Research on New Methods to Enhance and Stabilize Natural Colorants

Posted on:November 15, 2018
2018 CLC/Monica Giusti - Research on New Methods to Enhance and Stabilize Natural Colorants

FDA approval of “fruit juice concentrates” as colorants, enables the use of plants rich in anthocyanins or other pigments, as long as processing methods meet certain parameters.

Food colorants have joined consumers’ growing demand for clean label and natural ingredients, particularly considering mainstream and social media’s outpouring of information, whether accurate or not, regarding adverse health effects from the consumption of synthetic colors. Colorants made from natural sources may have an added-value ability to provide health benefits, such as antioxidant potential, and can increase consumers’ perception of a product’s all-natural, clean label, simplified ingredient statement, noted M. Monica Giusti, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Food Science and Technology, The Ohio State University. Plus, some pigments from plant sources may even be classified as superfoods, added Giusti.

Although there is a wide variety of colorants exempt from certification by the FDA, as listed in 21CFR73, ensuring consistency, quality and stability are not necessarily easy tasks. Pigments can interact with the product’s matrix and change color; may not be stable under processing or storage conditions; may be affected by texture; and certain colorants are allowed for use in a limited number of applications.

Yet, abundant research of colorants from natural sources is in process. Opportunities exist for improved stability, as well as added health benefits, including potential use as antibacterials, antivirals and anti-inflammatories. Research is also being conducted in analytical, horticultural, bioavailability and processing areas.

Giusti’s research focuses mainly on the color enhancement and stability of anthocyanins. Currently, grape color extract and grape skin extract (enocianina) are the only anthocyanin-based colorant extracts approved for use in the U.S. However, the approved category of “fruit juice concentrates” and “vegetable juice concentrates” open an opportunity to utilize a wide variety of plants rich in anthocyanins or other pigments as sources of colors, as long as the processing conditions of the plants have followed typical processes for juice. This approval status leaves opportunity for expanding the applications of anthocyanins as food colors, as there are numerous sources in nature with this pigment, and fruit and vegetable juices are label-friendly to consumers.

“Anthocyanins are water soluble,” said Giusti. “The color is due to the main structure, a flavonoid, but you can have several [types of] sugars and acids attached [to this molecule]. In general, the bigger the molecule, the more stable it becomes and the more resistant it becomes to processing, storage and stresses. Pigments from vegetables usually have the larger pigment structures that last longer, while most fruit pigments degrade faster. However, there are some exceptions, such as grape, which is a fruit source but has the more complex chemical structure that is a little more stable. That’s why grape extracts are popular for applications.”

One approach Giusti has used to extend the life of the color is co-pigmentation, where a component with little or no coloration can be added to enhance and stabilize the pigments. For instance, her research team is investigating the use of soy products, as an innovative way to incorporate isoflavones—a functional, healthful component to the diet—while stabilizing the color. Additionally, Giusti is looking into the formation of pyranoanthocyanin pigments, pigments derived from anthocyanins and commonly found in wine, to explore their formation or addition to vegetable juices to enhance color stability.

Some of the blue color in plants is due to the presence of metals together with anthocyanins. So, the presence of certain metals in the matrices’ environment can allow for formation of those blue hues by anthocyanin-metal complexation, suggested Giusti. Natural sources of blue and green pigments allowed for use in foods are currently limited, and many desired colors are currently achieved through use of synthetic compounds. Increased understanding of the pigment-metal complexation would allow us to provide natural alternatives for those synthetic colors.

Microencapsulation is another approach to achieving stability of anthocyanin-based pigments and could improve the distribution of pigments in a wider variety of matrices, such as those high in protein, which are susceptible to color loss or more hydrophobic matrices that could have poor dispersion. Work is being done on bioavailability and bioactivity, as well.

Consumer perception has increased demand for use of colorants from natural sources. Suppliers that commercialize pigments know a lot about those behaviors in different types of matrices, as well as stability in processing, noted Giusti. Further research can only expand the availability of pigments from natural sources and improve their stability.

