by Sharon Gerdes
The omega-3 fatty acid buzz in the baking industry is growing. This healthful fat can be added to a variety of bakery foods and qualifies for multiple FDA-approved claims.
Are omega-3 fatty acids the key to boosting bakery sales in 2005? Many bakers think so, and are promoting new products with this healthful fat. These products rely on either fish oils or flaxseeds to enhance bakery foods' healthful properties.
Wegmans Food Markets Inc., a 68-store supermarket chain on the East Coast, launched a line of breads fortified with omega-3 fatty acids. The breads were introduced in January and are available in three varieties: 100% Whole Wheat, 12 Grain and Very Low Sodium. Each slice of bread contains 40 mgs to 45 mgs of omega-3 fatty acids.
The company boosted the health content of these breads by employing the services of a Canadian ingredient manufacturer to convert fish oils, which are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, into a powdered, microencapsulated form. This process keeps the oils fresh and eliminates fishy tastes.
Wegmans' use of powdered omega-3 fatty acids in bakery foods represents a breakthrough in ingredient technology and a new age in the baking industry. Nontraditional ingredients are now in play if they can provide consumers with added health benefits.
Although Wegmans' breads mark the start of bakers using fish oils as an additive, bakers have incorporated omega-3 fatty acids into their formulas through flaxseeds for years. Torontobased Canada Bread manufactures a bread with flaxseeds under its Dempster's® brand. This whole grain product is one of the company's best selling whole grain breads.
Bakery foods fortified with omega-3 fatty acids garner attention from consumers and bakers because these healthful fats are clinically proven to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids also are important during pregnancy for infant brain development.
A recent Gallup poll showed that 58% of consumers are aware of omega-3 fatty acids. Another study, the Natural Market Institute's Health & Wellness Trends Report, showed that 32% of consumers considered their diets deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. These statistics provide bakers with an opportunity to improve sales by formulating with omega-3 fatty acids. Bakery foods are an ideal vehicle for increasing consumption of this important ingredient, and bakers can choose from a variety of sources to boost omega-3 fatty acid content.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish such as salmon, lake trout, tuna and herring. DHA also is found in microalgae. Another omega-3 fatty acid, alpha linolenic acid (ALA), is present in flaxseeds, walnuts and canola oil.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved various claims for foods containing EPA, DHA and ALA. In September, FDA approved a qualified health claim of reduced risk of coronary heart disease on conventional foods containing EPA and DHA. Qualified health claims must be supported by credible scientific evidence.
No minimum levels of EPA and DHA have been established to use the qualified health claim. However, foods using this claim must not contain more than 13 grams of total fat, one gram of saturated fat, 20 mgs of cholesterol and 480 mgs of sodium, all per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC). If a product meets these requirements, it can include the claim:
"Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. One serving of [name of food] provides [x] grams of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. [See nutrition information for total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol content.]"
Guidelines for nutrient content claims are less restrictive than qualified health claims. To qualify for a nutrient content claim, products must have less than 4 grams of saturated fat and no more than 60 mgs of cholesterol. However, this claim requires a specified level of omega-3 fatty acids to be present. For DHA and EPA, bakery foods can carry one of the nutrient content claims, "High in/Excellent source of/Rich in," if a product contains at least 130 mgs of EPA or DHA per RACC. For ALA, "High in/Excellent source of/Rich in" claims can be made on products with at least 260 mgs of ALA per RACC. This regulation requires that the claim specify the types of omega-3 fatty acids present in a product.
Omega-3 fatty acids also qualify for a structure/function claim that describes the role a nutrient plays in the health of humans. There is no minimum level of omega-3 fatty acids required to make a structure/function claim. Examples of appropriate claims include: Omega-3s support cardiovascular health, Omega-3s support healthy brain function, Omega-3s support healthy brain and eye development, Omega-3s support a healthy immune system, and Omega-3s are beneficial to health maintenance. To use a structure/ function claim, bakers must ensure its accuracy and truthfulness.
Baking with flaxseeds
Bakers can take advantage of various FDA-approved claims by incorporating omega-3 fatty acids through flaxseeds into their formulas. According to Clifford Hall, a North Dakota State University assistant professor, there are two types of flaxseeds: golden or omega, and brown. "The composition of flaxseeds is about 20% protein, 28% fiber and 34% lipid," Hall says. "Of that lipid, 50% to 55% is omega-3."
Flaxseeds are sold in whole seed, ground or oil forms. Whole flaxseeds can be added to bakery foods, but flaxseeds should be ground prior to consumption so the body can maximize the ingredient's health benefits. Ground flaxseeds are an ideal ingredient for cookies, crackers, breads, bagels, muffins and nutrition bars. Besides containing omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds are a whole grain, containing valuable fiber and lignans.
