What's your ingredient app?

Not long ago, nutritional ingredients were strictly the purview of supplements and a few select foods and drinks, such as cereal and milk. Today, ingredients fill up delivery-system dance cards from soup to nuts.

It's a crossover success story.

When Cargill launched its Regenasure Glucosamine ingredient in 2003, its original target was the supplements market.

The company did everything right. It earned GRAS status in 2005, becoming the only glucosamine in the world to have submitted itself to FDA rigor. It went on to earn Kosher, Kosher for Passover and Halal certifications. It was and still is the only glucosamine produced in the United States – and from a vegetarian source to boot.

Then, in the eight years since its debut, it pushed far beyond the supplements market into a dizzying array of end products: dry mix beverages, functional waters, ready-to-drink teas, ready-to-eat cereal clusters, frozen yogurt, fruit smoothies and spoonable yogurt.

"Traditionally, glucosamine is found in the supplements aisle in capsules and tablets," said Scott Erickson, marketing director at Cargill Corn Milling. "But we are continuing to grow Regenasure Glucosamine in the beverage and food aisle. There are many prospective combination ingredients used with glucosamine, and this is something Cargill continues to look at."

It's a case study that should give heart to other ingredient suppliers that, in the past year, have pushed their ingredients into new product arenas. These include Ocean Nutrition Canada, Enzymotec, Azantis, Danisco and Chr. Hansen.

Fish out of water?

Ocean Nutrition Canada (ONC) took its first major leap out of the dietary-supplements format in 2006, with the launch of its MEG-3 ingredient into orange juice. Putting an oily ingredient into a water-based product took some dedicated finagling, and since then dozens of food and beverages have been created – everything from baked goods to infant formula to yogurt.

"Incorporating fish oil in a food matrix can be challenging, as each food matrix represents its own specific challenges," said Linwood Riddick, vice president of marketing. "ONC has developed solutions for a broad range of foods, using different technologies for different applications, such as food grade oil, powder and emulsion."

Arawana 3A+ premium cooking oilIn December 2010, MEG-3 appeared for the first time in cooking oil launched in China, called Arawana 3A+ premium cooking oil. The product potentially opens up an exciting new avenue for consumers to get the health benefits of omega-3s; just about every society on the planet uses cooking oil of one type or another.

"Fish oil blends readily with cooking oil, but the key to success is the processing and the antioxidant protection of the oil," Riddick said. This is because antioxidants always run the risk of being damaged through the heating process.

ONC partnered with Singapore-based Wilmar International to create the cooking oil, because Wilmar is Asia's leading agribusiness company and a global leader in the creation of omega-3 foods.

In 2009, Arawana brand cooking oil was recognized by the World Brand Laboratory as one of "China's 500 Most Valuable Brands." It is a staple in many Chinese households.

Meanwhile, krill oil suppliers are just now reaching the water-soluble benchmark that fish oil suppliers achieved in the mid-2000s.

In September, krill oil manufacturer Azantis, of Colorado, partnered with Ceutical Switzerland AG to launch the first water-soluble krill oil on the market, called Aqua Krill Oil.

"The oil is fully dispersed in water with no taste or smell and can be used for mixing and blending with other water-based supplements, foods and drinks," explained Mickey Schuett, director of sales. "Possible blend products are açai, noni and other health juices and vitamin waters. It is also available to supplement resellers and formulators for single-shot vitamin blends."

This winter, the company has been in the clinical testing stage of the first finished product to contain Aqua Krill Oil; it will debut this month at Natural Products Expo West 2011.

Now competing krill oil manufacturer Enzymotec, of Israel, has created its first product samples using its own water-soluble formulation, Liquid Krill Oil.

"Overall, we see the market expanding rapidly, and we are doing very well in the dietary supplements category with our Pure Krill Oil, as well as customized grades," said Volkan Eren, director of operations at Enzymotec USA. "Recently, we have launched several new grades, including customized solutions to meet the needs of specific customers."

The company is talking with several potential branded companies to launch the oil in functional beverages.

New dairy solutions

YO-MIX yogurt culturesChange has also come to the dairy aisle – particularly in developing markets with unstable supply chains. In January, Danisco unveiled YO-MIX yogurt cultures, which are notable for their ability to produce mild acidification during storage. This has been seen as a major problem in Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and South America for yogurt producers, where cold storage and cold chains are very often broken.

The cultures' strains are traditional yogurt culture species: S. thermophilus and L. bulgaricus. Using YO-MIX, dairy producers are able to make mild yogurt with low evolution of pH during the shelf life while maintaining active lactic bacteria in the yogurt.

"PH improvement compared to a traditional yogurt cultures is at least 0.2 upH, and will of course depend on process and recipe used for yogurt production," said Sonia Huppert, YO-MIX global business director.

The cultures can produce yogurt with a pleasing flavor, a high level of viscosity and short texture, and with limited post acidification under a wide range of temperature conditions. This essentially ensures that any yogurt product containing the cultures have the same taste and texture throughout its shelf life.

The cultures were originally developed for use in China, where Danisco holds a dominant leadership position. But it has already expanded into several other markets and had great success, Huppert said.

Unreliable supply chains present a similar challenge in cheese manufacture, which typically uses frozen cheese cultures. The solution – freeze-dried cheese cultures – had been in existence for more than 20 years.

But in July, Chr Hansen launched a new freeze-dried cheese culture concept in Central and South America, called FD-RSF, that promises to expand the types of cheeses that can be created using freeze-dried cultures.

"Freeze-dried cultures have been very popular in South America due to distance and infrastructure issues," said Theis Bacher, marketing manager for cheese cultures. "It solves problems with logistics, which are more complex when a frozen culture is used. Moreover it allows all types of customers, big or small, access to the product because storage is easier."

Conventional frozen DVS cultures require special freezers (-49 degrees F or below) to store the product; if stored correctly, they have a shelf life of at least 12 months. By comparison, freeze-dried cultures can be kept in a domestic freezer (-0 degrees F or below) and last at least 24 months. In a refrigerator at 41 degrees F, the shelf life for a freeze-dried culture is at least six weeks.

The new cultures were developed to enable product development beyond the more conventional commodity cheeses. "We have detected a good opportunity in the market for Continental cheeses with more flavor," Bacher said. "The Continental cheese segment accounts for 26 percent of the total cheese market, producing around 313,000 tons per year in the region. Brazil is the main producer accounting for 43 percent of the segment."

FD-RSF meets the standard criteria of fast acidification and increased protection against phage attacks, as well as improved sliceability, structure and texture.

The cultures contain the Lactobacillus helveticus strain, which provides the typical sweet and nutty flavor development in cheese particularly appreciated by consumers in Brazil, Bacher said.

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