Welcome, Foodies and Other Food Professionals!


Welcome to the BEST VANTAGE Inc. blog. Food choices, consumer preferences and nutritional knowledge are rapidly changing. Are you keeping up? This blog is dedicated to exploring developing issues in food, food science, food technology, economics and nutrition in a challenging manner, opening doors to new ideas and perspectives. My career and personal interests have spanned food science, agricultural, economics, nutrition, culinary arts and food business. My commitment is to a future where food is widely available, nutritious, interesting and…fun! For everyone! Everywhere! So, have at it. And whether you agree or disagree, let’s work together to keep the discussion going.

Sprouted Grains: Not So Fast!

Image courtesy of SOMMAI at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of SOMMAI at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Understandably, the baking and cereal products industries are very excited about sprouted grains these days. Well, it is a new, healthy and otherwise compelling narrative about whole grain foods and other seeds, like beans. Major companies such as Kellogg’s (Kashi) and J.M. Smucker (Enray) have already committed themselves to what they perceive to be a band-wagon growth opportunity. Raw food enthusiasts are big on sprouts. But, call me contrarian! There is ample reason not to get too excited too quickly about sprouted grains. They provide a good story line, but nutritional claims, cost, product safety and consumer awareness remain serious barriers to growth. New market exuberance may be premature.

“Sprouted grains” was a big big topic of discussion at the recently concluded AACC International’s (i.e., cereal chemists) Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, MN (October 19-22). On the plus side, sprouted grain breads and other cereal products have been gaining a lot of attention, at least in the food press. The arguments for sprouted grains are primarily nutritional, though good taste very importantly factors in, as well. Sprouting is the process whereby seeds, when moisturized, arouse themselves from dormancy and reconfigure themselves for rapid growth. The seed’s fiber, starch and phytates break down, releasing antioxidants, sugars and minerals. Starch breaks down into simple sugars that either sweeten the sprout and can be flushed away reduce glycemic value. Some vitamin contents are increased. The process typically involves soaking seeds between 1 – 4 days to induce sprouting, followed by a heat-kill step to knock out enzymatic activity, and milling to create a flour.

Here are some of the concerns cited at the conference:

  1. The process of adding water, holding, kilning (i.e removing the added water), and milling is expensive. Yes, the beer industry can do it, but beer isn’t cheap and it enjoys deservedly high margins. Sprouted grains are not low cost ingredients.
  2. Yes, nutritional value is enhanced, but by what standards? Bob Hanson of Briess Malt & Ingredients Co., noted in a highly detailed and engaging presentation that sprouting is a highly variable process for which nutritional value will vary greatly according to the length of time and other sprouting conditions used (i.e., was the seed germinated for four hours or four days?). Developing uniform, standardized levels of nutritional enhancement for which suppliers and nutritional labels will be held accountable remains a major challenge. Plus, as pointed out by retired-but-not-really nutrition professor Julie Jones, an academic for whose intellectual rigor and honesty I retain enormous respect even when we disagree, given the cost and use level of sprouted grains, how will their enhanced nutritional value make a significant dietary difference? We don’t know, for example, how effective the released polyphenolic antioxidants (likely released from the breakdown of arabinoxylan bran structures) are in human physiology. Nor do we know how to balance the potential cancer-inhibiting actions of phytate against the mineral-releasing breakdown of phytates during sprouting.
  3. Probably the most important challenge is safety. Grains and beans come in from the field with imbedded toxins and trailing pathogenic microbes. In some cases, the microbes are imbedded inside the seeds. Sprouting provides an ideal medium for their outgrowth. The beer industry resolves this by boiling the seed wort; the baking industry has no such option. According to University of Nebraska food science professor Andreia Bianchini, kilning of the sprouted grains does not significantly reduce microbial counts. Although reading between the lines of the Hanson presentation suggested to me that Briess has resolved this problem to its own satisfaction, the consensus appeared to be that sprout safety remains a serious liability issue for the industry at large. I have no doubt that good solutions exist (I can think of some off the top of my head), but much work still needs to be done.
  4. Finally, there is consumer awareness and demand. Sprouted grains are not new – they’ve been percolating in the cereal foods industry for at-least a decade, promoted by companies such as Food For Life Baking Company’s Ezekiel bread, which has developed a loyal following. A look at Internet chatter trends for “sprouted grains” provides the following profile:

