Innovation driven by new products and processes

Pasteurisation processes, antimicrobial agents and specialty fats are dominating the latest innovations in food R&D. Sean Ottewell reports.

In 2007, the US Institute of Food Technologists introduced its Food Expo Innovation Awards programme to honour outstanding innovations in products, ingredients, applications, instruments, equipment, technology, and services.

At its latest awards event, a panel of nine jurors from industry and government with expertise in ingredients, product development, processing and packaging technology, microbiology, and food safety reviewed 56 entries. Judging criteria included degree of innovation, solves a problem relevant to food science and technology, technical advancement, benefits to food manufacturers, benefits to consumers, and scientific merit.

After the judging process, five companies shared four innovation awards for their latest products.

Buhler Barth and Log5 Corp were co-recipients for their controlled condensation pasteurisation (CCP) technology, which pasteurises low-water-activity foods, such as tree nuts, peanuts, spices and grains, and preserves the natural quality of the food. The technology maintains thermal equilibrium conditions by controlling pressure, temperature, surface condensation and moisture levels.

Responding to an outbreak of salmonella infections after the consumption of chocolate in the early 1980s, Buhler Barth developed cocoa processing equipment able to sterilise cocoa during roasting. Today over 75 per cent of the world's cocoa crop is roasted/sterilised on Buhler Barth equipment. However, as became evident during recent US nationwide almond, peanut and pistachio recalls, there is a noticeable lack of appropriate pasteurisation technology for dry foods.

So in 2007 the company started a research project to develop an advanced pasteurisation technology for low water activity foods. The research resulted in an innovative technology that will pasteurise dry foods by creating unique thermal equilibrium conditions (Fig. 1).

All natural quality attributes of the products are preserved during the CCP pasteurisation process. The CCP technology is all natural and chemical-free and able to pasteurise any tree nut and peanut (also in shell) while preserving their authentic taste, texture and appearance. Also grains, seeds, spices and herbs (even in powdered form) can be pasteurised efficiently using this technology. The company says that CCP technology also can be extended to sterilisation conditions, resulting in a complete inactivation of all living organisms including heat resistant survival forms such as spores.

Handary was cited for its NisinA natural antimicrobial agent, a vegetable-based natural product that can improve food safety by controlling foodborne pathogens, such as Clostridium botulinum, Listeria monocytogenes and Bacillus cereus. It also extends the shelf life of foods by controlling lactic acid bacteria and prevents the formation of bacteria due to high temperatures.

Keen to get away from traditional animal-sourced Nisin A production using strains of Lactococcus lactis subsp. Lactis growing in milk-batches, Handary technology enables, for the first time ever, the production of high-purity Nisin A and its derivatives exclusively from renewable, non-GMO vegetal sources.

Commenting on NisinA, the judges' citation read: "Being the only nisin made from 100 per cent vegetable origin, this improvement is important for broad application across the food supply, and for broad consumer acceptance. With increased focus on food safety and refrigerated food products, NisinA provides benefit to a large scope of applications as a versatile, heat stable natural antimicrobial." They added: "This vegetarian source of nisin will expand application for what is a very natural way of preserving foods. A first of its kind."

Bunge North America won with its Phytobake shortening with phytosterols. The functional shortening for bakery applications enables the dilution of the amount of traditional hard fat or saturates and trans fats used in the plastic shortenings by up to 46 per cent. Bakers using this ingredient can produce healthier sweet goods, such as cookies, pie crusts, and cakes. In 2008, the same company earned an IFT innovation award for its Nutra Blanche/Nutra-Clear NT frying system solution and donut fry NT, which uses hydrogenation technology to reduce trans fats by more than 85 per cent in shortening systems for par-fried potatoes and fried donuts.

Finally, Caravan Ingredients was honoured for its Trancendim emulsifiers for zero trans shortening - a zero trans, reduced saturated fat alternative for structuring fats and oils that mimics or improves the melting behaviour of common fat-based products. Applications include salad dressings, frying oils, margarines, and bakery products. The company says that users can create better-for-you products without sacrificing taste or mouthfeel.

Meanwhile, as consumers are becoming more and more aware of the negative effects of saturated and trans fatty acids, as part of its 'Newtrition - Eat. Feel. Live' concept, Cognis has introduced two specialty vegetable oil-based fat powders targeting the wellness trend.

Cegepal TG 186 and Cegepal O3C enable manufacturers to easily incorporate fat into food, while also allowing them to promote their products with improved nutritional declaration. Also part of Cognis' new healthy fats range is Lamequick SUN 40, a sunflower oil-based whipping agent. All three products are rich in unsaturated fatty acids and low in saturated fat. The company says they are particularly suitable for 'clean label' products, as they contain no hydrogenated fat.

Cegepal TG 186 and Cegepal O3C enhance the creamy texture of filling cream, bakery cream, ice cream and other desserts, as well as savoury products like soups and sauces. These two non-lauric and non-foaming specialty fat powders are designed to enrich nutritionally balanced foods. The fact that they are based on vegetable oils and have an improved fatty-acid composition means they are in line with the global wellness trend and consumers' increasingly health-focused eating habits, says the company.

Cegepal TG 186 is designed for powder mixes that require a high content of unsaturated fatty acids. Based on sunflower oil, it contains a high proportion of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids and linoleic acid as essential fatty acid instead of saturated fats. The intake of essential fatty acids is vital because they cannot be produced within the body.

Cognis says that Cegepal TG 186 is ideal for use in dietary products like soups, sauces, desserts and food targeting the well-being market. Due to an extremely fine dispersion of the fat in a protein carbohydrate matrix, it is convenient to use. The cold-dispersible powder is odour-free, neutral in taste and improves the organoleptic properties, creaminess and mouthfeel, thereby giving the end product a creamy texture. Cegepal O3C: ideal for the production of food with special nutritional requirements like dietetic, clinical and sports foods

A key ingredient of Cegepal O3C is rape seed oil, which is low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fat, and has a beneficial omega-3 fatty acid profile.

Sunflower oil-based Lamequick SUN 40 is a whipping agent that is suitable for cake fillings, mousses, chantilly cream and other creamy desserts. As sunflower oil is generally regarded as a healthy and natural choice, consumers tend to prefer it to other vegetable oils. Lamequick SUN 40 gives desserts, such as mousses and cream cakes, the same great taste and mouthfeel as those made with conventional whipping agents - while enabling consumers to reduce their saturated fat intake.

All products from Cognis' healthy fats range are designed to offer significant advantages for product labelling. As they contain non-hydrogenated fats, they are eligible for 'clean labelling': on the packaging of their products, manufacturers only need to indicate 'vegetable fat' instead of 'hydrogenated vegetable fat' when labelling the fat source. These days, says the company, this is an important competitive advantage, as consumers are becoming more and more aware of hydrogenated and trans-fats and their negative effects on health (Fig. 2).

"Improved fatty acid profiles and low saturated-fat contents are advantageous for manufacturers - and our ingredients support their claims of offering products with an improved nutritional declaration," explains Robert Salacz, product Line manager dessert ingredients.

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