Emerging Research to Practical Approaches on Natural Antimicrobial Use

Posted on:November 15, 2017

November 15, 2017–The 2017 Clean Label Conference’s tagline, “Sophisticated Solutions for Simplified Products,” expresses the industry’s challenge of simplifying products and also our belief that food science will deliver solutions. To meet consumer expectations, products must not only have great taste, value and nutrition, but increasingly possess attributes covered by the term “clean label.”

This year’s conference on March 28-29, in Itasca, Ill., provided 10 general session speakers. This 2017 Clean Label Conference Summary provides presentation highpoints. Presentations are also available for download at

Be sure to also check out information on the upcoming 2018 Clean Label Conference!

Emerging Research to Practical Approaches on Natural Antimicrobial Use

Since its introduction in 1958, the FDA’s GRAS list has evolved from an affirmation to a notification process. This chart shows the average time the FDA took to response to a filing entity from 1998-2005. GRAS approval for food additives normally is an expensive, time-consuming process, noted Taylor. [For larger PDF of chart, click on image.]

In his presentation, “Emerging Research to Practical Approaches on Natural Antimicrobial Use,” Mathew Taylor, Ph.D., Texas A&M University, shed light not only on the use of natural antimicrobials, but he also explained why there isn’t a host of new compounds to meet the demand. GRAS approval for food additives is an expensive, time-consuming process that requires demonstration of the safety of the compound, in the manner it will be used, before it enters the market. Many spice extracts have antimicrobial properties, for example, but they are GRAS-based on their use as flavorants and aromatics.

Research on plant-derived antimicrobials is extensive, yet it’s scattered across journals all over the world. Well-devised summaries are lacking. However, the data reveal they work very well in certain applications. Some of the extracts, as well as some of the individual components [within extracts], possess powerful antimicrobial activity that inhibit not only spoilage microbiota, but also pathogenic microbes, Taylor said.

Most of the data are on monophenols, such as essences of cinnamon, thyme, oregano, sage and ginger. “We have very good information on what organisms they work against; which ones they don’t; which cultivars of plants are best for harnessing or harvesting; at what stage of maturity of the plant; what conditions of use; and what are their organoleptic impacts. We know the most about these,” Taylor added.

Organo-sulfur extracts from garlic, onion and shallots (members of the genus Allium and family Cruciferae) are potent antimicrobials. These compounds cause cell death in Grampositive and Gram-negative bacteria, and in fungi.

Biopreservation, another means of extending shelflife and food safety, utilizes natural or controlled microbiota and/or antimicrobial compounds. There are three key forms: fermentative non-pathogenic microbes, principally the lactic acid bacteria (LAB); fermentates from non-pathogenic fermentative microbes that are purified and added to other foods, such as acids and bacteriocins; and bacteriophages. For example, Carnobacterium maltaromaticum is approved for RTE meats as an antilisterial agent in the U.S. and Canada. Lactobacillus and Pediococcus spp. are approved for fresh and processed meat safety by FDA/USDA. FDA has provided GRAS affirmation for many LAB products used in fermentation processing, but very few approvals in biopreservatives.

A third category, antimicrobial metabolic products, are produced by non-pathogenic microbes via industrial fermentations. They are comprised by some combination of acids, antimicrobial peptides, peroxides and miscellaneous antimicrobials. Nisin, mixed fermentates, natamycin (an antifungal) and poly-L-lysine are examples that present options for clean label, depending on their usage/application. Some may have greater restrictions on labeling, but the natural aspect to this ferment antimicrobial product, despite these being traditional antimicrobials, may be successfully navigated for food safety, Taylor suggested.

Combining antimicrobials provides opportunities for synergism. Pairs or even three-compound applications have been reported to demonstrate synergistic inhibition of microbes. Pairing antimicrobials with thermal or non-thermal physical processing may reduce overall antimicrobial utilization without safety or quality detriment.

