Challenges abound when fortifying products, but solutions to manage the twists and turns of fortification do exist.
Heart healthy. Extra fiber. With calcium added! From vending machines to supermarket shelves, more labels promise baked foods with added benefits as bakers increasingly turn to fortification for its nutritional benefits and selling power. Although these more healthful products meet consumer demand, many of the ingredients used to boost nutritional profiles pose challenges for bakers. Fortunately, there are solutions.
“Bakers are continually learning,” says Kirk O'Donnell, Ed.D., vice president, AIB International, Manhattan, Kan. “They want to make something more healthy, and as they understand more about nutrition and how it can help people, bakers have become very active in making products that contain natural ingredients, whole grains and pre- and probiotics.”
Some are going organic, O'Donnell says. French Meadow Bakery in Minneapolis followed its yeast-free, organic Woman's Bread with Soy Isoflavones with organic Men's Bread, formulated with pumpkin and flax seeds, ginseng, saw palmetto and soy. These ingredients are among the broad array of proteins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins, as well as technical advances, that put the formulation of fortified products within the reach of any size bakery operation, organic or not.
Texture and other issues
When fortifying baked products, bakers should be prepared to deal with issues of texture, mouthfeel and shelf life. Many customers report shelf life issues ranging from microbial to textural to flavor erosion, notes Rajen Mehta, Ph.D., senior manager, fiber applications and technical service, SunOpta Ingredients Group, Bedford, Mass. In whole grain products, consumers like and expect the character of more natural grains, so manufacturers can be more imaginative with the type of grain they use, Mehta adds. However, maintaining acceptable shelf life is tricky. Because of the all-natural trend, bakers no longer have a diversity of ingredients to forestall shelf life issues. In addition, some of the newer natural ingredients further shorten the product's life.
Maintaining a pleasing texture can be one of the biggest challenges in adding a fortifier, says Dayna Syperek, sales representative, Dawson Sales, Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. In the case of bran, larger pieces disrupt bread dough's gluten structure and make the product more dense or stale-tasting, she says. Some value-added ingredients create a sticky dough that is harder to handle and leaves equipment more difficult to clean, extending production time and cost. Syperek points out these problems often can be addressed in the formulation or by adjusting the process.
Sharon Gerdes, senior account manager, Dairy Management Inc., Rosemont, Ill., agrees. If dough becomes stickier when whey is added, DMI recommends choosing a whey ingredient that has been more denatured, or changing the order in which the whey is added. Safeway/Lucerne's Eating Right Cranberry Apple Muffins were among 2007's new products made with whey protein concentrate. The latest trend, Gerdes says, is the use of whey protein isolate in higher-protein, lower-carbohydrate tortillas.
“With omega-3s, stability is the main issue,” explains Mary Ekman, business development manager, Pizzey's Nutritionals, Gurnee, Ill. However, flax seed holds up well in bakery foods. Whole seed gives the product eye appeal, but incorporating milled flax allows usage of one of several structure function health claims. The company's newest product combines fish oil and milled flax seed in a product that has a longer shelf life than regular milled flax seed, has no taste or smell, and can be incorporated into dry formulations.
Some of the newer ingredients for fortification, such as chia and goji berries, among others, bring several challenges, starting with cost, says Joni Stern, president of Chicago-based Stern Ingredients. North American bakers aren't used to paying up to $4 per lb. for any ingredient, she says, although European bakers have paid high prices for years. Also, when the growing region is relatively undeveloped and the methods of harvest and handling unknown, it can be difficult to ensure kosher certification and determine if the plant uses good manufacturing practices, adds Stern.
Tackling specific ingredients
Bread manufacturers are looking to add B-vitamin complex and the fat-soluble vitamins A and E, says Ram Chaudhari, Ph.D., senior executive vice president, chief scientific officer and co-founder, Fortitech Inc., Schenectady, N.Y. Baking temperatures may create issues with some heat-labile vitamins, so he advises manufacturers to add antioxidants to minimize destruction. Other options to increase bioavailability are encapsulation or adding heat-sensitive ingredients at a lower temperature point, such as in a coating or by spraying on top.
He also notes that formulators of grain-based products can add ingredients, such as phytosterols, calcium and vitamin D, to achieve cholesterol-lowering and bone health benefits respectively. Zinc also is an appropriate addition. Bakers should balance the levels of nutrients added in a particular product and be mindful of their interactions without compromising flavor, texture and mouthfeel. “Moderation is the key,” Chaudhari says.
Dietary fiber grams are a plus for consumers, but finding the right fiber combination and level is another challenge for bakers. For example, at low fiber levels, using just one insoluble fiber works very well, Mehta says. For high fiber levels, he suggests using up to four different sources of fiber — two insoluble, one resistant starch and one soluble (25 percent to 33 percent of the mix), depending on the application. Then, consider adding bran in order to leverage its texture. For crackers, Mehta recommends using two insoluble fibers (including one for crunch), a resistant starch, and perhaps bran if trying for a whole grain character. The point, he explains, is that combining different fiber sources is necessary to maximize the fiber level.
Bakers will find challenges in formulation and processing as long as they try to meet consumer demand for fortified baked products that don't shortchange on flavor, texture and freshness. It is a demand destined to expand and grow, so it's good to know those challenges can be met.
Trendy ingredients with health benefits
Açaí berry — grows on palms in Central and South American swamps and rainforests. The fruit — a small, round, black-purple drupe — is similar in appearance and size to a grape, tastes like a blend of berries and chocolate, and contains antioxidants and amino acids. The fruit's raw material is generally only available outside the growing region as juice or fruit pulp that has been frozen, dried or freeze-dried.
Chia — is bred for human consumption and of higher quality than the commercially sold Chia Pets consumers are more familiar with. Grown in Mexico and South America, its seed is touted for richness in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Ground chia seed is used in soft grain breads, cakes and biscuits.
Goji berry — has been part of traditional Chinese medicine for at least two centuries. Sold in dried form, the bright orange-red berry is high in antioxidants. In 2007, sales of goji berry-enhanced products were up nearly 75 precent from 2006 at natural food supermarkets, according to SPINS, a natural products market research firm.
Pomegranate — is high in vitamin C and potassium, a good source of fiber, and high in three antioxidants. Pomegranate is branching out from the juice category. Seeds can be used in muffins and cheesecakes and the juice in glazes for various sweetgoods.
Note: the nutritional benefits of goji, açaí and chia have not been confirmed by Western clinical studies.
Riding the bar wave
The bar — whether it's high-protein, balanced nutrition, energy boosting, or a meal replacement — continues to be a growth category. Mintel predicts that nutrition and energy bar sales will be more than $980 million by 2011, with the majority falling into the 15 to 24 and 65+ age groups.
Wider distribution has made bar development more feasible. The market is ready for bars with new benefits and improved flavor and texture, notes Ram Chaudhari, Ph.D., senior executive vice president, chief scientific officer and co-founder, Fortitech, Schenectady, N.Y. (pictured above). He offers the following advice to help thwart challenges in developing competitive bar products:
Ensure the product meets consumer expectations for flavor, convenience, indulgence, health and personal benefits.
Use stabilized minerals to combat lingering metallic and/or aftertaste.
Take advantage of advances in nanotechnology to deliver functional food ingredients with minimum interactions, e.g., conjugated linoleic acid, collagen, omega-3 fatty acids and amino acids.
Stick with the widespread use of soy and whey proteins, along with vitamins and minerals, for high-protein and sports bars.
If incorporating goji berries or other ‘superfruits,’ pay attention to the water activity within the dough and fruit component so that the transfer of moisture between the two ensures a top-notch, great tasting product.