“Natural Colorants: Challenges and Opportunities,” M. Mónica Giusti, Ph.D., Professor, Dept. Food Science and Technology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio,

This presentation was given at the 2018 Clean Label Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

Consumers Lean Toward Simplified, Comprehensible Labels

Posted on:November 14, 2018
2018 CLC/Thea Bourianne - Consumers Lean Toward Simplified, Comprehensible Labels

Consumers’ desire for label transparency often dictates dietary choices.

Consumers are craving transparency now more than ever. Clean label is the industry’s response to that need for label transparency. “Today, 94% of consumers feel that it is important for brands to be transparent; 83% would value having more in-depth product information, and 37% would be willing to switch to a brand that shares more detailed information,” said Thea Bourianne, Senior Food and Beverage Data Analyst, Label Insight. 

Transparency impacts shopper behavior. Consumers now link health, wellness and with their definition of safety and include factors such as free from harmful ingredients (62%); clear and accurate labeling (51%); and fewer ingredients, less processing and nothing artificial (42%).

Label Insight was born out of the personal struggle of the founders to find products they could trust after their father was diagnosed with a health condition. There’s a lot of information [on the label of] physical packaging; much of it is hard for the average consumer to understand. It’s also difficult to compare one product to another. Label Insight takes all of the information from the package label and translates it into a “data prism.” The result is a diverse set of over 22,000 attributes. The company has 440,000 products in their database, covering more than 80% of the top selling products in U.S., said Bourianne.

Consumers are shopping with more diverse needs than ever before. Nearly 50% of consumers follow some sort of diet or health-related program. There are lifestyle diets, allergen intolerance diets, weight management diets and many more that influence the way consumers shop and select products.

More than three-fourths of consumers are looking at ingredient statements to avoid certain ingredients—artificial ingredients being one of the most common. Currently, 81% of our food products in the U.S. are free from artificial sweeteners; 76% are free from artificial flavors; 74% of foods are free from artificial colors; and 59% of food products are free from artificial preservatives.

Sugar tops the list of ingredients that consumers are trying to avoid, with 44% of consumers avoiding artificial sweeteners, and 56% avoiding high-fructose corn syrup. Also, 47% of consumers say they will decrease the amount of sugar they consume in 2018. One of the factors fueling the shift away from sugars is the updated Nutrition Facts Panel that calls out added sugars.

Currently, 40% of food products contain added sugars on their ingredient statements, regardless if they declare it on the nutrition label yet. Trendy diets dictate which ingredients 12% many consumers avoid. “Individuals on a Paleo diet eliminate dairy, refined sugar and certain cooking oils. Those on the Whole 30 Diet avoid dairy, sugar, legumes and grains. Those on a Ketogenic diet avoid refined carbs, sugar and juice,” explained Bourianne.

Customers are looking for cues on packaging to let them know if a specific product meets their diet expectations. Currently, only 630 products make a “paleo suitable” claim, while 66,000 products could make that claim based on the Label Insight ingredient analysis, Bourianne noted.

Just as consumers are avoiding certain ingredients, they are also seeking out other ingredients. Although there is no regulated definition for “superfoods,” it is generally accepted that they are foods that contain high levels of desirable nutrients. Blueberries and avocados are the most desired superfoods. Popular super-food ingredients also include green tea, kale, cinnamon, coconut oil and ginger.

The probiotics trend is also big. Over 6,400 foods, mostly yogurt, contain probiotics. There is recent growth in claims around fermented beverages and foods including kombucha and sauerkraut.

There are clear winners and losers in the clean label quest, stated Bourianne. Salty snacks and candy categories are seeing the most dollar growth in clean label products, while coffee and ice cream categories are seeing high percentage growth.

Retailers are expressing what it means for them to be clean and transparent. Whole Foods’ list paved the way for everyone with their list of unacceptable food ingredients. Raley’s, Wegmans and Hy-Vee, among others, have created their own “no no” lists. Raley’s has created various symbols to indicate foods with specific attributes, such as “vegan” or “no added sugar.” Consumers can also use these categories to filter foods when shopping online.

Transparency is not going away, and industry is responding at the brand and retail level, concluded Bourianne.

