New EU acrylamide legislation comes into force

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New European Union legislation comes into force  concerning the amount of acrylamide in foods with “benchmark” levels being set for various products. Passed by the EU last year, today marks the beginning of the law which limits the amount of acrylamide allowed in packaged foods and forces manufacturers to closely examine and reduce acrylamide levels in products.

The legislation describes practical measures based upon best practice guidance developed by the food industry to mitigate acrylamide formation in a range of foods.
Acrylamide forms naturally during high-temperature cooking and processing, such as frying, roasting and baking, particularly in potato-based and cereal-based products. It is not possible to eliminate acrylamide from foods, but actions can be taken to try and ensure that acrylamide levels are as low as reasonably achievable.
Due to the suspected toxicity of the substance, acrylamide levels in food have been monitored for years and subject to debate and discussion.
In an opinion adopted in 2015, the Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed that acrylamide in food potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups.
The very purpose of the acrylamide regulation is to achieve levels that are as low as reasonably achievable, below benchmark levels set out in Annex IV to the regulation. The benchmark levels range from 40?g/kg in baby foods to 4,000?g/kg in chicory used as a coffee substitute.
Most breakfast cereals have a benchmark level set at 300?g/kg, except for maize, oat, spelt, barley and rice-based products, for which the benchmark level is 50 percent lower.
The levels are 350 micrograms (?g) of acrylamide per kilogram for biscuits and cookies to 750?g per kilogram for potato crisps and 850?g per kilogram for instant soluble coffee.
These benchmark levels are due to be reviewed by the European Commission every three years, with the aim to gradually set lower levels.
Today’s implementation will no doubt result in concerned food business operators having to take into account the acrylamide benchmark levels defined by the regulation, and implementing mitigation measures to the purpose of reducing the presence of acrylamide in their food products. This includes potato-based products, bread and bakery wares, cereals, coffee and coffee substitutes, as well as baby food.
“The very purpose of the Acrylamide Regulation is to achieve levels of acrylamide as low as reasonably achievable below benchmark levels set out in Annex IV to the regulation,” notes Nicolas Carbonnelle of law firm Bird & Bird LLP in the March 2018 issue of The World of Food Ingredients.
“These benchmark levels are due to be reviewed by the Commission every three years, with the aim to gradually set lower levels. The actual measures that the concerned food business operators will need to implement depend on the category of products, the role of the operators in the supply chain and their business size.” For example, the Food Benchmark level in ?g/kg for French fries (ready-to-eat) is 500.

“Europe has now caught up with innovation”

Today’s acrylamide legislation closely follows the new sugar tax which came into effect in the UK on April 6 pushing up the price of sugary soft drinks as part of the UK government’s anti-obesity drive.
As with sugar reformulation, manufacturers can discover ways to reduce the amount of acrylamide in their food products – especially now the legislation has taken effect.
Global biotechnology company, Novozymes, Vice President, Food & Beverages Business Operations, Europe and Americas, Arnaud Melin, tells FoodIngredientsFirst how the company has been operating in this space for several years, pioneering award-winning acrylamide reduction technology.
“Novozymes first launched the award-winning Acrylaway technology in 2007, more than ten years ago, and legislation in Europe has now caught up with innovation,” he said.
“Acrylaway is an asparaginase enzyme that reduces significantly – up to 90 percent – acrylamide levels in baked goods, potato-based snacks, and coffee – without affecting the taste, texture, or appearance of the final products.”
“The asparaginase is a processing aid – and Acrylaway is easily adapted to various food types and processes with only minor or no changes to process or recipes.”
“The food industry cares about food safety and acrylamide, and we have been working closely with many of the industry players for years; players that have welcomed, and appreciated, cost-efficient, natural solutions to confront a challenging issue – also with health-conscious consumers’ awareness on the rise.”
Other companies leading the charge regarding acrylamide reduction include Orkla Food Ingredients, a business area of Orkla ASA, which has signed a license agreement with Renaissance BioScience Corp to exclusively produce and sell Renaissance acrylamide-reducing yeast to food manufacturers in the European Nordic and Baltic markets.
This originally started in 2017 and in February this year was expanded to food manufacturers in additional new markets in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
“Since we finalized our agreement with Renaissance last year we have conducted several commercial trials, all of which have shown excellent results and successfully launched the product for sale in the Nordic markets,” said Thore Svensson, Senior Vice President of Orkla Food Ingredients.
“As the European regulatory structure governing the acrylamide content of many food products and coffee comes into force, Orkla is pleased to expand its agreement with Renaissance to include Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, to make Acrylow available to food manufacturers in those countries.”
The company says that Acrylow has shown excellent results in large-scale industrial trials in baked goods and snack foods, as well as in lab-scale tests in French fries, chips and coffee. This yeast was granted GRAS status by the US FDA in 2016 – the same status as conventional baker’s and brewer’s yeasts. It is patent-pending and was developed using classical non-GMO techniques.
“It’s gratifying to see that Orkla and its food manufacturer customers have found our acrylamide-reducing yeast to be effective and easy to use in trials with no sensory impact on the finished product,” said Dr. Cormac O’Cleirigh, Chief Business Development Officer for Renaissance BioScience. Orkla is a leader in food quality and safety, and Renaissance is pleased to be partnering with the company to bring Acrylow not only to the already licensed Nordic and Baltic markets but also to these new central European markets.”
The industry’s acrylamide reduction efforts, which have been voluntary until now, are expected to ramp up now that the EU legislation has come into force.

