in some of the bars.
“Dairy proteins are high-quality complete proteins that contain all the essential amino acids,” says Susan Larson, associate researcher at CDR. “Essential amino acids are ones that must be provided by your foods as your body cannot make them. Specifically, whey proteins have an especially high concentration of branched chain amino acids--leucine, isoleucine and valine--that are used for building and maintaining lean body muscle.”
The CDR team helped Ms. Wendt create three flavors: chocolate peanut butter, chocolate mint and chocolate chip cookie dough. Filled with dairy goodness, each clean-label bar contains no more than 130 calories and 7 grams of sugar, along with 7 to 8 grams of dairy-based protein.
Agropur launches dairy accelerator in North America
Canadian dairy cooperative Agropur is launching Inno Accel, a North American accelerator for dairy businesses. Inno Accel is an offshoot of the Inno Agropur program, a large open innovation initiative in the North American dairy industry. It matches Agropur’s resources with high-potential start-ups in order to reinvent dairy and quickly bring the most exciting innovations to market.
For more information, link HERE.
The first cohort of five young entrepreneurs from Canada and the U.S. promises to help reinvigorate and reinvent dairy. They are:
- U Main, a Montreal company that develops do-it-yourself artisanal cheesemaking kits.
- Sweetaly Dolceria, entrepreneurs who make decadent desserts using simple ingredients and their Italian grandmother’s traditional recipes.
- SaltiSweet Ice Cream Factory, a company revolutionizing ice cream novelties by replacing the stick with a biscuit, eliminating the unpleasant taste and environmental footprint of wood
- Cheese Grotto, a collective that makes cheese storage devices for the home to preserve fine cheeses under ideal conditions
- Peak Yogurt, entrepreneurs who make triple-cream, low-sugar yogurt designed for those following a ketogenic diet
The group will spend four months at Inno Accel, disrupting convention and thinking outside the box. Each business will be supported by two mentors--a successful entrepreneur and a member of the Agropur executive--and about 20 coaches with different areas of expertise, e.g., marketing, sales, research and development, etc., who will provide guidance and help them develop their enterprises in an environment that resembles real-life conditions in the business world and the food industry.
Agropur launched its innovation program in 2016 to explore new avenues in a fast-changing business landscape and to keep focus on better meeting the needs of consumers for a unique dairy experience.
Reimaging dairy foods. The possibilities are infinite.
Thursday, October 25, 2018
Theme #1: Taste is Back
So what is the theme of taste? It appears that over the years, with emphasis placed on better-for-you and restrictive diets, the industry lost sight of focusing on taste. “It was still there, on our plates, but seemingly packing less flavor and strength than in the past. Well, now it’s back,” according to SIAL’s innovation expert panel.
“Today we are witnessing a true return of strong tastes to satisfy the desires for new sensations expressed by consumers,” said Xavier Terlet, CEO, XTC World Innovation. “Yet this extra taste must not be at the expense of the natural virtues of the product.”
“Consumer expectations, in terms of taste, seem significantly more pronounced and, I’d go so far as to say, more sophisticated than before,” said Pascale Grelot-Girard, marketing intelligence, director Kantar TNS. “In 2018, 66% of consumers said that they pay more and give more attention to choosing high-quality products, for pleasure’s sake. Indeed, in most countries, food is above all associated with the notion of pleasure. Pleasure procured through quality and taste, but also through discovery. In fact, 62% of consumers like to discover new products, with scores fairly similar across the different countries that we have studied.”
“All around the world, artisans and industrial manufacturers alike are seeking to outdo each other with innovations for underpinning basic and raw pleasure, for rediscovering taste that is natural and true,” said Terlet. “It’s about the original taste, with nothing else added.”
Theme #2: True Food
What does true food mean? This refers to food that is more authentic, more natural, healthier and also safer. Consumers are paying more attention to what they eat, and the need for transparency and commitment has never been so strong.
Theme #3: Meaning
According to the experts, today’s consumers increasingly want to find new meaning in what they eat. Many consumers are getting closer to producers to do their food shopping. They favor short supply chains such as farmers’ markets and cooperatives. Local gives the food purpose.
Taste, True and Meaning came to life on the exposition floor. Over two days and 44,332 steps, I explored the eight halls to identify a number of noteworthy innovation concepts for the global dairy processing community to consider in future product development.
