By: Ruud Peerbooms*
Interest in ‘natural’ food and beverage products is showing no signs of slowing down. Consumers have become more discerning than ever before – looking at labels for ingredients they recognize before making their decisions. This trend, coupled with growing concerns about the artificial flavour enhancers and preservatives, is leading manufacturers to rethink their formulations. Ensuring additivefree, natural foods that still have a long shelf life, as well as increased consumer appeal and the same great taste, has become understandably difficult. However, recent innovations for refrigerated foods – meats, dips and deli salads for instance – has created an opportunity for manufacturers to replace traditional preservatives with more acceptable ingredients that meet these rising demands.
As consumers strive to make more educated purchasing decisions, many are looking for products with natural labelling. Although people still want to enjoy their favorite healthy, convenient products, removing artificial additives or preservatives to create desirable labels can be challenging. Eliminating such ingredients can have a negative effect on taste and visual appearance, impacting overall consumer appeal. This phenomenon is not limited to the developed world: on a global scale, consumers are willing to pay more for products labelled “all-natural”. This has also paved the way for significant growth in the clean label trend, which is quickly becoming a standard for many food and beverage manufacturers.
Across the industry, manufacturers need new and innovative ways to reformulate their products that respond to new consumer trends while not compromising on the quality of the end product.
Biobased ingredients, manufactured through the fermentation of natural raw materials, are emerging as valuable and highly functional alternatives to some of the food additives now falling out of favor. When it comes to chilled products, such ingredients ensure optimal food safety and extend shelf life, while also improving taste and responding to the growing consumer preference for natural and healthy foods.
Maintaining Consumer Appeal in the Chiller Cabinet
Refrigerated items like spreads, sauces and dips are growing in popularity but can also be challenging to preserve. For instance, Listeria monocytogenes can grow in egg salads or pasta products incorporating mayonnaise, if the storage temperatures or pH levels are incorrect.
Sorbates and benzoates have been traditionally used in deli-style products to avoid the growth of microbes and food contamination. However, such preservatives are falling out of favor with consumers, as awareness grows about their negative side effects, such as hypersensitivity and hyperactivity. Also classed as E-numbers, sorbates and benzoates are not considered desirable additions to products.
Ingredients produced through the fermentation of cane sugar combined with specialty vinegar are emerging as an innovative alternative for preservation in this category. For instance, Corbion’s new Verdad® Ovvio 410 is a natural alternative to artificial additives and can be incorporated into chilled delistyle salads and a wide range of refrigerated liquid foods from sauces to dips. As well as containing no chemicals, the ingredient is non-GM, as well as allergen and gluten-free, enabling manufacturers to meet the demand for healthier, more natural and less processed foods.
More Natural Meat
Preservatives play an important role in the meat and poultry sector too. With growing demand and intensifying competition, manufacturers are looking for new ways to enhance flavour, visual appeal and texture as well as ensuring safety and extending shelf life – all against the background of stringent regulations and longer, more complex supply chains.
Meat products are the ideal environments for microorganisms, due to their high moisture content and neutral pH. Traditionally, processors relied on artificial preservatives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and nitrates. In recent years, these additives have come under intense scrutiny for their potential side effects and they are not suited to simple labels. To achieve a more natural proposition, manufacturers are moving to innovative ingredients, including ferments containing buffered acids, such as lactic acid and vinegar, which can be used to maximize freshness and quality, while tackling challenges presented in clean label formulation. Such ingredients can also enhance tenderness as well as improve colour to maintain crucial consumer appeal.
For instance, Corbion’s Verdad Avanta® vinegar portfolio was developed specifically to address the preservation challenges of both fresh and ready-to-eat meats. Verdad Avanta Y100, which can be labelled as vinegar and citrus flour, effectively controls Listeria in ready-to-eat meats, so extending shelf life, but also increases cook yields and improves texture. Similarly, Verdad Avanta F100 controls oxidation and ensures flavour and colour stability, helping to prolong freshness in fresh ground meats. It can be labelled as vinegar and jasmine tea extract or natural flavour.
Leading the Way
Despite the practical need for effective preservation, consumers are not willing to compromise on taste or the health and natural credentials of the foods they eat. Specifying innovative, label-friendly ingredients, manufacturers are pioneering a new wave of food products, free from artificial additives. Corbion’s industryleading Verdad range comprises natural ingredient solutions that inhibit microbial growth, maintain colour and extend shelf life while retaining vital consumer appeal in an increasingly competitive market.
*Ruud Peerbooms, Senior VP, food, Corbion