Amaranth: A superfood or a high GI seed?

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Amaranth (also known as Kiwicha seeds) has been regarded as both a superfood and high GI seed we shouldn’t have in excess if we want to lose weight. So which health claim should we believe?

Ancient seeds and grains from distant parts of the Earth are always being marketed for their superfood qualities and their extraordinary power to improve your sense of wellbeing.

Amaranth (or Kiwicha seeds in Peruvian), an ancient pseudo-cereal from South America that dates back 8,000 years to Aztec times, is no different. It’s just one of the many healthy food products available for sale dubbed a ‘superfood’.

Accredited Practising Dietitian, Joel Feren, says although amaranth is a pretty special seed it’s not a superfood. “Ancient grains are making a bit of a comeback lately,” says spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia,  Feren. “They are quite retro these days, as people are looking for foods that are different. But amaranth is not a superfood. Why? Because no one single food can provide anyone with all the nutrition they need.

“Amaranth has a really impressive nutritional profile and it should be considered as part of a healthy, balanced diet along side a range of other foods.”

Feren explains that amaranth’s real attraction stems back to the fact that it is a pseudograin or pseudocereal: a seed that offers the nutritional benefits of grains like wheat and rice. That makes it suitable for people following a paleo diet.

“It could probably be classified as a pseudo-grain, because it has similar characteristics to grains like quinoa and other wheats in terms of its nutritional properties. Amaranth is a good source of fibre, vitamin A, folate, thiamine, iron, zinc, calcium, copper, manganese and potassium.”

Amaranth oil has also been shown to have a positive effect on heart health, lowering cardiovascular risk and hypertension. Meanwhile, amaranth seeds are very rich in protein, containing around 15 per cent.

The other big benefit, Feren says, is that amaranth also contains 10 essential amino acids. That makes it a valuable source of nutrients for vegans and vegetarians. It’s also gluten and wheat-free, and suitable for people with coeliac disease or gluten intolerance.

Owner of Our Organics & Gluten Free, Geoff Lewis, sells amaranth puffs, flakes, seeds and flour to retailers, restaurants and caterers. He estimates that an uncooked cup of amaranth will give you about 13 grams of dietary fibre.

Lewis adds that the seed, which has a nutty flavour, is very easy to cook with. “If you have cooked with rice before, you can cook with amaranth,” he explains.

“Just replace the rice with amaranth and also use it instead of couscous. You can have it as breakfast porridge, in soups, slow-cooked meals and granola bars…The seed doesn’t totally soften: it stays crunchy but it tends to have a gelatinous porridge-y look to it.”

Lewis says amaranth flour is quite a big seller. “Use the flour to make anything gluten-free, from breads to cakes and biscuits. It’s not a rising flour. If you cook with only amaranth flour by itself, your dish will crumble or be dense and heavy. So, for example, you can add [a rising agent] to the recipe to produce a lovely cake.”

A study in 2013 investigated the effect of replacing wheat flour with whole amaranth flour to determine if it is a nutritious bread-making ingredient. The researchers found that incorporating amaranth flour into the bread-making mix significantly increased the protein, lipid, ash, dietary fibre and mineral contents of the bread. However, the bread made with amaranth flour became more crumby and hard as well as elastic.

The study concluded that amaranth flour can be used to make bread but it should be limited to a maximum proportion of 20 grams for every 100 grams of wheat flour to maintain both product quality as well as the nutritional benefit of this ingredient”.

Carbohydrate criticisms

The one criticism that amaranth attracts is that it has a high carbohydrate content, which can turn carb-free health foodies off. As a result, some paleo bloggers have praised amaranth’s nutritional profile but ruled only to have sparingly because of its high carb content.

It’s true: amaranth seed is a high glycemic food when served on its own. Although nutritional contents will vary according to the product you use, one cup of cooked amaranth is said to have around 40 grams of carbs.

Research published in the Journal of Food Science says this is most likely because of its small starch granule size, low resistant starch content. Amaranth also has a tendency to completely lose its crystalline and granular starch structure during heating.

