Being overweight now ranks as one of the top four health concerns of consumers worldwide*. Combined with the increased focus on the nutrient profiles of foods following the announcement by the EU on its proposed Nutrient Profile regulations, European food manufacturers have an ideal opportunity to reinvent existing products to enhance both their ‘healthy’ and ‘low in sugar’ claims.
Ingredients of indulgence
During 2008, Europe remained the top performing region in the global ice-cream market, accounting for 44% of total launches. Within Europe, Germany and the UK took the lead with 16%, followed by France with 8%**. Players within the ice cream sector, such as Walls (UK), Schöller (Germany) and Casty (Spain), have used the growing trend for healthy products to launch highly successful ‘lite’ versions of their existing favorites.
The secret to success in the ‘healthy indulgence’ sector is to focus on the ingredients that consumers equate with indulgence and then work to deliver healthy-profile equivalents. It is the high sugar and fat content of ice cream that gives consumers a feeling of satisfaction. The challenge for product developers therefore, is to reduce the fat and sugar content without a discernable difference in sweetness profile, texture or mouthfeel, while offering additional health benefits.
However, formulating products which will win consumer acceptance is not as easy as it sounds. Indeed, market research conducted by the BENEO-Group, under the BENEO-Orafti business unit, has confirmed that consumer expectations are high when it comes to selecting a low-fat alternative to traditional indulgence products.
The Ingredients of success
The BENEO-Group has built its business on providing food producers with ingredients from natural origins that offer multiple technological, nutritional and healthful benefits. The challenges faced by manufacturers wanting to create ‘healthy indulgent’ ice creams means that they require ingredients that can help them reduce sugar content without compromising on appeal. The BENEO-Group’s products are able to help food producers meet all these challenges - naturally.
A natural sweetness
With a taste as natural as sugar, the sugar-replacer ISOMALT by BENEO-Palatinit is the only polyol derived from sugar beet. When ISOMALT is used in ice cream, claims such as "no sugar added" or "reduced calorie" can be used. Minimal changes need to be made to existing ice cream recipes as it is very similar to sugar. The white crystalline raw material replaces sugar in a 1:1 mass ratio and is used where not only the sweetness but also the texture and mouthfeel of sugar is required. One manufacturer that is already making the most of ISOMALT is the Swiss food manufacturing and retail group Migros. Its “Slimline ICE” range of ice pops and ice cream cups in a variety of flavors has only 2-3% fat and no added sugar. It is also proving highly popular with consumers.
For those food producers looking to create dairy-free and lactose-free ice creams, BENEO-Remy’s Nutriz M IC 100% vegetable ready-to-use powder is ideal. It’s based on rice and its natural derivatives like rice starch. Due to its very small starch granules, which mimic the feeling of fat globules in the mouth, rice starch is the ideal fat replacer in food applications such as dairy desserts and ice creams. Nutriz M IC’s superior mouthfeel and creamy texture also ensures that the ‘indulgence’ factor is retained no matter what dessert it is used in.
The taste and feel of indulgence
With the creation of Orafti®HSI (Highly Soluble Inulin), BENEO-Orafti has created a controlled composition of short chain inulin molecules that is ideal for use in ice cream production. This natural chicory-derived ingredient combines the fat replacing benefits of inulin with the ease of use and sensorial properties of oligofructose. Not only can Orafti®HSI be used to improve the body and mouthfeel of low-fat products, delivering roundness and creaminess, but it also offers a better-balanced flavor.
By combining Orafti®HSI and BENEO-Remy’s Remyline AX-DR rice starch (a native, waxy, unmodified, GMO-free rice starch that provides an excellent water binding capacity, a very fast thickening speed and a creamy mouthfeel), food producers can create ice cream that not only looks and tastes great, but offers consumers significant health benefits. In fact, by using this combination, BENEO-Orafti has been able to reduce fat by 50%, total sugars by 30% and calories by 30% in ice cream -- and all this without using intense sweeteners.
Adding a healthy dimension
In addition to marketing ice cream on its ‘fat reduced’ or ‘sugar reduced’ status, manufacturers can also focus on positive health attributes such as its prebiotic effect and high fiber content.
While the concept of marketing a product traditionally considered indulgent on its positive health benefits is relatively new, there are manufacturers who have seized this opportunity for innovation. Ice cream ranges such as Luxus, Conos, Surtido and Sandwich from Casty (Spain), for example, are making good use of both the technological and nutritional benefits of inulin and oligofructose by reducing the sugar and promoting good digestive health -- communicated by the BENEO™ Quality Label on-pack.
Building in the benefits – no added sugar As well as offering food producers a way to create low-fat and low-sugar ice creams that taste and feel like their full-fat/sugar counterparts, BENEO-Group products can be combined to create a ‘no added sugar’ alternative for ice cream that significantly reduces the artificial aftertaste traditionally associated with high intensity sweeteners. Using BENEO-Palatinit’s ISOMALT combined with BENEO-Orafti’s Orafti®P95, in tandem with the combination of oligofructose and high-intensity sweeteners such as sucralose, acesulfame K and/or aspartame, creates a synergy that reduces the artificial aftertaste of the high intensity sweeteners to produce a balanced, rounded flavor and also enables food producers to make a ‘no added sugar’ claim with confidence.
Building in the benefits – Low Glycemic Index In addition to BENEO-Palatinit’s ISOMALT as a sugar replacer in ‘low sugar’ ice cream recipes, the very low glycemic response (2 [±1]) of ISOMALT makes it suitable for sugar-reduced and dietetic products. Another product in the Group portfolio that offers low glycemic response is BENEO-Orafti’s natural chicory-derived ingredient Orafti®HSI. With a Glycemic Index of virtually zero, it breaks down slowly in the digestive system, causing slow and steady rises rather than sudden spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. Replacing the sugar of an ice cream with Orafti®HSI and ISOMALT will result in a lower glycemic response.
Interest in healthier variants of traditional products is at an all time high. By capitalizing on the technological, nutritional and healthful attributes of BENEO-Group ingredients, manufacturers can prove that it is possible to conceive innovative products that are low in sugar and calories, but high in indulgence, health benefits and most importantly… fun.
*Source: 10 key trends in Food, Nutrition and Health 2009 – New Nutrition Business, Dec 08/ Jan 09
**Source: Innova database, February 2008
BENEO–Group consists of BENEO-Orafti, BENEO-Palatinit and BENEO-Remy, all successful global companies specializing in food ingredients with nutritional and technical benefits.
The BENEO-Group has a turnover of €350 million, employs some 900 people and has production units in Belgium, Germany, Chile and Italy. Throughout the business units there is a unique chain of expertise that can actively support manufacturing partners in the development of more balanced and healthy food products.