Taylor cautioned that replacing traditional antimicrobials with clean label alternatives requires careful planning. Naturally occurring acidulants may replace organic acid salts or inorganic acids for pH control, but the impact on pH control must be understood. “If you’re replacing humectants for water activity control, again, do you gain the same functionality?” he asked. If one compound is taken out, something must be added that yields the same functionality. How much must be added? What are the side effects?

It’s important to understand whether the antimicrobial will work within the food itself, because physical or chemical interactions may render it ineffective. “If it’s a hydrophobic antimicrobial, does it partition into your fat phase? What’s the impact on the pH?” Taylor asked.

There also should be a deep, intimate knowledge of the microbial ecology of the food before considering replacing compounds, he stressed. For example, susceptibility of Listeria monocytogenes, for example, to some bacteriocins (like nisin) can be reduced when the bacterial cells are in the resting stage. However, when replicating and growing, the pathogen causes gastrointestinal disease in immunocompromised individuals, and it can cause spontaneous abortions in pregnant women.

Clean label opens a lot of doors, but it closes some too, he concluded. One cannot sacrifice the safety and wholesomeness of the food just for a clean(er) label.

“Emerging Research to Practical Approaches on Natural Antimicrobial Use,” Matthew Taylor, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Dept. of Animal Science, Texas A&M University,


Formulating Clean Label Dairy (and Non-dairy) Frozen Desserts

Posted on:November 10, 2017

November 10, 2017–The 2017 Clean Label Conference’s tagline, “Sophisticated Solutions for Simplified Products,” expresses the industry’s challenge of simplifying products and also our belief that food science will deliver solutions. To meet consumer expectations, products must not only have great taste, value and nutrition, but increasingly possess attributes covered by the term “clean label.”

This year’s conference on March 28-29, in Itasca, Ill., provided 10 general session speakers. This 2017 Clean Label Conference Summary provides presentation highpoints. Presentations are also available for download at

Be sure to also check out information on the upcoming 2018 Clean Label Conference!

Formulating Clean Label Dairy (and Non-dairy) Frozen Desserts

Because of multiple manufacturing demands, ice cream has evolved from a clean label product into one with a long list of ingredients. [For larger PDF of chart, click on image.]

Ice cream originated as a clean label product, began Steven Young, Ph.D., Principal, Steven Young Worldwide, in his presentation “Formulating Clean Label Dairy (and Non-Dairy) Frozen Desserts.”

Historically ice cream contained: milk, sugar, cream and natural flavor. In the early 1950s, the FDA established Standards of Identity for Frozen Desserts to distinguish ice cream and similar products from competing products that might contain other ingredients or varying quantities of the basic ingredients.

Over time, standards have been modified to redefine allowed ingredients and to fit evolving food technologies, approaches and regulations. The product originally called “ice milk” now is “reduced-fat ice cream.” There are also a wide range of non-standard products, including frozen yogurt, or “hybrid” frozen desserts, and novel plant-based products. Proposed revisions to the Nutrition Facts Panel will change the serving size for ice cream from ½-cup to 2/3-cup, creating challenges to formulating, eating quality and resistance to heat shock.

“The two largest ingredients by volume, air and water, and how they are managed, are critical to success,” said Young. As ice cream technology has evolved, additional ingredients have been added to allow the product to tolerate performance demands in a wide range of formats, including bulk food-service for dipping, and resale mixes for direct-draw soft-serve and shakes. This has resulted in a wide array of frozen dairy desserts with long ingredients lists that are not clean label-friendly.

The challenge is to create the same performance characteristics with fewer ingredients, while navigating the rigors of distribution— and maintaining any given brand equity. Manufacturers can use a variety of ingredient approaches to achieve a cleaner label ice cream. They can also alter manage processing approaches and conditions, such as for mix assembly; pasteurization; homogenization; mix aging; and whipping/freezing.

Managing the freezing point of water is the first challenge. Water freezes at 32˚ F, but the freezing point of an ice cream mix might be 27˚ F. One way to increase dairy ingredients’ ability to interfere with the behavior of water is by heating skim milk and cream to 175 or 180˚, thus denaturing whey proteins, increasing their capacity to do just that. A second option is to freeze as much water in the barrel of the ice cream freezer as possible, drawing the product from the freezer at the lowest temperature possible. The more water frozen, the greater positive influence on resistance to heat shock and eating quality. A third option is rapid hardening, with novel application of cryogenic gas to freeze as much water as possible. Essentially, this is enhancing hardening from the inside- out and outside-in.