A study, published in Springer, attempted to test whether amaranth’s GI can be lowered, by combining it with wheat flour and rice in different proportions. It also looked at the GI of popped amaranth in milk. The research used noninsulin dependent diabetic. The study showed that amaranth and wheat in a 25:75 ration could be considered as a low GI food. Boosting the ratio to 50:50 would make the food medium GI. It concluded that the combination of popped amaranth and milk was a high GI food.

But Feren believes the ancient seed should not be vilified – along with all other grains like rice and wheat – just because of its high carb content when it offers so many other nutrients.

“Often we get too fixated on a single food that we overlook the big picture,” says Feren. “We need to include carbohydrates as part of a healthy diet.

“Amaranth has a wonderful nutritional profile and it shouldn’t be pushed to the side for that reason. It’s just another alternative to using quinoa, wheat, rye, freekah and bulgar wheat.

“Foods like these should really be celebrated. We have to get around the carb content of these wonderful seeds and grains because they can add lots of valuable nutrition to the diet.”



Study reveals consumers’ favourite bread

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Comax Flavors has released new primary research on consumers’ preferences towards bread products.
Slightly less than half the respondents preferred whole wheat as the number one flavour consumed by all generations. Second favourite was white bread, with multi-grain only cited as a favourite by a third of the respondents, by 22 per cent. 85 per cent of 1000 U.S. respondents prefer eating a closed sliced bread sandwich compared to 16 per cent who eat it open-faced.

Among all generations, the baby boomers are the heaviest rye bread consumers compared those between 20 to 30 years of age who do not consume it. Sourdough and rye bread were equally popular by 14 per cent of the study’s respondents.

The surprising element was how price played a more important role than flavour, with consumers selecting cost over taste, according to Comax Flavor’s study. 57 per cent of respondents cited “taste” as only the second most important attribute when buying sliced bread.

Bread is a staple of many North Americans’ diet, but consumers are eating it less frequently and in smaller quantities. According to IRI data for 52 weeks, ending June 11, 2017, there was little change in the overall bakery sector, with a mere 0.1 per cent rise to $13.31 billion U.S. from the year prior.

“We recognize that the bread market is stagnant. Consumers are gravitating towards low-calorie, whole grains, artisanal and gluten-free breads and we wanted to better understand what’s happening among the general population,” stated Catherine Armstrong, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Comax Flavors, in a press release.

The bread study was fielded in September 2017 with 1,000 U.S. respondents aged 18 to over 70, evenly distributed between male and female.


Wheat Is The Most Political Commodity In The World

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Wheat is an essential ingredient in food that feeds the world. The price of wheat, like all agricultural commodities, depends on weather conditions in primary growing regions each year.

In 2008, the price of wheat rose to its all-time peak price at $13.345 per bushel as drought conditions limited supplies and caused the price to explode to the upside. At the beginning of 2000, the price of the grain was trading at $2.49 per bushel. While weather caused the rally to dizzying heights in 2008, the price of wheat has been making higher lows over the past eighteen years because of demographic factors. Global population has increased from 6 billion at the turn of the century to 7.465 billion, which means that there are 1.465 billion more people requiring food in the world these days.

While all commodities are finite resources, food is a daily essential. The rate of population growth means that each day, more people with more money compete for commodities. When it comes to wheat, history tells us that it is one, if not the most, political commodity as bread is a daily essential for people all over the globe.

A long political history for the primary ingredient in bread

Nothing can ignite civil disobedience and political upheaval like hungry people. Governments are highly sensitive to food availability because hunger has a long history of unseating those in charge. The French Revolution began as bread shortages caused royalty to literally lose their heads. “Let them eat cake” is a famous quote attributed to the Queen of France Marie-Antoinette. As the story goes, it was her response after being told that her starving peasant subjects had no bread. Her insensitivity to the hunger of her people led to a trip to the guillotine.

There are many examples of how bread shortages or rising prices have resulted in political change throughout history. The most recent example was the Arab Spring in 2010, which began as demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt over rising bread prices and limited availability. Drought conditions in 2008 took the price of wheat, the primary ingredient in bread to the highest level in modern history at over $13 per bushel.



We tried the pink Kit Kats that are the first candy to be made with ‘ruby chocolate’

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  • Pink Kit Kats are making their way to the UK following a successful release in Japan and Korea.
  • The Kit Kats are made with ruby chocolate, the first new kind of chocolate in 80 years.
  • The candy bar tastes similar to the white chocolate variation, with its berry undertones giving it a sweet kick.

Chocolate-lovers in the UK will be the first in Europe to try the “ruby” Kit Kat – following its recent release in Japan and Korea.

Kit Kat is the first brand in the UK to manufacture chocolate bars using the unique ruby cocoa beans.

Consumers who try the pink variation of the classic four-finger KitKat will be able to test whether the ruby chocolate version surpasses its dark, milk and white chocolate counterparts.

The Independent was lucky enough to have a taste of the new chocolate bar ahead of its nationwide release next week.

