Bakers are cleaning up labels by reducing portion sizes or eliminating problematic ingredients, such as allergens and trans fats, as the demand for health and wellness continues.
Healthful products rely on healthful particulates, so it is no wonder manufacturers are keeping up with baking trends by making particulates with all-natural flavors
“We are seeing a focus on health and wellness. Any inclusions that allow developers to include fruit, nuts, whole grains and vegetables are in demand. Playing second fiddle are particulates that deliver points of color, flavor and texture to the food matrix without negatively affecting cost,” says Doug Webster, technical services manager, Tree Top Inc., Selah, Wash.
Popular 100-calorie packs are possible with help from reduced-sugar, no sugar and low-calorie particulates. As a result, manufacturers are seeing an increase in demand for these types of ingredients. Bakers also are requesting organic and whole wheat particulates, and using particulates to add micronutrients to products.
In addition, more particulates are now made using trans fat-free ingredients and coating oils to help bakers meet trans fat-free goals. Manufacturers also are working to make trans fat-free oils more healthful.
During the initial push to go trans fat-free, everyone ignored the disadvantages of hydrogenation because it was easier to replace the shortening or oil with palm oil, says Kathy Brophy, R&D director, bakery group, Kerry Ingredients, Beloit, Wis. Now companies are looking for ways to avoid hydrogenation in trans fat-free oils. “We’re looking at a lot of different ingredient technologies,” including using different proteins and emulsifiers that can work to change the functionality of an oil, Brophy says. “When you just switch to soybean oil or any kind of oil you’re changing the way the product reacts in a bakery product, the way it melts, the way the flavor releases, so now it’s not just an easy change. You have to go back and balance everything,” she adds.
Allergen contamination also is a growing concern in the baking industry. In response, manufacturers are adapting formulations to serve the allergen-free market with help from nut-free, wheat-free and dairy-free particulates, among others. Nut-free particulates, for example, can be designed to mimic the flavor and mouthfeel of real nuts. “There has been a lot of demand for particulates that look like nuts, taste like nuts, but are completely allergen-free. We manufacture a lot of those types of products,” says DeNea Hombs, commercial vice president, bakery and confectionary markets, Kerry Ingredients.
“With most of our particulates, we can change [the formulation] around to get whatever allergen is of concern out of the product,” Brophy notes.
Manufacturers agree that healthful particulates will remain a trend for sometime.“Health related claims are at their peak and will likely continue to be important,” Webster says. Companies are going beyond personal health and wellness, and working to encompass environmental health as well, advertising their commitment to environmental stewardship, he notes.
Consumers are becoming more sophisticated in their flavor preferences, expecting fruit flavors to taste like real fruit. “Old banana flavors were artificial tasting and didn’t taste like real bananas. That used to be okay, but now customers are becoming sophisticated about the flavor profile they expect,” Brophy says. In addition, consumers are now accustomed to an array of flavor choices. Whereas 10 years ago, the average consumer may not have known what a papaya was, now they are demanding pomegranate and açai flavors. Flavors once viewed as exotic are now considered mainstream. Because adults are embracing more flavors, children too are growing more sophisticated both in the variety of flavors they crave and the quality of the flavor profile.
“If orange was okay, now it has to be blood orange. If lime was okay, now it has to be key lime,” says Markus Eckert, vice president technical flavors at Teterboro-N.J.-based Mastertaste, a div. of Kerry Group PLC. He adds that super fruits, such as blackberry and black currant, are a growing trend because of their nutritional value.
In the future, manufacturers may add extra levels of standardized nutraceuticals to boost super fruits, such as blueberries, with even more antioxidants.
Also emerging are exotic tea flavors, including jasmine, lavender and fragrant inspired flavors. Other manufacturers list pomegranate and blueberry as the super fruit flavors most requested by bakers.
“One of the largest selling flavors from a particulate standpoint is blueberry. I think some of that stems from the positive ress about blueberries delivering antioxidants, but it’s also a very popular flavor,” Hombs says. Fruit flavored particulates, such as strawberry, banana and peach, also are popular in U.S. markets, as are indulgent flavors, such as vanilla, caramel and chocolate. Particulate manufactures are working on different technologies to gain more control over the exact release time of flavors.
Fruit extension is another flavor trend. By replacing a percentage of real fruit and supplementing it or “extending” it with a fruit particulate, bakers can improve the flavor, color and consistency of the product. Even though the actual fruit loses its aroma when frozen, the particulate can maintain the fruit’s scent. Unlike real fruit, the fruit particulate does not require refrigeration, will not mold and does not present the same handling challenges as fruit, says Dennis Reid, vice president, marketing and technology, Sensory Effects, Defiance, Ohio.
Tree Top creates the experience of real fruit, using particulates made from real apples. “Apples are still one of the most affordable sources of fruit,” says Webster. “Apples are also great chameleons. They can be colored and flavored to mimic more expensive fruits like berries, bananas, peaches and cherries.”
Today particulates also can add texture to baked products. Honey particulates can be made to look syrupy; caramel particulates can be made to have the stringy, gooey quality of real caramel.
Trends from the ice cream industry also are branching over to the bakery sector. Whereas double dutch chocolate and cookie dough used to be ice cream inclusions, particulate advancements now are allowing bakers to add cookie dough chunks to brownies and brownie pieces to cookies. Vanilla bean cheesecake and rocky road cookies are examples of how ice cream inclusion flavors are appearing in baked products, says Hombs.
While particulates have traditionally been used as fruit alternatives, now they also are being used as dough pieces. In the past, particulates were used mainly to replace fruit in a product, but now dough-type particulates are available as well. When making peach cobbler, for example, bakers might want to use real fruit and choose a dough-type particulate to create the cobbler portion of the product, Hombs notes.
Another new trend is smear products, where bakers buy a particulate and process it down into a paste to achieve a swirl or variegate look. “It starts with a particulate, but it’s designed and formulated to be melted down and quickly turned into a paste,” Reid says.
Challenges can arise in any formulation. Controlling the amount of color bleed a particulate has, as well as the look of the finished product, is one challenge particulate manufacturers are already solving.
“We have seen significant interest in bleed-proof type sprinkles or bleed-proof particulates. Companies want to incorporate the products into the dough earlier in the processing stage versus later, so we’re working on ingredient combinations that eliminate those colors from leeching into the dough prior to bake,” Hombs says.
Understanding where in the process a particulate should be added and how resiliant an inclusion is needed is an important factor in finished product success, Reid says. “One of the challenges is matching the right size, shape and formulation of a particulate to the particular application. You get there through experience and trial and error because it is customer, product and production line specific,” he adds.
Manufacturers can now make particulates more resilient and less prone to break up. “We’re actually putting in some new technology to allow us to change the size and shape a lot more efficiently,” Reid says.
Bakers can prevent formulation issues by providing as much information as possible to their particulate supplier to ensure they choose a particulate that is right for their formulation.
“Bakers are faced with incorporating particulates into a high moisture matrix that is then subjected to extreme temperatures before shelf life even begins. The best way to overcome this challenge is to work with a supplier who understands your processing and storage conditions during the product life cycle,” Webster says.
Brophy agrees it is important for particulate manufacturers to work closely with bakers to help them achieve the right particulate formulation for their system. “You can look at five different bagels from five different manufacturers and they all have different bagel processes and add particulates at different times, so we do a lot of fine tuning with specific customers to get [the particulates] to work in their systems,” she notes.
As trends evolve, so will particulates, as manufacturers continue to provide solutions to help bakers achieve the latest baking trends.