Another approach is to leverage the functionality of milkfat to achieve sufficient, controllable “de-emulsification” (i.e., “fat agglomeration”) to create small agglomerates of fat, to allow for structure and inclusion of whipped-in air, both of which interfere with the transition of ice-to-water-ice, so critical during distribution, storage and sale. One solution might be pre-aeration of the liquid mix prior to freezing to create many small air bubbles and small fat agglomerates. Still another approach is to use dairy ingredients that contain higher levels of naturally occurring phospholipids. Sour cream or sweet-cream buttermilk (uncultured byproduct from butter making) are good sources, if managed properly.

Sweeteners have come under increased scrutiny by consumers. In frozen desserts, sweeteners serve the dual purpose of adding sweetness, allowing for the products to be made; and managing the amount, size and stability of ice. Lactose, sugar naturally present in dairy ingredients, has problems of its own to avoid “sandiness” in any finished product.

To manage the above, a number of formula guidance tools, i.e., indices, are used. These include Theoretical Sweetness, Texture Stability Index and Water Control Index, to calculate how any ingredient substitution can modify resistance to heat shock, body (bite and chew) and texture (smoothness, creaminess.)

Ice cream formulators must also pay special attention to flavors that might negatively affect any given finished product. These include flavors intrinsic to the mix and so-called added characterizing flavors. Milkfat is supportive to components of natural flavors down to below 4-5% milkfat. Thus, there are more challenges in reduced-, low- and no-fat formulas. Unique flavor challenges arise with plant-based “milks.” The flavor of nutmeat/seed/grain ingredients vary, depending on type and extent of extraction processes, and naturally occurring enzymes that often times create undesirable off-flavors. Components of these novel plant “milk” ingredients also can be incompatible with functional requirements, including freezing, whipping and the delivery of more aromatic characterizing flavors.

Finally, manufacturers must (and normally do) evaluate the cost of any and all approaches, keeping a keen eye on costs and point-of-sale pricing.

However, clean label, easy-to-make and economically viable products are certainly possible. A thorough knowledge of ice cream manufacturing principles, plus evolving ingredient, formula and manufacturing options, can expedite those factors critical to success.

“Formulating Clean Label Dairy (and Non-Dairy) Frozen Desserts,” Steven Young, Ph.D., Principal, Steven Young Worldwide,

Emerging Clean Label Claims: Regulations & Liabilities

Posted on:October 30, 2017

Claims suggesting “healthy” can especially be risky.

Emerging Clean Label Claims: Regulations & Liabilities

Chip English, Partner, Davis Wright Temaine LLP

Chip English, Esq.’s presentation on food and beverage regulations evoked recent drone videos of food and beverage entrepreneurs blithely surfing the waves while oblivious to the great white sharks perusing succulent, clean label menu choices from below. Metaphorically speaking, of course. English is a Partner in the Washington, D.C., office of the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP. “I am the lawyer to dash cold water on all these wonderful clean label claims that people want to make,” he began.

“There are a whole lot of things that arguably could make clean label claims. But the meaning of some claims is not so clear. We still don’t know what ‘free-range’ or ‘cage-free’ are, and, although there are some hints of what ‘natural’ means, most such claims remain in the eye of beholder. What is ‘local’…10 miles, 50 miles, 100 miles? Does ‘local’ signify a different distance in New York City vs. in Des Moines, Iowa? Then, there are the emerging label claims: made from kitchen ingredients; craft; made from scratch; small batch, homemade…what do they all mean?”

“So, if you want to try to define such claims on your product, good luck, because lawyers will then tell you what they mean after the fact,” English continued.