The ruby chocolate Kit Kat bar tastes fairly similar to the white chocolate variation, with its berry undertones giving it a sweet kick.

While some may find this new type of chocolate slightly sickly in flavor, it’ll almost certainly go down a treat with anyone who has a sweet tooth.

In January Nestlé partnered with Swiss cacao processor Barry Callebaut to release the “Sublime Ruby” KitKat, created by chef Yasumasa Takagi.

The innovative chocolate bar was sold exclusively in Kit Kat Chocolatory boutiques in Korea and Japan during its debut release.

However, this will be the first time that the ruby Kit Kat chocolate is sold in the brand’s well-known four-finger design.

The announcement of ruby chocolate last September marked the first new type of chocolate to be developed in 80 years, following on from the invention of white chocolate by Nestlé in the 1930s.

Barry Callebaut has kept the production methods used to create ruby chocolate a secret.

This has led some to believe that the cacao processor has utilized unfermented cocoa, as raw cocoa beans are naturally slightly pink in color.

“After the extremely successful launch of KitKat Chocolatory Sublime Ruby in Japan and South Korea, this is the first time the Ruby chocolate will be available in an iconic four finger format and we are sure that the Ruby chocolate KitKat will be a great hit in the UK,” said Alex Gonnella, marketing director for Nestlé’s UK confectionery business.

“Ruby chocolate is a big innovation in confectionery and we are very proud that KitKat is the first major brand in the UK to feature this exciting new chocolate.”

The ruby chocolate bar is naturally pink and is produced without any additives or artificial flavoring.

Customers will be able to pick up on its fruity, berry flavor, which comes from the ruby cocoa beans that can be found in many different regions around the world.

“Consumers across the world will be intrigued by the unique taste of this crispy delight!” said Pablo Pervesi, chief innovation, quality and sustainability officer at Barry Callebaut.

The four-finger ruby chocolate Kit Kat bar will be available to buy exclusively from Tesco from April 16.

Following its UK release, it will then be sold across Europe and America in the near future.



Grupo Bimbo to Become First US Company to Use 100% Renewable Energy

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Mr. Daniel Servitje, president and chief executive officer of Grupo Bimbo

Grupo Bimbo announced that it has signed a virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) to receive 100 megawatts of wind energy from Invenergy, North America’s largest independent renewable energy company.

The agreement will deliver emissions reductions as well as social and economic benefits related to Invenergy’s Santa Rita East wind farm in Texas. Construction and operation of Invenergy’s Santa Rita East wind farm will deliver substantial social and economic benefits to Irion County, Texas. This includes up to 300 jobs during construction, and 12 to 15 permanent jobs once operational. Additionally, as part of Invenergy’s agreement with the County, the project will generate USD4k every year for 8 years for the Mertzon’s Lions Club, Irion County Volunteer Fire Department and the Extension Education Club.

Chairman and CEO of Grupo Bimbo Daniel Servitje (photo: center-left) and Invenergy’s founder and CEO Michael Polsky (photo: center-right) signed an agreement for use of wind energy at Bimbo Bakeries USA locations, helping Grupo Bimbo’s initiative to become the first baking company in the U.S. to use 100% renewable energy for its operations by 2020.

Beginning in the third quarter of 2019, wind energy production from the Santa Rita East wind farm will be matched with energy consumption from Grupo Bimbo’s U.S. operations through the VPPA agreement.

This will result in CO2 emissions reductions of 260,000 tons annually. With this sustainable action, Grupo Bimbo will reach 75% renewable energy at a worldwide level, with overall CO2 emissions reductions of 440,000 tons every year globally.

“We are excited to partner with Invenergy in order to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the U.S.,” said Servitje. “We strive to be leaders in sustainability – it is part of our purpose of building a sustainable, highly productive, and deeply humane company – and decreasing our environmental footprint is one of our primary goals.”

“This agreement is a great example of how companies across all industries can view renewable energy as beneficial for both the environment and business,” said Polsky. “Grupo Bimbo is one of the organizations leading the way for sustainability in the baking industry, and as Invenergy continues to lead the way to a clean energy future, we are proud to help expand their commitment to using renewable energy on a global level.”

Source: World Bakers


The fight to find organic flour

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Demand for organic products has been growing by double digits since the 1990s, according to the Organic Trade Association. Mintel considers non-GMO to be one of the fastest-growing claims with 44% of new food products between 2013 and 2016 claiming to be non-GMO.

Despite this, farmers haven’t kept up the supply of USDA-certified organic wheat or Non-GMO Project verified corn and other grains. (Wheat is not a genetically modified crop.)

“The biggest challenge around sourcing organic flours and seeds is overall supply,” said Harold Ward, director of technical service and product applications at Bay State Milling Co. “A good example of this would be organic wheat. Of the wheat planted in the U.S., less than 1% is organic. Much smaller supply means less choice from the standpoint of functionality and other target characteristics.”

