Governments and consumer organizations are continuously advocating further reductions of sugar, fat or salt in food and beverage products. For example, the UK Food Standards Agency has announced even more challenging 2017 salt targets. Consumers are continuing to be more interested in healthier formulations.
For example, parents will keep on valuing wholegrain and fiber rich products for their children. All the indications suggest that the health and wellness trend is here to stay and that this will be reflected in future NPD activity.
However, reducing fat, sugar and salt comes with its own technical challenges. The flavor and mouthfeel of products are affected as a result of the reformulation. Flavor houses such as International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (IFF) have been working on new technologies to address these challenges. Flavors with modifying properties (FMPs) have been part of the Company’s R&D focus for over eight years. IFF launched its portfolio of health and wellness solutions with the introduction of its flavorfit umbrella brand three years ago. flavorfit ensures product deliciousness by assessing recipes in a holistic way and designing healthier solutions. For example, in chewing gum, IFF custom-makes solutions that help customers mask the off-notes perceived when using high-intensity sweeteners.
The baked goods sector has traditionally been an indulgent one and is therefore a key space for development in this area. “One of the reasons why health claims still remain fairly limited in the baked goods space is the challenge for manufacturers to have a healthier recipe, and at the same time still offer good taste,” says Maria Christodoulou, Marketing Manager Sweet, Pharma, Oral and Dairy Flavors EAME at IFF. “When it comes to cakes and muffins, consumers still expect to have a very indulgent treat, no matter how healthy it may be.”
“For bakery applications, our flavorfit program is about helping our customers to mask off-notes that some people perceive when consuming wholegrain ingredients, such as bitterness, harshness or dryness,” Christodoulou adds. This is particularly relevant for products targeting children. “These types of products are becoming more popular among parents, because of their nutritional value. However, kids are more sensitive than adults to wholegrain off-notes,” she explains.
IFF has a long history in flavor modulation, but the launch of flavorfit as a brand name has intensified this focus. “When it comes to FMPs, we have made considerable investments in taste system research. We have a dedicated team and proprietary equipment in-house that allows IFF to understand how the taste receptors on the tongue work. Based on that, IFF then screens thousands of ingredients to find out which of those molecules have an effect on taste receptors. In that way, the Company has new and unique ingredients that can be used in flavor formulas. Christodoulou continues, “The taste receptors for sweet are different than those for salt or umami, so different ingredients can be used per case.” IFF’s Sensory and Consumer insights capabilities are applied by using information from trained panels and consumers, to ensure that taste expectations of consumers are met or exceeded.
The solutions are tailor-made to customers, as even the simplest reformulations can have profound effects on the food matrix as a whole. Therefore, IFF works in a holistic way, by utilizing these technologies to partner in rebuilding the base recipe in partnership with the customer. “When you have lower fat, through removing butter in a recipe, it is not a matter of replacing it with an FMP solution. Removing fat, sugar and salt content, changes the different aspects of the eating experience,” she explains. “Lower sugar means not only a difference in the sweetness perception, but also changes to the texture and flavor profile. For example, if you have a vanilla recipe, the lower sugar in a recipe can change that vanilla flavor perception as well,” she adds.
All products vary by manufacturer, country and ingredient supply. IFF partners with customers to develop flavor solutions that support their product recipes, including base and baking process. The Company shares its knowledge and expertise in flavor modulation and regulation, which adds value to collaborative projects. This helps make each taste solution unique.
Wholegrain is a clear trend in baked goods, in line with the growing consumer awareness on added fibers. For Christodoulou, ancient grains are a step further to this trend, where consumers rediscover long neglected grains (e.g. spelt, quinoa etc.) due to the inherent goodness of these crops, many of which including a “gluten free” advantage. She also notes the rise in the use of vegetable ingredients supported by vegetable flavors into recipes, particularly in the case of those targeting children. “If you have a baked good with fruit and you add vegetables to that, it becomes an even more “complete” solution. For example, it can help to answer the demand for five-a-day,” Christodoulou notes.
Protein fortification has enjoyed tremendous success in the dairy industry, following on from the Greek yogurt trend in the US. Baked goods are picking up this trend too, answering the need for a fulfilling snack and an energy kick during the day, but also after sports, as proteins help in the maintenance of muscle mass and growth. “The use of proteins can be challenging for baked goods from a taste perspective. IFF is engaged in work to ensure that we create flavor solutions that deliver taste experiences that consumers will love, even within baked products offering higher levels of protein,” she notes.
Indulgence remains key, and in addition, there is development in quality products with a focus on iconic tastes. “Indulgent flavor types such as chocolate, caramel and vanilla with iconic profiles such as ‘Bourbon vanilla’ can add a ‘signature’ taste to cakes and sweet biscuits,” Christodoulou notes. “We see more culinary inspired, fusion concepts combining “brown” flavors like chocolate and caramel with flowers, herbs and spices,” she adds.
Naturalness is of course also a key trend to follow. “Consumers are becoming more skeptical about what is in their food. They want to know about flavors and colors and whether they are natural and free from allergens,” Christodoulou concludes.
Developments in flavor technologies to overcome the technical challenges involved in formulating products with lower fat, sugar and salt content, will be key to offering the products of the future, where taste and indulgence still remain central.