According to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, a food shall be deemed misbranded if its label is false or misleading in any particular regard (21 CFR 343(a)(1)). But, while there can be a grey area surrounding the small number of clean label terms the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has defined, there is a big grey area of terms that remain undefined. Regulatory uncertainty provides considerable leeway for plaintiffs to complain about a product claim, said English.

According to English, the bulk of outstanding legal actions focus on “natural” and “healthy” claims. He provided examples. “Healthy” can be an exceedingly narrow and difficult term against which to conform a product. Though the product is loaded with a surfeit of very healthy ingredients, the manufacturer of the KIND nutrition bar received a warning letter from the FDA in 2015 saying that its products could not be designated “healthy,” because their saturated fat content put them out of compliance with FDA guidelines for the term “healthy.” KIND bars contain saturated fat-rich nuts, otherwise known as a health food in most quarters. The company was ordered to remove all references to “healthy” from its packages…and website. Although FDA has allowed KIND to keep references to healthy on its bars and website (after some back-and-forth with the agency), use of the term outside of the narrow regulatory framework carries risk. [Editor’s note: In what it terms a “re-evaluation,” the FDA has since permitted KIND the use of the term “healthy” in relation to its “corporate philosophy,” not as a nutrient claim. See]

English cited a large retailer, COSTCO, that made “healthy” claims about a coconut oil product. This was based, in part, upon the oil’s medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) content. Yes, the science does say that MCTs are healthier than other oils, but some of the MCTs thereof are saturated, and their contents in these oils can vary greatly, so…lawsuit!

Sometimes, federal agency jurisdictions overlap. Quaker Oats was sued in 2016 over packaged oat cereals sporting “100% Natural” claims. However, the oats contained minute levels of pesticide residues; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has jurisdiction over establishing pesticide tolerance levels and has not established pesticide tolerance levels in all food. The result: lawsuit.

Packaging graphics also matter. When a large retailer promoted an organic milk package featuring a cow happily jumping a fence, plaintiffs argued that the “organic”-label package was misleading, because the milk producer actually kept its cows in tightly confined quarters. Although he remains unsure of what future American labeling regulation will bring, especially given a new political administration in Washington, D.C., English counsels food companies not to remain passive. “There is an important role for industry to establish and present its own standards to the government, rather than wait for lawsuits to be filed.”

For individual companies, he counseled them to assess their own risk tolerances: “How important is a claim to your product’s success, and can you back it up with evidence whereby to substantiate it? Look at all aspects of your product, including the messages that the packaging imagery conveys.” In other words, surf at your own risk!

Emerging Clean Label Claims: Regulations & Liabilities, Chip English, Partner, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, 

Posted October 10, 2017–The 2017 Clean Label Conference’s tagline, “Sophisticated Solutions for Simplified Products,” expresses the industry’s challenge of simplifying products and also our belief that food science will deliver solutions. To meet consumer expectations, products must not only have great taste, value and nutrition, but increasingly possess attributes covered by the term “clean label.”

This year’s conference on March 28-29, in Itasca, Ill., provided 10 general session speakers. This 2017 Clean Label Conference Summary provides presentation highpoints. Presentations are also available for download at




Increasing Consumer Confidence and Driving Value through Clean Label Claims Globally

Posted on:October 9, 2017

October 10, 2017–The 2017 Clean Label Conference’s tagline, “Sophisticated Solutions for Simplified Products,” expresses the industry’s challenge of simplifying products and also our belief that food science will deliver solutions. To meet consumer expectations, products must not only have great taste, value and nutrition, but increasingly possess attributes covered by the term “clean label.” 

This year’s conference on March 28-29, in Itasca, Ill., provided 10 general session speakers. This 2017 Clean Label Conference Summary provides presentation highpoints. Presentations are also available for download at

Be sure to also check out information on the upcoming 2018 Clean Label Conference

Although specific clean label concerns may vary by country, many concerns overlap geographical boundaries. Common desires among clean label consumers include increased transparency, clarity and confidence in food and beverage formulations, as well as their manufacturers. [For larger PDF version of chart, click on image.]

Increasing Consumer Confidence and Driving Value through Clean Label Claims Globally

Alan Rownan, Research Analyst with Euromonitor International, Inc., presented a data-laden status report on global clean label food trends, followed by a surprising interchange at the end.