Offsetting supply issues

Organic and non-GMO certifications are expensive and time consuming to achieve even though those ingredients sell at a premium. Growers must make a significant commitment to and investment in the transition from conventional farming to organic and non-GMO crops, not to mention the transition period before farmers can see a return on their investment. These barriers to entry mean that the supply of organic wheat and non-GMO grains is slim compared to conventional.

Additionally, if there is a tough year for crops, flour suppliers have less organic supply to offset undesirable characteristics.

“Because we’re talking about working with a much smaller supply of wheat, in a given crop year, you could see lower or higher protein levels or ­possibly substantial changes in functional characteristics such as absorption or mixing tolerance,” Ward explained.

These issues still happen with conventional crops, but because of the vastness of that supply, millers can overcome those issues with blending to provide bakers consistent flour. The smaller the supply, the more difficult it becomes to meet these bakers’ needs.

Ward doesn’t believe this will be a permanent issue for organic bakers. Consumer demand and support from millers will push farmers to grow more fields organically. In the meantime, however, he encouraged bakers to be mindful when formulating for organic ingredients.

“Build formulas that are adaptable and robust enough to cope with possible changes,” he said. “Keeping an open mind when it comes to process adjustments and using ingredients that will enhance functionality or provide needed protein is very important. I also suggest partnering with your supplier so you have a clear line of sight to current crop characteristics as well as what is on the horizon.”

Bay State Milling’s product applications and R&D teams work with bakers to develop products using these organic ingredients and are available to help address these potential issues.

Ardent Mills anticipates that its organic program will expand to support an organic supply chain for the baking industry.

“Our extensive organic grower network, milling and storage locations allow us to provide a consistent reliable and quality organic flour that bakers can count on,” said Shrene White, ­general manager, The Annex by Ardent Mills. “It’s a good time to come into organic.”

Weakening barriers to entry

Solving the issue of supply largely rests in the hands of farmers. They need to make the commitment to become certified organic growers. However, the certification process and transition from conventional farming to organic can be intimidating and expensive.

Many flour millers see it as their responsibility to support farmers in their transition to organic as it improves the supply and quality of organic wheat, corn and other grains. Ardent Mills, for example, created the Organic Initiative 2019. Launched in 2015, the program’s goal is to double the amount of organic wheat acreage in the United States by next year.

“As a part of the strategy, we launched a series of farmer meetings in North Dakota, Colorado and Idaho to identify producer concerns about converting to organic and to help shape our initiative,” White said.

Through those meetings, the company gauged farmers’ greatest concerns, including education, changing practices, disease and pest control, as well as rotational and cover crops.

“We all need to be aware that the transition is not going to happen overnight, and Ardent Mills wants to help farmers and manufacturers meet the demand for organic foods,” White said.

The three-year transition period to organic remains one of the biggest barriers to entry for many farmers. A field that was previously farmed conventionally needs three years being farmed organically before any crops grown can carry the USDA-organic certification. During that time a farmer will invest all the time, energy and money necessary to farm organically without getting the payoff of that premium price.

“It has been an ongoing issue in the organic industry for supply to keep up with growing demand,” said Jennifer Tesch, chief marketing officer, Heathy Food Ingredients (HFI). “We believe through continued education to growers about the opportunities within the organic and non-GMO markets, more producers will transition from conventional to organic.”

To ease that transition cost, some Accredited Organic Certifying Agencies (ACAs) such as Quality Assurance International offer transitional organic certification. In fact, HFI became the first certified transitional ingredient supplier with a hard red winter wheat processed by its brand Hesco/Dakota Organic Products. Tesch said that the company’s relationship with growers allowed the company to guide them in the certification process.

“The transitional certification is beneficial to growers because we now have a market for these growers’ crops during the three transitional years, and they can be compensated with a premium during the costly conversion to organic,” she said.

Bunge North America also recently began offering certified transitional ingredients; in this case, dry milled corn ingredients. The company pays farmers a premium for this corn during that three-year period.

“The certified transitional market gives farmers an opportunity to sell this corn at a premium during their shift to certified organic, incentivizing them to make the move into organic farming,” said Gregg Christensen, vice-president of sales for Bunge Milling. “Bunge is taking the lead in corn by connecting farmers who are interested in certified transitional products as a way of building a more scalable and reliable future ­supply of organic products.”

While many ACAs offer their own certified transitional organic programs, the Organic Trade Association is working with the USDA to unify these standards into a nationwide program — the National Certified Transitional Program.

Source: World Grain


Researchers analyzed the salt in 2,000 types of bread in 32 countries

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What do you think has more salt: a slice of bread or a pack of potato chips?

It depends, but in some cases, the answer may surprise you.

