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Food development scheme boosts entrepreneurial thinking and skills

1st April 2013


It has created a New Food Product Development Projects scheme designed to develop the entrepreneurial, critical thinking and team-working skills of graduates.
Project teams investigate all aspects of the formulation, processing, quality, stability and packaging of their product, carry out market research and prepare financial plans for industrial production. This should make the students ideal material for food processing companies.
The latest results produced a large number of new products and first prize went to an innovative new bread product, low in carbohydrates and particularly appropriate for Atkin’s type diets. Called Gift, the idea was stimulated by the increasing consumer interest in low glycaemic index (GI) foods. It is produced from a range of GI ingredients, including wheat fibre, buckwheat and inulin, a probiotic ingredient that offers many health benefits.
The result is a high quality bread with a superior taste. It is suitable for diabetics and, due to its cholesterol-lowering properties, it is targeted at the health conscious consumer.
Second prize went to a healthy convenience meal based on fish, stimulated by a lack of fish-based convenience meals for the Irish consumer. Sous vide technology was used to develop two types of high quality fish-based convenience ready meals in a pie format: one a mixture of whitefish and salmon; and the second, a mixture of smoked fish. Both are accompanied by a creamy white wine sauce which incorporates a variety of freshly chopped vegetables.
The ready meals are generously topped with a layer of champ, which is a mixture of mashed potato mixed with spring onion and spices. The product is also fortified with omega-3 oils to emphasise the health aspects of the product and it is marketed at the growing number of people with busy lifestyles who are health conscious yet who still desire appetising main meals.
Sous vide technology produces a food with a better flavour, colour and texture while the process extends the shelf-life of the product for up to 80 days for some foods. It also retains the nutritional content of the product.
Third prize went to Solas, a unique type of stout brewed in such a way as to have significantly reduced calorie content without losing body or flavour. In keeping with Irish tradition and heritage this low carbohydrate stout has been brewed using the finest hops and yeast from high quality roasted malt barley and pale lager malt.
The full-bodied taste that is normally lost by carbohydrate reduction is maintained in this innovative product through the addition of the probiotic dietary fibre, inulin. Through its action in stimulating the beneficial bacteria in the colon, this high quality product is suitable for those on low carbohydrate diets.

Technical developments

Research into new products is using physics and chemistry ever more as developments become more technically deep. At Wageningen University in the Netherlands, for example, Professor Erik van der Linden is investigating innovations with protein nanofibres in the Food Physics Group.
He says proteins in solution can form objects of various shapes including nanofibres with a length of micrometers and a thickness of a few nanometres. Many proteins show this behaviour under appropriate conditions and their gel properties can be manipulated. The behaviour shows up well under flow, which can be utilised in processing, leading to the development of extremely low weight fraction gels. This could lead to unexpected novel material properties, including sensory related characteristics.
Computer models are needed to predict the new molecular assemblies’  structure and behaviour using analytical theory, computer simulations and multi-dimensional genetic function generation.
Professor van der Linden says studying protein nanofibres and their formation reveals the secrets of how proteins make structures, including low weight fraction gels.
One application is whipping egg white into foam using a copper bowl instead of other materials. The effect of copper ions on the egg white increases the time taken to form the foam, but the result is more stable. As such foams are used in food products as a structuring material, increases in strength provide more opportunities for the product designer.
Other research is investigating a wide range of proteins that are known to misfold and aggregate in mildly denaturing conditions into rodlike structures known as amyloid fibrils. These have been linked to a number of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Natural developments

Research based on natural processes is the realm of Novozymes, a leading supplier of enzymes and microorganisms. It says the starch industry began using industrial enzymes at an early date and types of syrup that could not be produced using conventional chemical hydrolysis were the first compounds made entirely by enzymatic processes.
Today, the company is looking at the Chinese market and has developed Biowhitening, a new concept for steamed bread. It says Chinese people like their bread steaming hot rather than baked and with a white, shiny appearance and uniform texture.
The company’s new product Lipopan is a lipase that can help enhance all these qualities in both Northern-style and Southern-style breads. The first uses a recipe containing only flour, water and yeast; but Southern-style steamed bread contains many other ingredients depending on the region where it is produced.
Lipases on their own cannot give the same level of whiteness as high doses of the traditional chemical bleaching agent benzoylperoxide, which is believed to diminish the nutritional value of bread, but a combination works well. Lipases can also improve dough stability by improving dough strength for flour with a low protein content. They increase the formation of amylo-lipid complexes that inhibit the swelling of starch granules and give the bread more rigidity. This results in increased firmness and smoothness as well as reduced stickiness.
As the quality of local flour can vary considerably, Novozymes developed Fungamyl, a fungal amylase that improves the crumb structure and volume. The amylase liberates fermentable sugars to improve yeast fermentation, increasing the volume of steamed bread.

EU Research

An EU research project could lead to new food products that result from High Pressure Low Temperature (HPLT) processing. This aims to optimise freezing and thawing processes and to clarify the influence of high hydrostatic pressure on aggregation states of water in food.
Especially interesting is pressure-shift freezing, where crystallisation is induced simultaneously in the entire supercooled sample by fast pressure release, with the intention of obtaining small ice crystals uniformly in the sample with minimum damage to the tissue. Pressure-induced thawing is also being studied.
These techniques result in shortened freezing and thawing times of food materials. In addition, different solid modifications of pure water with a higher density than the fluid can be obtained during freezing, leading to better quality products due to the smaller crystal size.
These aspects are being studied at the Technical University, Berlin, where another project is investigating how to create more probiotics in food. Probiotics are organisms and substances that help maintain the microbial balance in the intestine. They help improve digestion and create a stronger immune system, as in yoghurt.
But the food industry is challenged to produce food containing sufficient amounts of living probiotic bacteria during the entire shelf life of the product. And the consumed bacteria are also expected to live in the extreme conditions throughout the intestinal tract without losing their probiotic properties.
Currently, no data are available about the potential contribution of non-thermal processing technologies in assisting probiotics production and HPLT could lead to an answer.

Electric extraction

Other research at TU Berlin could lead to improved recovery of oils of plant origin using pulsed electric fields. This is a gentle processing concept that could lead to the formation of secondary metabolites with a high nutritional value.
Work has been carried out on maize but it could lead to the development of a new breed of maize that is more compatible with the technology.
New products are not always the result of chemical developments, though. Crafty Tech, for example, offers clients the chance to create new shapes by mechanical means. It has just developed a moulder that bolts on to existing extruders to produce true 3D shapes in a continuous process (see above).
The unit comprises a set of six double conical wheels held in a supporting frame so their rims meet. These rims are carefully profiled so that where they meet they produce a shaped orifice.
As the wheels rotate together, the shape of the orifice is dynamically changed depending on the extent of the rims’ profile. Material passing through such a variable orifice is massaged into a full 3D shape corresponding to the inverse of the profiles cut into the rims. The use of rotary moulding aids the release of sticky products. Integration into the extruder minimises product handling and portioning issues.
The shape of the moulding wheels can be calculated mathematically and the moulding wheels can be created using computer controlled fabrication techniques or stereolithography. Tooling is relatively cheap and quick to produce, reducing investment and lead times in converting to production to different shapes. Crafty Tech is a network of innovative engineers that develops custom production machinery. 





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