Friday, June 26, 2015

Dairy Foods Innovations: IFT Trend #2 = Formulating with Colors from Natural Sources—And P.S., There’s an Egg Shortage
This is the second of three blogs focused on ingredients, technical sessions and themes that dairy foods formulators should focus on at IFT15--Where Science Feeds Innovation. This annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) takes place in Chicago July 11 to 14. See you there!

As we get closer to the show, two formulation trends are emerging as key themes. The first being solutions to replace artificial colors with colors from natural sources. The other being egg replacers to deal with the current shortage of real eggs, a shortage that will impact egg-containing formulations including dairy products such as custard, eggnog and French vanilla ice cream for at least two years.

Keep It Clean and Simple
When walking the expo floor and exploring suppliers’ offerings, formulators must keep in mind that an increasing number of consumers are seeking transparency from the food and beverage industry and shunning artificial ingredients. Eighty-seven percent of Americans look at the Nutrition Facts panel on packaged foods and beverages at least sometimes, while more than half (56%) actively seek out nutritional information and guidelines, according to the recently published Packaged Facts report “Nutritional Labeling and Clean Labels in the U.S.: Future of Food Retailing.”

Two out of three consumers (67%) favor groceries with fewer and simpler ingredients, while roughly the same percentage take nutritional content statements, ingredient-free statements and statements about health benefits into consideration when buying packaged foods and beverages. These consumers are becoming more vocal—through social media, focus groups, consumer surveys and even petitions—about what they want and do not want in their foods and beverages.

 As consumers begin to look more closely at what goes into their food and beverages, the industry is reformulating and repositioning mainstream products and lines to have cleaner labels. For example, just this week, General Mills announced its commitment to removing artificial flavors and colors from artificial sources from all of its cereals in response to consumers’ changing preferences. Today, more than 60% of General Mills cereals are already without artificial flavors and colors from artificial sources and have been that way for a long time.

According to a survey conducted by Nielsen on behalf of General Mills, 49% of households are making an effort to avoid artificial flavors and colors from artificial sources. To respond to this growing need, General Mills cereals will be using more recognizable, familiar ingredients to create its colors. This includes ingredients such as fruit and vegetable juices and spice extracts such as turmeric and annatto to achieve the fun red, yellow, orange and purple colors.

“We have a lot of hard work ahead of us and we know some products will present challenges as we strive to uphold the taste, quality and fun in every spoonful of cereal,” says Kate Gallager, General Mills cereal developer. “Cereals that contain marshmallows, like Lucky Charms, may take longer, but we are committed to finding a way to keep the magically delicious taste as we work to take out the artificial flavors and colors from artificial sources.”

Photo source: DDW

Similar efforts are taking place in the dairy foods sector. To read about various options, link HERE.

One category where there’s been a lot of activity is strawberry dairy beverages, including drinkable yogurt, flavored milk and meal replacements. Red #40 has long been the go-to for strawberry color in beverages, as well as ice cream and yogurt. In recent years, to avoid artificial color, product developers were using cochineal extract or carmine, which are colors exempt from certification, a.k.a. “natural.” But for many of today’s clean-label-seeking consumers, this color sourced from insects doesn’t fit the bill. Photo source: DDW

There are more naturally sourced red colors available. (See visual.) For more information on replacing carmine in dairy beverages, link HERE.

Earlier this year, Kraft Foods Group announced plans to remove artificial colors and preservatives from its flagship Original Macaroni & Cheese boxed dinner mixes beginning in January 2016. Kraft will replace the synthetic colors with those derived from natural sources, most notably ingredients that are a source of carotenoids. These are the compounds responsible for yellow, orange and red colors in many fruit, vegetable and algal sources. Within each source, carotenoids vary in concentration, proportions and chemical structure, all of which influence how it can be used in a food product such as cheese. Food coloring carotenoids include annatto, beta-carotene, paprika, lycopene, lutein, carrot oil and saffron. Each contains different types and ratios of carotenoids. Photo source: DDW

For more information on coloring cheese products with carotenoids, link HERE.

Kick off this year’s IFT by attending two sessions on colors on Sunday morning. Early risers will want to attend a primer session focusing on the science behind the safe use of colors. Speakers will provide information on the strong safety record of food colors, both synthetic and natural. They will also explore the current challenges impacting the use of these colors internationally, both by regulatory bodies and due to a misinformed public.

Session #2: The Science Behind the Safety: Exploring Global Challenges to Natural and Synthetic Colors (Sunday, July 12, 7:15am to 8:15am)

Immediately following is a symposium regarding establishing standards on naturally sourced colors. From a quality and safety perspective, the certification process for FD&C lakes and dyes (artificial colors) includes a high level of quality control and safety evaluation for certification. However, for “natural sources” there is a general lack of product definitions or publicly available purity, quality and safety specifications that are consistently applied. The risk of adulteration and contamination across the field of natural products ranges from plant sourcing and product labeling to product claims. To address the pressing needs for consistent standards for generation and application of colors from natural sources, a panel with expertise in plant biology, food chemistry, food toxicology, food product development and manufacturing, as well as food quality and regulatory affairs will convene at IFT. They will discuss and describe the use of natural colors in the food industry and discuss quality attributes and safety hazards affecting sourcing and use of natural colorants.

Session #10: Establishing Standards on Colors from Natural Sources (Sunday, July 12, 8:30am to 10:00am)

Pictured: Dreyer's Strawberry Shortcake Frozen Custard is naturally colored with beet juice. It gets its extra thick and creamy richness from egg.

The Incredible, Unavailable Egg
Moving onto eggs, in case you have not heard, there’s an egg shortage in the U.S. due to avian influenza, also known as bird flu. The only way to eradicate bird flu is to destroy the infected flocks. No hens means no eggs.

As in any scenario of when demand exceeds supply, price goes up. In efforts to explain the increase in cost of shell eggs and liquid egg products to shoppers, grocers around the country are posting notices about the egg shortage. Food manufacturers using egg ingredients don’t have this luxury. For them, it’s also not just economics. It’s availability. They need eggs to make their products and eggs are just not available.

Many food manufacturers are turning to the varied egg replacement ingredients suppliers offer that are designed to replace anywhere from 25% to 100% of eggs in products ranging from baked goods to dressings to meatballs…and of course, dairy foods.

Replacement is not as easy as it sounds because of the more than 20 different functions eggs possess. Further, the standards of identity for a number of products that use eggs, most notably frozen custard and eggnog, require minimum amounts of egg ingredient. If those requirements are not met, the product name must be changed.

Lots to think about while you attend this year’s IFT. Hope to see you there.

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