“Exploring Today’s Top Ingredient Trends and How They Fit into our Health-Conscious World,” Thea Bourianne, Senior Food and Beverage Data Analyst, Label Insight

This presentation was given at the 2018 Clean Label Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

Microbial Control in Clean Label Products

Posted on:November 13, 2018
2018 CLC/Peter Taormina - Microbial Control in Clean Label Products

Water activity is one of multiple hurdles to consider when controlling pathogenic 0 and spoilage microorganisms.

Although our industry and government remain mostly focused on pathogen control, “spoilage control is a more difficult challenge to address,” said Peter Taormina, Ph.D., President, Etna Consulting Group. “Pathogens are the primary culprits in food safety; they are the organisms identified by companies in their hazard analyses and critical control points (HACCP), and are addressed through formulation and process controls.” However, added Taormina, spoilage organisms also pose significant hazards to manufacturers in the form of product viability and corporate brand image.

New, clean label ingredients can be problematic, because not much is known about them yet. “For example, the non-proteolytic, psychrotolerant Clostridium botulinum is one pathogen that keeps me up at night, because it lacks a proteolytic effect that makes growth in the product evident,” said Taormina. The group II, non-proteolytic C. botulinum are mostly associated with aquatic environment sources and, given that some clean label ingredients are derived from aquatic environments, food safety scientists must ask whether they come bearing spores of these organisms.

Formulating to control pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms requires a “big picture” approach that anticipates establishing multiple hurdles to microorganism outgrowth, including formulation, packaging and post-lethality treatments. “Antimicrobial hurdles used in product development and processing include processing temperature, water activity (aw), pH, reduction-oxidation potential (REDOX) and preservative application,” said Taormina.

“Preservatives should pose the last hurdle. However, we would rather that pH and aw hurdles are great enough so that REDOX and preservative hurdles aren’t challenged, as some microbes can grow at very low pH and aw.” And, whereas salt is the “best preservative we have, public resistance to salt consumption limits its use in clean label products,” he added.

For clean label preservatives, we want to avoid -ics, -ates and –ites, or anything with an “x” or a “y,” noted Taormina. Unfortunately, that describes many of the most effective preservatives available, but some of these also exist in natural sources, such as acetic acid in vinegar; benzoic acid in cranberries; and propionic acid from Swiss cheese.

Plant-derived antimicrobials that could qualify as clean label ingredients include glucosinolates (cruciferous vegetables), lignans (flax seed), saponins (yucca, asparagus), catechins (green tea) and spices…whether as essential oils or as extracts.

Microbial preservatives provide another option, such as microbially derived antimicrobials including bacteriocins (e.g., nisin), competitive bacteria (e.g. Lactobacilli) and phages (viruses that infect bacteria). Celery, Swiss chard or acerola cherry powders represent clean label-friendly sources of nitrites for cured meats.

Processing can boost or supplement preservative ingredients in formulations. One relatively new method, high-pressure processing (HPP), is well along in commercialization. Each process poses its own spoilage challenges, however: HPP may allow for the survival of spore-forming bacteria concomitant with the destruction of otherwise competitive microbial strains.

A number of spore-forming bacteria can survive heating processes and grow-out under refrigeration temperatures, even at relatively low pH. This is especially problematic for low-acid products, such as nut milks, noted Taormina.

“When considering extended shelf-life, there is always risk. Pathogen control is well-researched, and one can always find a lot of good data in peer-reviewed research,” said Taormina. That is not the case with spoilage microorganisms. “Their risk continuum looks very different than that for pathogens,” he added.

For example, traditional spoilage inhibitors for ready-to-eat packaged meats include sodium or potassium lactates, plus sodium diacetate or acetate. Alternative clean label inhibitors include vinegar, fruit-extract vinegar blends and cultured sugar. “A problem arises, however, when, for clean label reasons, dextrose is replaced with sucrose. (The result is that common Leuconostoc sp. bacteria will cleave the sucrose disaccharide, producing a slimy film on the meat.) I see this over and over again,” emphasized Taormina.

Spoilage is the result of an accumulation of factors and, unfortunately, much less information is publicly available about spoilage microorganisms than about pathogens, Taormina noted.Therefore, companies should do their research and seek outside help well in advance of new product launches—before real damage is done to the product and the company’s reputation.