In his presentation titled “Increasing Consumer Confidence and Driving Value through Clean Label Claims Globally, Rowan began by noting that, “18 months ago, we launched a new database called ‘Passport Ethical Labels’…where we track up to 26,000 brands and package claims across 26 markets.” The purpose is to establish the true value of such claims in the specific markets served. International leaders in the clean label category include Nestle, PepsiCo, Unilever and Kraft Heinz (in descending order). “Clean label” is less a label policy than a corporate philosophy, posited Rownan. He segued to the recent attempted acquisition of Unilever by the Kraft Heinz Company, noting that Unilever very openly promotes its commitment to sustainability, environmental responsibility and corporate transparency. Had the acquisition been successful, “would Kraft Heinz therefore have had to adopt Unilever’s core values in order to protect all of its brands?” asked Rownan.

Another company, Mars, Inc., long was reluctant to reformulate its legacy brands but, in the end, listened to its customers, said Rownan. The language it used in its promotions clearly said to its consumers: “We hear you, and we have made an ongoing commitment to meet your needs.”

For Mars, this was a good outcome, but there are risks involved for early adopters: Rownan cited the case of The Campbell Soup Company’s highly publicized reformulations of its soup lines to significantly reduce sodium contents. “The result was that consumers equated less salt with less flavor, and the effort failed, thereby putting all the company’s brands at risk.”

Euromonitor estimates the global value of the packaged foods’ clean label category at US$165 billion across the 26 markets tracked. Rownan suggested that this is the outgrowth of consumer desires for clean, safe and natural products starting as far back as the 1960s. Events that fueled this trend included consumer fears of e-numbers (in Europe); melamine contamination; alleged links between artificial colors and hyperactivity; GMO controversies; and, more recently in the UK, the adulteration of ready-to-eat meals with horsemeat.

Euromonitor says that the market leader for clean label foods is North America ($67 billion), followed by Europe ($59 billion) and China ($23 billion). The global clean label category itself is dominated by retail packaged foods ($129 billion), soft drinks ($34 billion) and hot drinks ($3 billion). Rownan predicted modest CAGR growth (1-5%) in these categories over the 2015-2020 period, albeit from a conservative standpoint.

Underlying clean label concerns is the fact that consumers want to know not only what is in their food, but the contextual narrative behind it, said Rownan. Are ingredients locally sourced; produced by fair trade practices; or grown under environmentally sustainable conditions?

The most persuasive claims for clean labels was led by “all natural” (44%), followed by “no artificial ingredients” (40%). Organic garnered (31%), no-MSG (24%) and BPA-free (15%). Claims of support by health organizations (e.g., American Heart Association) garnered the interest of 22% of consumers polled. Make clean label claims as simple as possible and avoid “green washing,” cautioned Rownan, “because underpinning all clean label claims is the trust issue.” If claims are vague; inspire fear-mongering; or are so creative they lose specificity, they risk diluting the entire clean label category. Examples given included bottled water claiming to have been “made with clean water;” “say ‘no’ to sugar” claims; and a product that advertised “no added nasties.”

Rownan posited that increased transparency, possibly through QR codes, could only help the category. An audience member then asked if there was any evidence linking specific product claims in e-commerce to retail impacts? The response was that food products sold in e-commerce exhibit very few claims on the packages themselves, but offer significantly more claims on the website from where sold. Increasingly, these claims are accessible through QR codes. Both commentators may have inadvertently signaled how food-label regulations might become obsolete altogether.

“Instilling Consumer Confidence Through Clean Label Claims,” Alan Rownan, Research Analyst, Euromonitor International,


Understanding Consumer Reaction to Sweetened New Products

Posted on:September 7, 2017

September 7, 2017–The following presentation is from the “2016 Sweetener Systems Conference Summary,” sponsored by Orochem. All presentations and/or adapted versions made available by the speakers are posted on Global Food Forums Inc.’s store page. Please consider attending our 2017 Sweetener Systems Conference, November 7th, at the Westin Hotel, Lombard, Ill., USA.

