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Building sustainability and consistency in spice formulations

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CHICAGO — The development of food products that are better for you and better for the planet knows no bounds. The ingredients in dips and drizzles, as well as spreads and squirts, become as important as the carrier of the condiment. Think plant-based burger with vegan mayo, free-range chicken seasoned with low-sodium teriyaki, and hickory-infused sugar-free bacon.

“The dip and sauce category is no exception,” said Doug Resh, director-commercial marketing, T. Hasegawa USA, Cerritos, California. “Consumers want simple, high-quality ingredients and are looking for all-natural products that don’t compromise on taste.”

Several spice innovators are looking for clean-label ingredients that are sustainably sourced. Formulations are often designed with higher levels of desirable nutrients coupled with lower levels of undesirable substances.

“We’re seeing an increase in ethical consumption, where shoppers want their food purchases to benefit not only themselves, but also their communities and the planet,” said Jennifer Zhou, senior director of product marketing for the Americas North, ADM, Chicago. . “Consumers are checking product packages for clean label cues such as ethically and sustainably sourced ingredients, natural flavors and colors, and low sodium and sugar. This is especially important for sauces, dressings and condiments, which have gained a lot of attention as sources of “hidden” salt and sugars.

Daniel Espinoza, research and corporate development chef, OFI, Chicago, agreed. He said the main health issue facing spice manufacturers is reducing salt and sugar content while still creating delicious flavours.

“This is an area where OFI’s food scientists, culinary chefs and innovation experts work together to help solve customer challenges by creating excellent flavor combinations that enable salt and sugar reduction across a wide palette of spices, nuts and cocoa, all offering a balanced taste. experience,” Mr. Espinoza said.

That balanced taste experience at the bench needs to be scalable. Do this, it must be constantly scalable.

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“One of the most difficult processes food brands face is preparing a sauce recipe prototype for scale manufacturing, and it’s something our culinary team at OFI helps clients with on a regular basis,” said Mr. Espinoza. “Consistency is the key factor that food technicians must consider to ensure that recipes make a successful transition from bench batches to commercially available.

“This means keeping the basic ingredients the same while finding formats that are more suitable for industrial-scale cooking. Take onions for example. A chef may use fresh onions during the prototyping stage, but they can be swapped out later for frozen onion puree, dry chopped onion, or powder.

Managing a sauce’s flavor intensity during the scaling process is another hurdle, Mr. Espinoza said.

“When working with industrial-sized batches, a higher spice ratio may be required to reproduce the same product consistency achieved on the new product development bench,” he said.

Erika James, application flavor technologist, Hoffman Estates, Ill., identified other technical challenges when scaling better-for-you spices. Challenges include creating a stable emulsion with the color and texture that a consumer associates with conventional spices. Natural, low-sodium ketchup, for example, should mimic ketchup sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.

She also said that maintaining microbiological stability can be problematic in better-for-you formulations. That’s because consumers have become accustomed to leaving staples like ketchup on picnic tables in the sun for long periods of time. When sodium or sugar, both natural preservatives, are reduced or removed, there can be food safety and shelf life issues.

Chef Christopher Koetke, corporate executive chef, Ajinomoto Health and Nutrition North America Inc., Itasca, Ill., said that while the clean label movement has grown, there is no consistent definition or agreement across the industry as to what what this means. For some it means low sugar and for others it’s plant-based.

“These trends are impacting innovation, with today’s consumer being able to find numerous alternatives to their favorite condiment, sauce or dressing,” Mr Koetke said. “Possibly due to consumer confusion, we’re also starting to see a growing ‘anti-clean label’ movement, which strives for moderation and is backed by science and the growing understanding that an ingredient isn’t just healthier for you because you can pronounce his name. Overall, the important thing to remember is that taste remains king. If the product tastes bad, it won’t do well.”

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