Bread, it turns out, is the top contributor of dietary sodium in the US and many other countries around the world. And a big new analysis from the World Action on Salt and Health, based at Queen Mary University of London, helps us understand why.

For the report, a global team of researchers analyzed the salt content in 2,000 breads sold in 32 countries and regions. More than a third of the loaves exceeded the maximum salt target for bread set out by the UK: 1.13g of salt per 100g, or the equivalent of half a teaspoon of salt for about two slices of bread.

The US has no official target, but voluntary draft Food and Drug Administration guidance suggests manufacturers should aim for about the same levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about nine in 10 kids and adults in the US exceed the daily limits for sodium consumption (2.3g, or one teaspoon’s worth).

Some of the products analyzed in the report — like the rosemary focaccia from Ace Bakery in Canada — were “saltier than seawater.” That loaf had more than a teaspoon’s worth of salt per 100g (or about two slices), exceeding the recommended daily sodium intake. A popular product from South Africa, Golden Crust’s toaster bread, had the most salt per serving among all white breads in the survey: 2.46g per 250g portion. That’s “more salt than four portions of McDonald’s fries,” the report stated.

Breads from the US didn’t fare much better. Among the saltiest: Pepperidge Farm’s Hearty Sliced white bread, which contained 1.4g salt per 100g or two slices. That means every slice, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has pointed out, carries as much sodium as a small bag of potato chips. Even Whole Food’s white sandwich bread rivaled a bag of potato chips, with 1.37g salt per 100g.

Overall, the researchers discovered flatbreads and whole-wheat breads tended to be saltier than other types, and mixed-grain breads had the lowest average salt content. (You can see more details about your favorite breads, and how they rank, here.) Bakers put sodium in packaged breads because it boosts the flavor and acts as a preservative.

“Bread is an essential staple food in many countries but is still a key source of salt in our diets due to the frequency with which we eat bread,” said Mhairi Brown, a nutritionist at World Action on Salt and Health, in a statement. “Globally we must do more to reduce salt intake, and a simple way to do this is to lower salt in our staple foods.”

How to start cutting your salt intake now

The major reason salt is concerning for health is that too much of it can increase blood pressure, which can in turn increase risk for a heart disease and stroke.

To be sure, salt isn’t the only risk factor for high blood pressure. Genetics, exercise, bodyweight, alcohol consumption, stress, age, and overall diet play a role as well. And some people may be more sensitive to salt and its health effects than others. But researchers generally agree most people should aim to eat no more than one teaspoon per day. (For more detail, read here).

If you’re trying to cut back, you definitely want to look beyond the salt shaker. About 80 percent of the sodium Americans eat comes from salt that’s added to some of our most popular foods during processing, like store-bought bread, frozen pizza, and cold cuts. Avoiding these kinds of prepackaged foods and restaurant meals wherever possible will help reduce your sodium intake.

When you eat foods that you prepare yourself, you shouldn’t have to worry about sodium. As Norman Kaplan, a blood pressure researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, has told me, “If it’s fresh, you don’t have to worry about the sodium. The fact that nothing in nature is high in salt should tell people something.”

Of course, cooking fresh foods at home is not always possible at a time when many of us rely on quick, ready-made foods to get by. That’s why many public health officials continue to call on governments and industry to find ways of cutting salt during food processing.

The FDA is currently working to advance voluntary sodium reduction targets for the food industry, asking the food industry to commit to cutting sodium levels in packaged foods.

Until that happens, don’t forget to pay attention to the sodium in your bread. The new report is a reminder that not all breads are created equal, and the biggest salt contributor to the diet is probably lurking next to your butter knife.



Why ancient grains will continue to thrive

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Many trends defining food in 2018 harken back to days gone by rather than conjure up visions of futuristic foods. Consumers seem to be pushing for a return to simpler, cleaner, more traditional and even “ancient” ingredients.

Grains like teff, einkorn, amaranth, millet or spelt may sound rather exotic to the average baked foods shopper, but these ancient grains exude a return to perceived wholesome, unprocessed foods. Rachel Cheatham, Ph.D., founder and chief executive officer of Foodscape Group and adjunct assistant professor of food marketing and communications at Tufts University, said the trend is supported by health-seeking consumers who increasingly value carbohydrate quality while seeking both variety and novelty.

In its 2017 annual report, the Chicago-based research firm Foodscape Group identified several trends, including three that reinforced these ideas: grains reinvented, inspired ethnic and nostalgia.

“Taken together, this adds up to a globally minded exploratory consumer who wants something new and different for their grain choices while somehow comforting and familiar at the same time,” Dr. Cheatham said.

Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., identified three fundamental needs that also are driving the ancient grain trend: fueling, craving and connecting. Pepperidge Farm, Norwalk, Conn., features a line of Arnott’s Vita-Weat crackers that are 100% natural with ancient grains and seeds like quinoa and chia. Thomas Griffiths, certified master chef and vice-president for Campbell’s Culinary & Baking Institute, said the chefs and bakers of Campbell Soup, which owns Pepperidge Farm, have been watching the popularity of these grains in the culinary world.

“At their core, ancient grains are incredibly versatile and have a lot of culinary potential, and there’s a lot of discovery and innovation waiting to happen with grains like teff, millet and sorghum, for example,” Mr. Griffiths said.

The wholesome, back-to-nature appeal of these trending grains also offers a new taste adventure. Ancient grains have become the new normal on menus and retail shelves, said Bryan Cozzi, senior chef, Campbell’s Culinary & Baking Institute. This is in large part due to the success of quinoa, which may be the most mainstream ancient grain, but others like millet, spelt and kamut are fighting for the same level of familiarity.

“That can be daunting for consumers who want to understand the differences between the many grains and seeds,” Mr. Cozzi said. “There’s still a learning curve for consumers interested in ancient grains. They are probably familiar with quinoa but don’t know how to use teff, for example. It’s up to us to deliver great-tasting products that help people learn about and appreciate ancient grains for all they have to offer.”

Booming awareness and choices

The explosion of ancient grain products on menus and shelves might have begun in 2010. According to Mintel, there was a 269% increase in global food and drink launches describing their products as “ancient” between September 2010 to August 2011 and September 2015 to August 2016 periods. Brands have seen a great deal of success in appealing to customers looking to connect with the past through their eating choices.

B&G Foods, Inc., Parsippany, N.J., hoped to latch onto that connection through its Ortega Good Grains new range of taco shells. The line includes traditional blue corn, white corn and chia seeds, yellow corn and ancient grains, and whole grain corn and lentil. The products align with the 54% of U.S. shoppers who said they would consider whole grain varieties as alternatives to their usual carbohydrates, according to GlobalData.

Papa John’s International, Louisville, Ky., recently announced it is testing in select markets a gluten-free pizza crust made with ancient grains. The Papa John’s R.&D. team spent more than a year developing the crust. Made with sorghum, teff, amaranth and quinoa, it is currently being tested in Los Angeles, Phoenix, St. Louis, Houston and Nashville.

Smart Flour Foods, Austin, Texas, a provider of premium, ancient-grain based frozen pizzas, is introducing Snack Bites, a lineup of better-for-you pizza bites that provide a cleaner take on a popular snacking favorite. Made with the company’s flour blend of the sorghum, amaranth and teff, the line also features chia.

“Today’s health-conscious parents are placing extra care into the food choices they make for themselves and their family and seeking out healthier options that don’t sacrifice great taste,” said Charlie Pace, president and c.e.o., Smart Flour Foods. “Pairing the comfort food taste of classic pizza with on-trend, healthier ancient grains, our Snack Bites give people of all ages a convenient and guilt-free treat that they can enjoy together.”

Other new products include a line of baked extruded snacks from Boulder Canyon, Boulder, Colo., made with ancient grains, lentils and beans. Through its Nabisco brand, Mondelez International, East Hanover, N.J., launched Good Thins, which offers consumers a new variety of ancient grain crackers that has no artificial colors or flavors.

The healthy alternative
According to GlobalData’s 2015 global consumer survey, 51% of U.S. consumers think ancient grains have a positive impact on their health.

Products can capitalize on this healthy halo and the nutritional diversity ancient grains bring to the table, but it’s a challenge to sort out the different health characteristics of each grain. Some are relatively high in protein; others are not. Some contain gluten; others don’t. Food producers cannot assume that consumers have all the facts and need to communicate those key details.

“Gone are the days when the consumer decision was simply between white or whole wheat bread,” Dr. Cheatham said. “It’s now a more sophisticated carbohydrate conversation with consumers growing more aware that carbohydrate quality counts as much quantity.”

Health-aware consumers and the popularity of gluten-free diets inspired Caroline Freedman to create NurturMe, Austin, Texas, which produces children’s snacks using ancient grains and probiotics. The company’s cookies include three varieties — cocoa, honey, and maple and cinnamon — made with quinoa, amaranth, millet and sorghum. Founder Ms. Freedman, c.e.o., said the company wasn’t expecting such a rapid response from consumers back when it was started in 2010.

“We found that adults are familiar with quinoa as naturally gluten-free, non-allergenic and we thought there might be a learning curve when we introduced our products,” Ms. Freedman said. “But there was a halo effect from parents who were already familiar with quinoa’s health benefits.”

Tom Vierhile, innovations insights director, GlobalData, said ancient grains have emerged as an important tie-breaker when consumers are making purchase decisions.

“Ancient grains are clearly a mainstream trend now and have been for a few years,” Mr. Vierhile said. “Companies like Kellogg Co., Campbell’s, Mondelez International and Del Monte Foods have all placed bets that ancient grains can drive sales growth and recapture consumers who may have defected to natural or organic brands.”

