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Natural Antimicrobials: Strategies and Considerations for Their Food Use

Posted on:November 10, 2017

November 17, 2016–Global Food Forums, Inc.
The following is an excerpt from the “2016 Clean Label Conference Summary,”
sponsored by Givaudan, RiceBran Technologies, TIC Gums, Blue Pacific Flavors, World Technology Ingredients, Inc. and IOI Loders Croklaan.

david-chart-for-posting

Vendors are challenged to assist in the development of clean label foods by expanding the toolbox offered to processors, so they might find efficient options for reducing spoilage and pathogens. [Click on image for larger PDF version of chart.]

Jairus R. David, Ph.D., Natural Antimicrobial Program, Research & Innovation, ConAgra Foods, Inc., began his presentation on a positive note. He affirmed that a dialogue about clean labeling is exactly what is needed; the focus of his speech was on preservatives, antimicrobials and options for clean labels.

“None of us may have all the answers,” suggested David, “but by connecting, we can try to understand what ‘clean label’ and this movement mean and how we can achieve the desired results.”

The application of preservatives and antimicrobials is complex and requires due diligence. “Preservatives are good, and they have played a big role in protecting food for centuries,” David stated. “Without preservatives, there would be more food spoilage and public health issues due to food-borne pathogens.”

For example, sorbates, benzoates and propionates are antimicrobials that specifically control the growth of spoilage and pathogens, and they need to be used in a prudent and judicious manner—not to mask poor practices. Lactates and diacetates are examples of antimicrobials used in meat to limit growth of Listeria monocytogenes and are especially important in refrigerated RTEs and perishable meats. Producers and consumers want to be assured of a certain retail shelflife and do not want spoilage or returned products.

“Food manufacturers should monitor the microbial load at all stages in the conversion of raw materials to end food products,” he stated. The finished product will not be better than the starting material. The key is a kill or control step, which could be sterilization or pasteurization, for example. Consumers also play a role in food safety: in how they handle, store, cook and reheat food. There is definitely a case for use of preservatives.

When using an antimicrobial, the first question is, does it work? “Usually,” advised David, “the answer is ‘yes, but…’”

Each product needs customization and, in clean labeling, cost is a big deal. Margins are very low. Developers need to understand the efficacy, sensory impact and regulatory limits of the antimicrobial. Especially with naturals, taste can be impacted in a good or bad way. Usually, the sensory threshold is lower than the efficacy level. Also note that the regulatory limit for antimicrobials is usually well-defined and cannot be exceeded.

“There is nothing wrong with chemical preservatives,” David emphasized, “but today, consumers want a clean label.” When looking at a new natural antimicrobial ingredient, due diligence pays off. Antimicrobials are a big challenge; for example, there are not a lot of natural options for Gram-negative pathogens like Salmonella.

David offered tips for application of natural antimicrobials: Look early at the sensory impact and efficacy. At least a two log reduction in microbiological media and model foods (either orange juice or sterilized milk) is needed, or it will not work in food. The next question is whether it will function after scale-up and how the cost impacts the product. And, natural, clean label antimicrobials are not inexpensive. Who is going to pay for it? Lastly, unanticipated issues often occur during development, scale-up and plant trials. Therefore, the key is to persevere.

To cover all bases, David suggests use of an antimicrobial toolbox to maintain sanity (see chart “Antimicrobial Toolbox”), and he challenges vendors to come up with more options for Gram-negative bacterial pathogens and spore formers, in particular.

“Natural Antimicrobials: Strategies & Considerations for Their Use in Food,” Jairus David, Ph.D., Natural Antimicrobial Program, Research & Innovation, ConAgra Foods, Inc.


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 https://goo.gl/M7P1bC]

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, ChipEnglish@dwt.com 

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 www.GlobalFoodForums.com/store/Clean-Label.

 

 

 


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 www.GlobalFoodForums.com/2017-Clean-Label/Store.

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, Alan.rownan@euromonitor.com

 


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, lynnd@mintel.com


Emerging Research in Aromas & Sweetness Enhancement

Posted on:August 24, 2017

August 24, 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. 