“Microbial Control in Clean Label Products,” Peter Taormina, Ph.D., President, Etna Consulting Group

This presentation was given at the 2018 Clean Label Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

Cultural Use & Functional Properties of Ancient Grains

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2018 CLC/Melanie Goulson - Cultural Use & Functional Properties of Ancient Grains

Consumers show great interest in ancient grains, such as teff & sorghum.

“What is old is new again,” said Melanie Goulson, MS, Principle Scientist, Merlin Development, Inc. — a food and beverage R&D and commercialization firm, and Adjunct Professor, St. Catherine University, as she referenced the surging interest in ancient grains. “Ancient grains have made quite the comeback, so we are trying to learn quickly what our earliest ancestors already knew,” Goulson added.

Chia is a pseudo-cereal native to Mexico and Guatemala and is rich in omega-3 oils. Among its current-day applications, Goulson highlighted a traditional chia beverage from north-west-Mexico’s indigenous people called iskiate. The tribe, famous for its long-distance runners, consumed iskiate as an energy drink. Today, it is a popular Mexican energy drink known as chia fresca, which is made with citrus, water and sometimes a sweetener.

The very small chia seeds have a gelatinous coating that hydrates in water, creating a soft suspension of “pearls,” said Goulson. It is also used in other beverages, puddings, yogurts, tortillas and nutrition bars. “But, if you put on your food science hat, chia’s gel is of particular interest,” said Goulson. She described it as “a high-molecular weight, non-starch polysaccharide dispersion” with very stable viscosity between pH 2-12; high stability to temperature and ionic strength; and rapid viscosity recovery upon the removal of shear. “It is different from either xanthan, microcrystalline cellulose or guar, so it could offer unique, clean label-friendly applications, such as a suspension agent in beverages,” proposed Goulson. Also, it could be potentially used as an emulsion stabilizer, gluten-free pasta component or shelf-life extender in breads.

Quinoa, another New World ancient grain cultivated by the Andean Incas, is rich in protein and contains all essential amino acids. It is also rich in B vitamins and essential minerals, noted Goulson. One shortcoming, however, is the presence of bitter saponins in the seed coat, which probably function as natural pesticides. These should be removed from the seed by either alkaline pretreatment or grain pearling. Traditionally, quinoa is “popped” — similar to corn, milled into flour or used as a thickener in Peruvian stews.

The starch composition of quinoa varies greatly (35-70% dry matter basis), depending upon variety, according to Goulson. It consists mostly of amylopectin, which exhibits good puffing properties in popping or extrusion, and is not prone to retrogradation (a major cause of staling). In heated solutions, the starch thickens more slowly than potato or tapioca starch and generates a more stable viscosity than native corn, wheat or rice starches. This suggests many potential clean label product applications for quinoa.

A third ancient grain is teff, a gluten-free, nutty flavored cereal grain of Ethiopian origin with seeds the size of poppy seeds. Traditionally, teff seeds are fermented using yeast and lactic acid bacteria to produce a sourdough batter. The batter is steam-baked to form a spongy, porous flatbread called injera. The fermentation renders minerals more nutritionally available, while converting insoluble fiber to soluble fiber, explained Goulson.

At present, due to political considerations and cultivation challenges, teff has only limited availability in North America and Europe. Goulson proposed that considerably more work needs to be done to uncover the product development potential of this “early stage” ancient grain. Teff is about 70% starch and, while “there still isn’t much known about this grain,” said Goulson, its gluten-free nature offers product-development possibilities. For example, injera has been made into snack chips that are said to be quite delicious, noted Goulson.

However, she also cautioned against overstating its opportunities. “We don’t want to try to fit a square peg into a round hole. It’s important to consider the impact of physicochemical properties on product performance and apply teff and other ancient grains where they make the most sense.”

Goulson proposed that the popularity of ancient grains should endure for some time. She pointed out that many top consumer food trends begin in the culinary world. In the National Restaurant Association’s recent 2018 Top 100 Trends list, Ancient Grains ranked #20, African Cuisine ranked #15, Peruvian Cuisine ranked #11 and Authentic Ethnic Cuisine ranked #9. “It certainly seems like there are many opportunities for ancient grains to establish themselves on many different levels as clean label ingredients,” concluded Goulson.

