Demand for healthier and safer food products continues to drive the additives and ingredients market
Dave Dzisiak uses popcorn as a case in point about how additive and ingredient suppliers are working to help food companies meet consumer demand for healthy products with natural ingredients and cleaner labels.
As commercial leader for oils for Dow AgroSciences, the agricultural sciences side of Dow Chemical, Dzisiak was involved in the development of Omega-9 Ingredient Solutions, an offering of customized oil, spray oil and shortening applications for baked goods, snacks and packaged foods, launched by the company last summer.
The first food manufacturer to use the new product – and a partner in its development – was Pop Weaver, an 80-year-old American firm that accounts for a third of the world’s supply of the popular snack food. “Popcorn is a naturally healthy whole grain snack,” says Dzisiak from his office in Calgary, Alta. “We helped Pop Weaver develop a smarter solution for their microwave popcorn brand, one that maintained their signature buttery taste while improving the health profile of the product.”
According to Dzisiak, most microwave popcorn makers rely on palm or coconut oil to remove trans fat from their product. Those oils, however, also increase saturated, or “bad”, fats. Not so with the oil made from canola grown mostly in Western Canada using Dow-engineered, omega 9-enriched seeds.
By switching to the new oil (with assistance from Dow’s omega-9 solutions team, which provided analytical support like nutritional and chemical analysis to help develop proper product formulation), Pop Weaver cut the amount of saturated and trans fats in its microwave brand in half. It also increased the amount of so-called “good fats” – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – by roughly the same ratio, a health-boosting benefit that helped earn the product approbation from the American Heart Association. “We believe quality and progress shouldn’t require compromise,” says Dzisiak. “Omega-9 can enhance the healthfulness of packaged foods while preserving the key functional qualities of food products.”
That claim, of course, isn’t restricted to omega-9 or the elimination of saturated fats – not by a long shot. Consumer awareness within greying Western populations continues to grow over the potential of diet and natural foods to help stave off, avoid, fight and/or manage a long list of chronic diseases and medical conditions. And food companies around the globe are listening. As a result, most are now trying to develop natural or organic ingredients and additives that boost the health profiles and clean the labels of their core products without changing taste, texture or other key qualities customers expect from them.
Not surprisingly, those efforts are creating many exciting opportunities for ingredient makers. “The design and delivery of bio-based ingredients for healthier and safer products is the main driver in the industry today,” said Peggy Steele, global business director of Danisco. The Danish multinational supplies more than 10,000 customers worldwide – including many of the world’s largest food manufacturers – with bio-based ingredients that are used to make some $20 billion worth of finished products annually. The company’s key focus areas are bioactives (cultures and natural sweeteners) with clear health and nutrition profiles, and enablers (emulsifiers, pectin, gums and systems) that boost the functionality of processed foods.
According to Steele, one of the most popular categories of food ingredients today is probiotics. She notes too that demand is being driven by one of the leading consumer trends for fortified food products – digestive health. “The market is huge and it’s growing in double digits every year,” she says. “Even during the [2008 recession] people kept buying.”