Sustainability. The “S” word. We’ve all heard it or said it so I won’t repeat it again. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an important value. The thing is, it’s already spread like a good rumor throughout ours and other industries. So where will it lead to next?
It will materialize in a more physical form: sustenance.
Consider the fundamental meaning of this term. Food, nutrition and health come to mind. This is where the F&F industry finds itself, enriching nutritious food with better flavor and vice-versa; i.e., enhancing food with both flavor and health benefits.
The fragrance side has a few thousand years’ experience in disseminating the health benefits of scent through aromatherapy. The flavor side isn’t new to this either; but it’s new-er. Only more recently have consumers gained a strong health conscience. Maybe it’s because healthy food tastes drastically better, thanks to improvements in food and flavor technologies.
Crystal Coconut Hydration
Natural disasters are hitting the headlines more often than before. Either we’re better informed of them, or we’re just really in trouble. That’s a discussion for another day. In either case, new research from the University of Trinidad1 explored strategies to provide oral rehydration after natural disasters strike.
As might be expected, higher incidences of gastro-intestinal and viral diseases occur after natural disasters. And to treat dehydration, oral rehydration salts (ORS) typically are administered. Unfortunately, they don’t taste great.
Enter: the coconut. Fresh coconut is typically a first choice for rehydration but it’s not always available. Its nutritional content also deteriorates rapidly, and retaining natural flavor in powdered products is difficult. As a solution, coconut water was frozen at -30°C for 48 hours and vacuum freeze-dried to produce rehydrated crystals. These crystals were found to retain the same electrolyte balance as the fresh state—with improved quality, enhanced taste and extended shelf-life. Score one for the food and flavor chemists.
Polyphenols Pack a Punch
Eating your fruits and veggies has been mandated since childhood but juices have become a convenient alternative. The trouble is you don’t drink all the same benefits you’d get by eating a whole apple, orange, carrot, etc. The missing cellulose material, membranes and pulp provide fiber, phytonutrients and other vitamins.
Attempts have been made to jazz up juices with fiber powders. These typically are sourced from grains, seeds or root components but they’re either tasteless or produce an off flavor. In some cases, the heat applied to dehydrate them degrades their nutritional value. These powders also don’t change the appearance or mouth feel of the juice—an important indicator to consumers that the juice has been fortified.
As such, a recent patent from Pepsico Inc.2 looked at juice extraction leftovers and used them in beverage and food applications. At an average particle size between 1 and 2,000 microns, these components provided a total polyphenol content of 2,500 ppm or more to juice. And not only did they enhance nutrition and sensory attributes, they were more economical than the powder additive. Not to mention the fact that adding components from other fruits and vegetables could create unique taste profiles. That’s another point in favor of flavor.
Other researchers have gone from liquid to “hard core,” integrating leftover extraction pulp/pomace into fortified cookies, muffins and even tortillas.3-5 Sour cherry pomace extract, for one, was encapsulated in whey and soy proteins by researchers at the University of Novi Sad, in Serbia, and substituted as a portion of the flour in a cookie recipe. After four months of storage, the total polyphenol content in the cookies slightly increased, although the total anthocyanin and antioxidant activity decreased. The sensory properties of the cookies also were acceptable to test panelists.3
In relation, sour cherry pomace was used by a group of researchers at the Poznanˇ University of Life Sciences in Poland and the Latvia State Institute of Fruit-Growing to successfully replace part of the wheat flour in a muffin formula. The positive results suggested its application to assist in managing glucose levels, satiety and energy intake.4
Another study from the University of Baja California, Tijuana,5 added ethanolic extracts of black bean seed coats to nixtamalized maize flours for the production of tortillas, tortilla chips and gluten-free cookies. The researchers were interested in the effects of flavonoids, saponins and anthocyanins from the extracts on textural parameters and color.
The addition of 7 g/kg was found to affect the color of cookies and tortillas without affecting texture and dimensions. And at that level, more than 80% and 60% of the bioactives were retained in the baked tortillas and cookies, respectively. While this and the sour cherry examples are more specific to health food than flavor, as the juice patent suggests, new pomace combinations could create interesting taste profiles. That’s at least two more for the F&F score.
Volatile ‘Anti’ Ingredients
Finally, validating the initial premise of this column, researchers from Istanbul suggest the flavors of the future will be designed to impart health benefits. As the industry knows, consumers are worried about synthetic additives. This concern has initiated the search for nature-derived aroma compounds having antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-obesity benefits.
These researchers reviewed6 the literature for what science currently knows about the health benefits and antimicrobial properties of volatile compounds. Terpenoids, phenolics and alkaloids in particular are the most promising precursors to develop both health-promoting ingredients as well as new antimicrobial agents. But future investigation is warranted and could demonstrate key properties such as synergic actions, organoleptic effects, process stability and efficacy dosage.
The industry is just beginning to realize what full potential natural flavors could bring to the game. With such winning ideas ahead, F&F opportunities are infinite.
1. www.academicjournals.org/journal/IJNAM/article-full-text-pdf/689609E57884 (Accessed Apr 22, 2016)
2. www.freepatentsonline.com/y2016/0000130.html (Accessed Apr 22, 2016)
3. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814616304563 (Accessed Apr 22, 2016)
4. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26250501 (Accessed Apr 25, 2016)
5. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26304324 (Accessed Apr 25, 2016)
6. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924224415002678 (Accessed Apr 25, 2016)