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PLT Health Solutions emphasizing sustainability of food powders

Engredea News  Analysis
Vibrant Harvest food powders give consumer products the benefits of fruits and vegetables with less waste and lower environmental impact than fresh foods, PLT Health Solutions reports.

In advance of the Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting, PLT Health Solutions, Inc. is talking about the sustainability profile of its line of Vibrant Harvest Whole Food Powders.

Vibrant Harvest powders are designed to effectively incorporate servings of high quality fruits and vegetables into consumer products. A variety of factors contribute to the overall sustainability of these ingredients, which are manufactured by Powder Pure, formerly Columbia Phytotechnology, LLC in The Dalles, Oregon. The Radiant Zone Drying process used to remove liquid from fruits and vegetables is highly efficient — between 73 and 88 percent — rapidly creating a powder with moisture levels below 3 percent. The energy used to power the process is renewable; more than 95 percent of the power used by the facility is provided by solar and hydroelectric.

As a food source, high quality powders such as Vibrant Harvest can reduce packaging, handling, transportation and storage inputs associated with raw or frozen foods. They can also extend shelf life and preserve the nutrients present in fruits and vegetables, limiting food spoilage and waste. All of these elements are set against a backdrop that posits the consumption of fruits and vegetables as less taxing on environmental resources — at the same time as it is healthier for people.

According to Dr. Barbara Davis, vice president, Medical & Scientific Affairs for PLT Health Solutions, a preference for sustainability is an outgrowth of the clean label trend that has swept through the food and beverage industries in recent years. “At PLT, we’re seeing that clean label has become a virtual baseline requirement for ingredients going into food and beverage products. Consumers are now looking for additional qualities like transparency, better nutrition and sustainability in the products they purchase. Maximizing agricultural production, quality nutrition for a wider range of people and delivering these with a minimum environmental impact were the main drivers behind the technology developed to create Vibrant Harvest Whole Food Powders. Resource conservation and sustainable production are two of the great stories behind Vibrant Harvest. But beyond these, Vibrant Harvest powders taste and look great and have outstanding nutrient retention from the original material. These ingredients allow food and beverage producers to create products that will delight the senses of consumers while giving them nutritional value that they can trust,” she said.

Food powders promote sustainability

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 32 percent (based on weight) of all food produced in the world was lost or wasted in 2009. When converted into calories, global food loss and waste amounts to approximately 24 percent of all food produced. It has been estimated that if the current rate of food loss and waste were cut in half ― from 24 percent to 12 percent ― by the year 2050, the world would need about 1,314 trillion kilocalories (kcal) less food per year, or roughly 22 percent of the 6,000 trillion kcal per year gap researchers point to between food available today and that needed in 2050.

“Food loss” refers to food that spills, spoils, incurs an abnormal reduction in quality such as bruising or wilting, or otherwise gets lost before it reaches the consumer. Food loss is the unintended result of an agricultural process or technical limitation in storage, infrastructure, packaging, or marketing. The main culprit of food spoilage is its water content, which encourages microbial growth and food degradation. Most fruits and vegetables range in solids from 8 to 12 percent, the source of almost all nutritive value. Dehydration, or the development of food powders — particularly those that exhibit excellent nutrient retention — can be seen as a strategy for relatively inexpensive, long-term storage of the nutrient value of fresh fruits and vegetables, reduce costs for food processors and provide an alternative use for overproduced agricultural products.

Commercially available dehydration methods include spray, freeze, drum, air and a novel method called Radiant Zone Drying (RZD), which is used to produce Vibrant Harvest powders. From a sustainability standpoint, a major differentiator is energy consumption, efficiency and the sources of that energy. A good way of understanding energy efficiency and consumption is to look at the time that it takes to dehydrate the materials in question. Typically, spray and drum drying processes, which are the most common, take 1 to 2.5 hours to produce finished materials. Freeze drying, often considered the gold standard in nutrient and flavor retention, can take two days or more. With Radiant Zone Drying, finished materials are produced in just 5 to 10 minutes.

Beyond energy efficiency, a short dehydration process results in other important qualities that have commercial impacts, including enhanced color, flavor and nutrient retention. The physical quality of final materials is also important. Most spray-dried and drum-dried fruit and vegetable powders use an excipient as either a processing aid or to promote flowability, diluting the nutritional impact of the commercial product on a gram per gram basis and likely contributing to labeling and sustainability issues. Materials with a very low moisture content have a much longer shelf life.

The recently published USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report once again focused on diets that are high in fruits and vegetables leading to better health outcomes, saying “Vegetables and fruit are the only characteristics of the diet that were consistently identified in every conclusion statement across the health outcomes.” According to Sid Hulse, director of New Product Development, Vibrant Harvest powders are a highly efficient way of delivering servings of fruits and vegetables into consumer products.

“As an example, as little as 3 grams of Vibrant Harvest spinach, or as little as 5.5 grams of our strawberries can deliver a serving size via a finished food or beverage product. This low level of addition means that, if you want to, you can hide the spinach from a picky eater. But the great taste and color of Vibrant Harvest powders also means that you can feature these ingredients in creative, fun products that appeal to the consumers’ imagination,” he said. “We’re excited about our sustainability message for Vibrant Harvest Whole Food Powders. What’s great is that healthier eating may be another key to making our planet a better place to live. In its recent report on nutrition, the DGAC went so far as to point out that diets in plant-based foods were associated with less environmental impact than the current U.S. diet. Which points us to a real win-win opportunity."

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