Consumers trust and like the taste of cookies with HFCS, leading to a high purchase intent score. Those with an HFCS-free claim are more likely to do better than HFCS-free formulations—simply because of the perception of HFCS.[For a larger PDF version of the chart, click on the image.]

The way consumers perceive sweetness can be said to be a “good news, bad news” type of situation.

The bad news: Rising obesity has placed a spotlight on sweeteners, and 70% of consumers are concerned about how sugar impacts their health. The WHO has urged a tax increase on sugary drinks to reduce consumption, and bloggers, celebrities and media outlets have painted HFCS as “the devil.”

However, backed by Mintel’s market research, which includes gathering the opinions of 30,000 consumers each month and tracking consumer spending in 3,000 markets across 34 countries, Lynn Dornblaser, Director of Innovation & Insight at Mintel, has good news to report. In her Keynote Speech, “Understanding Consumer Reaction to Sweetened New Products,” she said that taste and value still drive the consumer mindset; a healthy percentage of people are willing to pay a premium for natural sweeteners like stevia; and, in short, consumers still care about indulgence.

“Even consumers who are looking for healthfulness and sugar restriction aren’t eating that way 100% of the time,” Dornblaser said. “The good news is there’s room for everything in the marketplace.”

New product introductions that make low- or reduced-sugar claims are on the rise since 2012, “and at a faster pace than new product introductions in general,” according to Mintel data. In the “snacks/cereal/energy bars” category, consumers consider low-sugar options as “unique” and “premium,” but are less likely to purchase them—because they aren’t considered “good value” or “tasty.”

“When you dig down, it’s not about the sugar,” Dornblaser said. Many of the products are from smaller companies, and consumer trust tends to be higher with bigger brands. Old Orchard’s Cran- Naturals Cranberry Apple Juice got a 57% purchase intent score compared to the 17% for Saluu’s “exciting” and “innovative” Aloe vera drink.

Consumers believe they focus more on nutrition and performance than they do on flavor. “However, the perceived flavor of the product is more important than the low-sugar claim,” Dornblaser said.

In terms of HFCS, half of consumers say they avoid it, according to Mintel, which may explain the recent drop in new product introductions with HFCS. Bakery products are still the biggest segment for HFCS; when Mintel dug deeper into cookies, they found consumers prefer cookies with this sweetener because of taste and value. However, cookies with an HFCS-free claim on the pack consistently score better than cookies without HFCS, simply because of perception.

“The point I took away from this data is HFCS doesn’t especially impact purchase intent, but if you’re going to take it out—tell people, because it makes a difference,” she asserted. This is likewise true for clean label claims, like “natural” and “organic.” Some 43% of internet users say they research sweeteners before using them, and 61% want more natural sugar substitutes, according to Lightspeed GMI and Mintel. However, 65% are confused about which substitutes are natural.

The confusion doesn’t stop there. Some 36% of U.S. consumers have cut out certain foods or ingredients they think they shouldn’t consume, compared to the 53% who worry about potentially harmful ingredients in food they buy.

“Consumers have been taught that certain things—artificial colors, artificial flavors, HFCS—are in foods and they shouldn’t be consuming them—even though companies are still putting them in,” Dornblaser said.

The majority agree that “the fewer ingredients, the healthier it is” and want more transparency— especially Millennials. A full 25% of Millennials and iGeneration are willing to pay a premium for natural sweeteners such as stevia. New product introductions with stevia have shown rapid growth in the U.S. over the past four
years—particularly in beverages and yogurt. It’s been especially effective in the juice drinks segment, Dornblaser noted, as consumer perception scored higher with stevia across the board.

Consumers aren’t buying products simply because of a low-sugar or no-HFCS claim. It needs to have something else going for it—notably good value, taste or a clean label positioning. “Tailor your approach, and sweetener, to your purpose,” Dornblaser added.

“Understanding Consumers Perceptions to Sweetened New Products,” Lynn Dornblaser, Director of Innovation & Insight, Mintel,

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