Additions of tomato and strawberry volatiles associated with sweetness to their respective fruits to 2% sucrose solutions incrementally increased the perceived sweetness of the sucrose solutions by as much as 75%. [For larger PDF version of chart, click on image.]

The presentation by Thomas Colquhoun, Ph.D., Plant Biologist at the University of Florida (Gainesville), built further on the concept of multi-modal sweetness perceptions developed by previous speakers. The focus was on the potential role of volatiles and, perhaps also color and shape, on sweetness perception.

“I run a plant biotech lab that is affiliated with the UF/IFAS Plant Innovation Center, for which the overarching goal is to better people’s lives through better plant products,” explained Colquhoun. “We do this by enhancing the aesthetic appeal of plants; increasing flavor and nutritional value; and delivering plant products that consumers actually want.”

Colquhoun explained the process used: “The first step is to test and quantify consumer expectations and perceptions using methods referred to as ‘psychophysics.’ We try to understand what people’s perceptions are of plant products, from taste and flavor to emotion and perceived importance.”

Second, the germplasms of various plants are screened for biochemicals and physical attributes linked to specific, consumer-identified desirability traits. “We link molecular biology, biochemistry and psychophysics,” said Colquhoun. Finally, once the specific plant genes associated with desirable traits are identified, breeding programs are developed to imbed the desired characteristics into the targeted plants.

The laboratory’s first application of these methods identified that “sweetness” was the most desirable trait that consumers identified with strawberries. The next step was to
categorize all available strawberry germ plasms by their respective combinations of sugars, acids and volatiles (although, Colquhoun noted, geography and growing conditions can also affect these variables within specific cultivars). Sensory analysis, using the psychophysics process, was then used to identify the optimum combinations of these metabolites that consumers associated with sweetness.

“Going through this process, we stumbled upon the phenomenon of ‘volatile-enhanced taste,’” observed Colquhoun. “We identified volatiles that significantly contribute to
the perception of sweetness without the presence of sugar on the tongue.” This required the use of highly sophisticated and very expensive equipment, such as the laboratory’s triple-quad mass spectrophotometer, because when dealing with “human psychophysics data,” there is so much variation in the sensory data that it is necessary to obtain the highest resolution available at the biochemical level. Even minute variations in biochemical data may be correlated to specific taste and flavor perceptions. In time, the scientists developed a  relational model that was sufficiently and consistently sensitive to be applicable to different fruits across different harvest conditions.

“When we applied a hierarchical cluster analysis to strawberries, tomatoes and blueberries, something very interesting popped out,” said Colquhoun. All three of these
fruits’ consumer profiles clustered out according to perceived sweetness; but, when clustered on the basis of their chemistry, they grouped out on the basis of their fruit identity. Thus, an important discrepancy was identified between the fruits’ basic chemical compositions and their perceived sweetness.

The question of “why?” necessitated building complex, multivariate models capable of associating specific and minute metabolite concentrations to specific sensory attributes.
The researchers found there were specific metabolites associated with “sweet” taste; and others associated with salty and bitter tastes, as well as “overall liking” and “overall fruit flavor” perceptions. Most compelling were the following two responses linked to sweetness:

1) The overall sweetness perceptions for blueberries were considerably lower than those for strawberries, at a fixed sugar content; i.e., it required a 2-3-fold higher sugar content in blueberries to match the perceived sweetness of strawberries. This result appears to support data, presented in an earlier presentation by Alex Woo, Ph.D., of W2O Food Innovation, indicating that red colors strongly evoke sweetness perceptions in foods and beverages.

2) Adding specific volatiles gleaned from strawberries and tomatoes to a 2% sucrose solution incrementally increased the sweetness perceptions of the sucrose solutions by 25-75%.

In conclusion, the roles of volatiles in modulating perceptions of sweetness are very real and substantial, as are the challenges of manipulating and measuring the presence of the same volatiles in the fruit. Thus, even tiny changes can offer enormous payoffs.

“Emerging Research in Aromas and Sweetness Enhancement,” Thomas Colquhoun, Assistant Professor, Plant Biotechnology, University of Florida, ucntcme1@ufl.edu

 


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