These qualities improve the health attributes of bakery foods, and also affect product formulations. The Northern Crops Institute (NCI), Fargo, N.D., conducted various baking tests to measure how flaxseeds perform in bakery food formulas. NCI is a collaborative effort between North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota to support the promotion-and market development of crops grown in this four-state region.
According to NCI's tests, bakers can decrease or eliminate the level of shortening or other added oils in bakery foods when using flaxseeds. Bakers can remove all of a formula's shortening when using 25% (baker's percent) ground flaxseeds in a bagel formula, or when using 15% to 20% ground flaxseeds in a cracked wheat hoagie. In a bran muffin with 26% to 42% ground flaxseeds, oil was reduced by 40%.
Besides reducing oil and shortening usage, incorporating flaxseeds into a formula increases dough's water absorption. The American Institute of Baking recommends a starting guideline of 75 lbs. of added water for every 100 lbs. of added flaxseeds.
In bread products using flaxseeds, bakers must increase yeast levels, one supplier of flaxseeds says. In addition, "Using a finer grind of flaxseeds will give a better loaf volume."
Flaxseeds impart a nutty flavor on bakery foods when used as a major ingredient. However, small amounts of flaxseeds have no effect on flavor. Despite usage levels, flaxseeds also may cause excessive browning during baking. As a result, one ingredient supplier recommends lowering the temperature of ovens when baking flaxseedladen products.
Bakers can use various forms of flaxseed oil in a variety of products, including white bread. "Flax oil with 70% omega-3 is currently available on the market, and can be mixed with oil, shortening, butter or other dairy ingredients," one flaxseed supplier says. "This unique cold pressed version of flaxseed oil also will contain natural beta-carotene and vitamin E. Bakers should note that flaxseed oil is not recommended for frying because of the high temperatures involved."
Bakers can store whole flaxseeds for several years at room temperature and normal lighting. However, ground flaxseeds should be stored in a sealed container away from light. Under these conditions, the product will have a one-year shelf life. Freezer storage dramatically increases the shelf life of ground flaxseeds. Flaxseed oil should be stored in an impermeable container in cold temperatures.
From the sea
Flaxseeds are a common bakery ingredient that not only improve products' health attributes, but also have functional roles in bakery food formulas. For bakers looking to add an omega-3 fatty acid claim without significantly adjusting a formula, product developers should consider omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oils.
Tip Top, an Australian-based George Weston bakery, produces a loaf of white bread that is fortified with omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil. The ingredient manufacturer that supplies the bakery with omega-3 fatty acids says that Up™ White Omega-3 DHA bread sells next to white bread on the bread aisle and has a 15% market share in the Australian market. The supplier also says that the bread is growing at an annual rate of 20% and takes in $100 million in revenue.
In recent years, ingredient suppliers revolutionized the way these marinebased ingredients are used in bakery foods. One ingredient supplier uses microencapsulation technology to create a free-flowing powder that is dispersible in water and is shear and temperature stable. According to the manufacturer, the encapsulation process removes protein, flavor and odor from the oil. This process allows bakers to incorporate the product without affecting taste or texture.
Another supplier markets a highly refined omega-3 fatty acid derived from menhaden, which is a member of the herring family and contains long-chain EPA and DHA fatty acids.
"Menhaden oil is currently certified GRAS in several food categories, and a citizen petition has been filed requesting additional food categories be added," one supplier of omega-3 fatty acids says. "A few of these additions would include quick breads, confections and frostings."
Refined menhaden oil generally contains 20% to 26% EPA and DHA. When using this ingredient in bakery foods, the ingredient supplier says that bakers should add the oil as late as possible in the production process. The ingredient is heat stable at 350°F for 20 minutes or less. However, the oil can be incorporated into a melted solid fat, which makes it heat stable at 375°F for 40 minutes or less. One supplier of omega-3 fatty acids recommends creating test formulas with 100 mgs to 150 mgs of omega-3 fatty acids per serving, and then adjusting formulations according to the desired profile.
For the vegetarian market, one ingredient supplier manufactures a vegetarian source of DHA derived from naturally occurring microalgae. These highly concentrated oils are grown in pure cultures under controlled conditions and contain at least 43% DHA. These ingredients can be used at low levels and still make a significant impact.
All forms of omega-3 fatty acids provide a significant impact to the health properties of bakery foods. More importantly, many of these ingredients accomplish this task at low levels and with minimal formulation changes. One supplier outlined a formula that incorporates omega-3 fatty acids into bread at a cost of less than 2 cents per serving. Although this cost may shock a baker, a premium price on this loaf could generate high margins.