A concept that caught my eye was new Iced Coffee Cubes from Germany’s Farmers Land Food GmbH. It’s simple. Extra-strong coffee gets frozen into cubes and sold in recloseable pouches. When you want an iced latte, just put some cubes in a glass, pour milk over and stir. This very simple concept has potential to be a distribution format for functional ingredients, such as probiotic yogurt cubes.
Speaking of probiotics, the time is now. These better-for-you bacteria were showcased in a range of foods and beverages, including one of the newest formats: ice cream. (Unilever introduced probiotic yogurt to the U.S. a few weeks ago.)
Dadu Ice Cream in Lithuania markets Probio Active frozen yogurt bars. The individually wrapped bars come in peach and raspberry varieties, with each bar delivering more than a million Bifidobacterium BB-12.
Industry forecasts suggest that the proliferation of gut-healthy foods is expected to explode in the New Year. It appears that it’s finally resonating with consumers that a healthy digestive system is the foundation of overall wellness, as a balanced, positive human microbiome is associated with vitality and healthy aging.
More than half of shoppers, globally, always or usually choose foods/beverages to improve digestion—ranking as the #1 benefit shoppers seek from a list of nearly 30 functional health benefits—according to findings from HealthFocus International.
Graph source: HealthFocus International
What’s key to note is that dairy no longer owns probiotics. There were a number of water kefir probiotic beverages showcased in the beverage hall, where kombucha was also a star attraction.
Healthy digestion in the dairy category also includes lactose-free options, and umerous global dairy brands now offer lactose-free versions of their most popular products.
That’s what Latteria Montello S.p.A., a 70-plus-year-old Italian fresh cheese company, is doing to keep customers who may leave the fresh cheese category because of lactose sensitivities.
One new lactose-free option is Nonno Nanni Fresco Spalmabile. The fresh taste of this spreadable cheese is the result of a careful selection of milk enzymes and accurate balance between sweet and savory notes. It comes in 150 gram resealable trays. This same variety of cheese is also available organic, made with 100% Italian milk.
Alive Greek Style Yogurt bars with fruit and muesli are marketed as mini meals. These probiotic dairy stick novelties are also described as being suitable for vegetarians.
With 300 & Bio, Eurial wants to reassure consumers about its purpose of being true and having meaning. The brand provides an ethical and health dimension to its products.
Behind the brand name there are 300 organic breeders from the west of France united in a cooperative. On the lids of the products, consumers are able to find the pictures of the breeders in order to humanize the range. All of the products are higher-fat and described as gourmet and less acidic. This speaks to the “taste” theme.
Another example of addressing “true” and “meaning” comes from Ireland’s Kerrygold, which is known globally for its butter and cheese, and in Germany, now for its yogurt. That’s right, Kerrygold yogurt is exclusively sold in Germany.
Its brand position is that it’s made with Irish milk and shipped within three days of manufacture to Germany for distribution.
There’s so much to be learned from the global dairy industry. The reassuring fact is that dairy is alive and thriving. There’s a saying that one gets complacent when there’s no competition. Let’s look at the plant-based movement as fuel to fire up dairy innovation!
Friday, October 19, 2018
A pouch supplier explained that syneresis may occur in yogurt pouches just like it does in cups. When that first squirt into a toddler’s mouth is liquid and not yogurt, mom and dad can expect some spitting and complaining. That’s a sure way to lose a customer.
We talked about the larger pouches now housing sour cream and condiment Greek yogurt. No one wants that first squeeze to be what often occurs with ketchup and mustard, red or yellow liquid, respectively.
And no one wants to see a layer of whey in those attractive glass jars holding premium yogurt, puddings and other dairy desserts.
Smaller containers of ice cream—from pints to 4-ounce cups—have more exposed surface area than larger multi-serve containers. During distribution, product may undergo multiple freeze-thaw cycles, which leads to ice crystal development and eventually freezer burn. Better managing of moisture slows the onset of this defect.
If you are facing any of these issues, below you will find an overview on managing moisture. And, once you understand how to manage it, then it’s time to explore how to create unique textures by manipulating moisture.
That’s what you find at The Republic of Booza, a new ice cream store that opened this summer in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. I had the opportunity to try it out when in town for the Summer Fancy Food Show.
It is made with the ancient ingredient sahlab, or ground orchid root, and mastic, a resin. These moisture-managing ingredients are added to milk and mixed in a freezer drum. At the Republic of Booza, this takes place with a three-foot wooden pestle and the ice cream is stretched by hand.
