Carrying new and varied flavor combinations into food and beverage applications is a challenge for manufacturers, especially when it comes delivering flavors through natural products. Helen Hook, Marketing Manager at Ingredion EMEA, explores how nature-based flavor carriers can help brands burst onto the culinary scene.

Various new and exotic flavor fusions have hit the supermarket shelves over the past year: lychee and pineapple, Stracciatella and salted caramel and fennel and cardamom to name a few. With global travel now possible at the click of a button and the rise of the ‘Instagram effect’, exposure to new cultures, cuisines and flavors is increasing consumer demand and expectation for these foods and tastes to be available at home too. The emergence of the ‘adventurous consumer’ has seen a 17 percent average annual growth in global food and beverage launches with ethnic flavors over the 2013-20171 period.

The applications of these flavors, or combinations of flavors, is broadening beyond the traditional spice or seasoning blends and instant noodles and translating into flavored teas, savoury snacks, sports nutrition and powdered beverages.

Not only do manufacturers need to be aware of these new trends, they must also acquire the capability to effectively encapsulate these flavors and carry them into their final products.

Processing solutions

In order to meet demand for these bold and interesting flavors while assuring consistent and cost-effective production, ingredient formulations and processes need to advance. In particular, the process by which liquidbased flavors are converted into powders.

The most common and traditional technique used to encapsulate flavors is spray drying, with plating onto maltodextrin being the other key flavor-carrying process. Plating refers to the physical blending of liquid substances onto a solid carrier, in this case most commonly maltodextrin. This creates a free-flowing powder which can be used to develop dry-mix seasoning blends, powdered sauces and teas.

With the emergence of more middle-eastern, Japanese and Mediterranean flavors, manufacturers are looking to transform more liquid and oil-based flavors to deliver freeflowing and homogenous powders. Even a small amount of these delicate ingredients can be expensive. This means maximizing plating capacity while carrying a consistent flavor with good shelf-life is a top concern for food producers.

Using traditional plating agents and techniques such as spray drying can prove a challenge, particularly for thick and syruplike liquids. Due to the viscosity of such ingredients, processing conditions need to be adapted, often adding costs and time.

High-efficiency plating technology

An alternative solution that has emerged in recent years is a processing technique that produces a porous starch. Derived from nature, this versatile ingredient requires no special equipment and can be used

in existing mixers and blenders. Due to the non-gelatinized and unique granular structure of porous corn-based plating agents, they can be used to carry high-flavor concentrations. They can also flow freely through processing equipment and mix evenly into food and beverage recipes, even when using thick liquids such as honey and chocolate syrup.

Naturally sourced from waxy corn, plating agents such as Ingredion’s N-ZORBIT™ 2144 DG enable food producers to create uniformly blended, flowable powders which streamline the formulation process. The unique, porous structure increases the surface area exposed to liquids, facilitating and improving absorption and delivering a plating capacity as high as 40 percent. This means 100 grams of N-ZORBIT™ 2144 DG plating agent can plate up to 70 grammes of liquid, delivering far more than traditional carriers such as maltodextrin.

As a result, manufacturers can produce highly concentrated, active and vibrant flavors in small volumes of powder, leading to lower cost-in-use and reduced packaging costs.

Coupled with this is a desire for a move towards nature-based versus syntheic extracts, to reduce the volume of chemicals used in food production. The more widely known maltodextrin, often requires the addition of silica dioxide to produce a good flow of powder. But with consumers demanding more natural, simple and recognizable ingredients, there has been a trend in flavor houses and manufacturers seeking to move away from using silica dioxide. In fact, the percentage of flavored snack new product launches featuring a ‘no additives / preservatives’ label claim in Europe, rose by 60% (in the period H2 2017- H2 2018).

Incorporating ingredients such as N-ZORBIT™ 2144 DG plating agent, which does not require the addition of silica dioxide to optimize the flow of the powder, manufacturers can meet consumer desire for a simple and clean label declaration. The product can be listed as ‘glucose syrup’ on food labels across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, increasing the likelihood of greater appeal among retailers and customers alike.

A burst of flavor

The rising need for efficient flavor encapsulation of high value-added ingredients looks likely to continue in line with the trend for wider-ranging food flavors. Consumer and market preferences now lean towards more simple labelling and minimal processing, while delivering that all-important intensive flavor burst. The selection of an appropriate and effective process will depend on the compounds, storage and onward processing techniques to be used. Working with a partner that can help navigate the different methods and ingredients available will help manufacturers to capitalize on this growing market opportunity.