This change did not happen overnight, Mr. Vierhile added, but it has been an ongoing process that began in the natural and organic food industry and gained traction from there. In just two years, the percentage of Americans who said they are familiar with chia has doubled. In 2015, 33% said they were not familiar with chia and that shrunk to 18% by 2017, according to GlobalData consumer surveys.

“The transition from niche to mainstream has been led by younger consumers, a group that the packaged food industry has become increasingly obsessed with as this group is not adopting the same purchase patterns as their parents,” Mr. Vierhile said.

He added that millennials are more likely to seek out ancient grains than older consumers. According to a 2017 GlobalData consumer survey, 40% of Americans aged 25 to 34 said that they would consider using grains like quinoa and spelt as an alternative to traditional carbohydrates, compared with 33% of consumers overall and 26% of consumers age 65 and above.

Ancient heads into the future
The numbers don’t lie; ancient grains have enjoyed huge success over the past two years. GlobalData’s Product Launch Analytics database of new products showed that launches featuring terms like “ancient grains,” “chia,” or “quinoa” grew to 8.8% in 2017 from 5.9% in 2016.

“The ancient grains story has been out there long enough that even consumers with only casual interest in ingredient trends have now heard of ancient grains like chia and quinoa,” Mr. Vierhile said. “This awareness has begun to translate into increased sales.”

But will it last?

Dr. Cheatham thinks so.

“Looking ahead, expect ancient, whole and grains like quinoa to continue to be in demand by health-seeking consumers,” she said. “Products that showcase and respect the inherent grain nutrition from harvest to end product will gain the most traction.”

Use of lesser-known ancient grains is also a trend to keep an eye on, Mr. Vierhile noted, and may be useful in reinventing tired products.

“Teff is one of the lesser-known ancient grains that was once extremely rare in packaged foods but is becoming less so and is attracting interest as a result,” he said.

Attention also is moving toward a new generation of ancient grains with interesting stories and growth potential like Tsampa. An ancient staple food of the Himalayas, Tsampa is just beginning to appear on the new products front and could signal the emergence of a new wave of ancient grains, Mr. Vierhile said.

Ancient grains impart a healthy halo to foods that could use an extra health boost, and the future looks bright for these time-tested alternatives.



Seeking ‘better’ chocolate

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Harvard professor Carla Martin pushes for consumers to buy socially-conscious chocolate.

I never thought I’d see the words “Harvard scholar” and “chocolate” in the same story, but delivered.
The publication recently conducted an interview with Carla Martin, Harvard professor and founder and executive director of the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute. What does she want, according to the piece? She wants people to eat better chocolate.
And not just high-quality, premium chocolate, though there is that. She mentions New Hampshire-based L.A. Burdick’s signature chocolate mice, which she discovered thanks to a childhood best friend who worked at the chocolatier’s Cambridge, Mass., location for nearly a decade.
Martin, who teaches a course called “Chocolate Culture and the Politics of Food,” is also concerned with the ethics behind chocolate, particularly in terms of labor, politics and human rights. She said chocolate can serve as springboard for discussing and addressing these issues.
“There’s a lot of joy in the sensory experience of chocolate, and the social sharing of chocolate,” Martin told “Sharing in that together opens a door to then address that there’s another side of [chocolate], one in which humans have made these really troubling decisions. This is a commodity that’s typified by inequality, and how might decisions that we make as consumers change this?”
Martin also pointed to Massachusetts-based chocolate makers and chocolatiers that produce sweets that are tasty and socially responsible, including Taza Chocolate, Somerville Chocolate, Gâté Comme des Filles and Formaggio Kitchen.
This is a great story for a couple reasons. First, chocolate is just about universally loved, but as Martin suggests, educating consumers on its origins and the work required to turn cocoa beans into their favorite treats is an ongoing endeavor.
As members of the chocolate industry, we understand the significance of supporting cocoa farmers and their communities while simultaneously improving yields, but getting that message across to consumers is as tricky as it is imperative. Remember the fervor over chocolate’s allegedly impending extinction earlier this year? That’s a sign that consumer education is still needed.
Second, it’s wonderful to note examples of academia’s involvement in the promotion of sustainable cocoa. The way I see it, the more experts and stakeholders working to improve the cocoa supply chain, the better the outcome will be.
And that includes taste. Janet Straub, co-founder and chocolate maker for bean-to-bar producer Creo Chocolate, says it best. I had the pleasure of chatting with her earlier this month for a story on super-premium chocolate, which will appear in our April issue.
“Not only does it taste really good, (Creo’s customers) are empowered to make a difference,” Straub said. “If we know the products we’re using are impacting the world in some way, we not only feel better about it, but our food tastes better to us because we know we’re making a difference.”