“Cultural Use and Ancient Properties of Ancient Grains,” Melanie Goulson, MS, Principle Scientist, Merlin Development, Inc. and Adjunct Professor, St. Catherine University

This presentation was given at the 2018 Clean Label Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

Dairy Protein Ingredients Offer Functionality and Consumer-Friendly Labels

Posted on:November 12, 2018
2018 CLC/Sonia Patel - Dairy Protein Ingredients Offer Functionality and Consumer-Friendly Labels

Dairy ingredients provide flavor & functionality to foods & beverages – as well as clean labeling.

As part of the clean label trend, consumers are demanding removal of ingredients from food that they perceive as not “clean,” or unhealthy. “Dairy ingredients offer a clean label alternative to ingredients that have landed on a ‘no no’ list. These ingredients can be modified to achieve desired functionality,” said Sonia Patel, Dairy Food Application Scientist, Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center in her presentation, “Label-friendly Dairy Ingredients: Physio-chemical Properties and Uses in Foods & Beverages.”

There is no simple one-for-one replacement of ingredients to achieve a cleaner label. Replacement of food ingredients affect taste, texture, functionality, consumer acceptance and shelflife of food. Before food scientists start reformulating, they need to understand how replacing specific ingredients will affect consumer appeal. Desired functionalities include meltability, water binding, solubility, viscosity, emulsification, heat stability, gelation, whipping, foaming, color development and flavor. Dairy proteins can provide all these functionalities, but whey protein ingredients will exhibit different functional properties than casein or milk protein ingredients.


Whey protein concentrates function as efficient fat mimetics, imparting creaminess and superior texture to soups, sauces and salad dressings. The surface-active properties of WPC, WPI, beta-lactoglobulin and skim milk powders make them excellent foaming and whipping agents in ice cream, frozen desserts and whipped toppings. Through Maillard browning, dairy ingredients provide color development in bakery applications. Dairy ingredients also boost the protein content of gluten-free formulas, noted Patel.

Permeates are a co-product of the production of whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, ultra-filtered milk, milk protein concentrate or milk protein isolate processing. Replacing salt in processed foods with permeates can reduce sodium, as well as improve texture, color and flavor. In addition, milk minerals provide a source of readily bioavailable calcium in nutritional supplements, beverages and bars.

As of June 2015, partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are no longer GRAS. Patel went on to say that many companies are replacing PHOs with butter, which has unique melting and crystallization properties. Emerging research suggests that consumption of dairy fats and dairy products is linked to reduced risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The functional properties of dairy ingredients can by modified in many ways. Physical modification can be achieved through heat treatment, acidification, and the addition of mineral salts, homogenization or shear. Enzymatic modification can be affected through hydrolysis, renneting or transglutamination.

A patented process of carbon dioxide treatment and high- pressure processing will cause casein micelles to disassociate, improving Greek yogurt texture without the addition of stabilizers or emulsifiers. This low-cost technology can be easily integrated into existing production lines.

Cavitation is the sudden formation and collapse of low-pressure bubbles in flowing liquids by means of mechanical forces. As liquid passes through the APV Cavitator, it is subjected to controlled cavitation. Microscopic cavitation bubbles are produced and, as they collapse, shockwaves are given off into the liquid, which can emulsify and prevent scaling. During heating, temperature is created uniformly throughout the entire liquid without any heat transfer surfaces. This technology could potentially smooth Greek yogurt texture and manage viscosity in beverages. Plain yogurt made through cavitation might have a clean label that reads simply “Contains: skim milk, milk protein and cultures,” Patel advised.

Membrane filtration technology allows for production of a wide variety of dairy ingredients using a simple filtration process that concentrates the protein. Since the ingredients are produced without any chemical treatment, this manufacturing process could be categorized as clean label processing, as it involves only physical separations.

Dairy has a “clean image” and can easily be modified to provide superior functionality in a wide range of clean label products.

“Label-friendly Dairy Ingredients: Physio-chemical Properties and Uses in Foods & Beverages,” Sonia Patel, MSc, Dairy Food Scientist, Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center, Dept. of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota

This presentation was given at the 2018 Clean Label Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

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