The product has the unique ability to resist melting, lending itself to almost being a chewy frozen treat. This format also makes it an excellent delivery vehicle for unique flavors. Original Qashta is a candied cream flavor. Other global flavors on the menu are Coconut Matcha, Horchata de Chufa, Mango-Tajin, Mint Tahini Chip, Red Miso, Saffron Peppercorn and Sichuan White Chocolate. The menu includes familiar favorites, too, such as Chocolate, Pistachio, Salted Caramel, Strawberry and Vanilla, as well as some experimental combinations like Salted Oreo and Bloody Mary.
photo source: The Republic of Booza
Managing Moisture 101
(This is adapted from an article I wrote years ago. You can read it in its entirety HERE.)
Product developers willing to explore technologies that manipulate moisture often discover unique and, typically, quite economical opportunities for innovative product development. This is because water, the most abundant, yet often frequently overlooked constituent in the food supply, is basically a free ingredient that impacts structure and increases yield, all for zero calories.
What product developers cannot afford to overlook is careful management of moisture in commercially manufactured foods, as too much or too little, or not being in the right matrix, can be detrimental to product quality and safety. This is very true for highly perishable refrigerated and frozen dairy foods.
Water content influences a foods structure, appearance, taste and even susceptibility to degradation. Water is used as an ingredient in many food formulations, and most food ingredients also contain noteworthy amounts of water. This must be carefully considered when attempting to manage moisture. For example, butter is approximately 17% water, whole eggs are more than three-fourths water, and wheat flour is about 12% water. The water content of inclusions and fruit ingredients must not be overlooked.
With moisture coming from so many sources, product developers must make sure water stays where it is supposed to be and does what it is supposed to do. Sometimes this requires taking the necessary steps to prevent evaporation, while other times the goal is to prevent the food from absorbing moisture from the surroundings. When dealing with a multicomponent prepared food, the issue might be moisture migration, or the prevention of water seeping from one component to another. Still another challenge is making sure the water is not available for the growth of undesirable living organisms.
Managing the water content of food products is necessary for efficient processing, packaging selection, and distribution and storage conditions. Before one can manage moisture, however, one must know how much water a foodstuff contains. In principle, the moisture content of a food can be determined by measuring the number or mass of water molecules present in a known mass of sample. However, for the most part, it is challenging to directly measure the number of water molecules present in a sample because too many molecules are involved. Thus, sometimes moisture contents are based on calculations using predetermined water contents of known food ingredients.
There are also various analytical techniques, ranging from vacuum to microwave ovens. The technology must be able to distinguish water from other components in the food matrix. This can be challenging, because despite having the same chemical formula (H2O), the water molecules in a food may be present in any of four varieties of molecular environments, depending on their interaction with the surrounding molecules, and thus they possess different physiochemical properties.
The most basic form is as bulk water, which is when water is free from any other constituents. Each water molecule is surrounded by other water molecules and its physicochemical properties resemble pure water.
Trapped water, also known as capillary water, is moisture held in narrow channels between certain food components. This trapped water is surrounded by a physical barrier that prevents the water molecules from easily escaping, such as all that water in a raspberry. This type of water tends to have physicochemical properties similar to that of bulk water.
Physically bound water molecules are in molecular contact with other food constituents, such as proteins, carbohydrates and minerals. These food constituents bind with water, creating a system that no longer recognizes the water as free bulk water. The bonds between water molecules and these constituents are quite different from water-water bonds.
Finally, there are chemically bound water molecules. This is when water molecules present in a food are chemically bonded to other molecules as water of crystallization or as hydrates. These bonds can be very strong.
Although the water content of a food is expressed as a percent, this number does not reflect how the water exists in the food. Food product developers must consider all four forms of water when trying to manage moisture. Further, commercially manufactured foods may contain water in different physical states, such as gas, liquid or solid. This is the reason why moisture management is necessary and can be quite challenging.
In addition to quantifying water content, product developers must consider water activity (aw), which describes the energy status or the escaping tendency of the water in a sample. Water activity is often described in terms of the amount of bound water and free water. Although these terms make the concept of water activity somewhat easier to conceptualize, the reality is that all water in food is somewhat bound; after all, it is contained in the food. Thus, water activity is a measure of how tightly water is bound and relates to the work required to remove water from the system. Water activity predicts safety and stability with respect to microbial growth, chemical and biochemical reaction rates, and various physical properties.
Moisture-management systems vary by application. Factors to consider include product storage conditions (ambient, frozen and refrigerated), the potential of temperature extremes, shelf-life expectations, and the overall objective of keeping moisture in, out or contained in a product.