Sprouted Grain TrendAlert OCT-15This graph shows a steadily increasing rise in total Internet chatter (blue line) over time, combined with low VIC TrendAlert™ volatility (red line). Accelerating growth in Internet chatter combined with low volatility is indicative of stable growth and should be promising. That’s the good news. However, at this time, the term “sprouted grain” is generating only 25,000 to 30,000 Google hits per month. Compare that to “rice” (~1.2 million hits per month) or “quinoa” (~600,000 hits per month), and you realize quickly that “sprouted grain” has a long way to go before it becomes the talk of the town. Internet chatter matters.

Sprouted grain is an interesting and promising ingredient category with a compelling narrative. Here’s my take: its time hasn’t yet come!

Free-Range Eggs Are Not Free

Fried Egg Photo

Image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

McDonald’s announcement this year that it plans to switch all of its eggs to “cage free” and “free range” AND buy only antibiotic-free eggs and chickens pretty much sets the agenda for consumers and the egg industry for the foreseeable future. No doubt, other foodservice operators will follow. Egg producers that hope to compete will have to adapt. This may be good for social justice warriors (SJWs), but let’s face this future with eyes wide open: this will create serious new challenges for consumers and industry alike.

First, there is the cost factor. Fact is, free-range farming is not as nearly as efficient as caged production. Square acreage, bird density, predation, heightened stress, pecking, and cannibalism all take a toll on efficiency. So, eggs will cost more…considerably more. It will also increase the cost of products that contain egg or egg ingredients. That’s all probably doable for middle-class SJWs and those fortunate enough to rank higher up on the economic security spectrum, but it will also hurt the poor and all other families living paycheck to paycheck. Eggs are one of nature’s most perfect foods, nutritionally speaking, so why would we deny anyone access thereto?

Next, there is the safety factor. One of the reasons that traditional egg producers have been obsessed with controlled-environment production is to keep avian diseases out of the environment. There is avian flu, which has been devastated poultry production worldwide. Avian flu is transmitted to livestock fowl by wild birds and by mammals: not surprisingly, it is especially prevalent during spring and autumn, when migrating flocks of birds let fly. Controlling avian flu is difficult enough in a battery-cage system, it will be even more difficult in cage-free, free-range environments. Especially when antibiotics are proscribed. Avian flu decreases the supply and increases the cost of poultry products.

Then there is Salmonella enteritidis, which is transmitted to poultry (and eggs) via insects, small mammals and contaminated feeds. According to the Center for Disease Control, salmonella infections cause, on average, one million illnesses in the United States, with 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths. At present, the major focus of concern regarding salmonella infections has shifted from poultry to fruit and vegetable (and some grain) products. This is only because much progress has been made toward controlling S. enteritidis in eggs by imposing tight controls on egg production, processing and handling. Although annual incidences of S. enteritidis have been on a downward curve, there is a good chance of reversing this trend as environmental controls on egg production are loosened. Inevitably, this will result in more liability exposure for egg producers, retailers and foodservice operators. This, too, will increase the cost of eggs. I yield the point, though, that the data thus far regarding salmonella contamination in free-range eggs is contradictory (it’s may be up in the U.S. but it appears to be unchanged in Europe), but we are still very early in the transition process and data collection is spotty.

Don’t get me wrong! Individually, our chances of contracting salmonella remain very small. But for the millions of us in America that do contract it (fever, cramps, diarrhea, death)…major bummer! To the extent that it is connected to eggs, this will not help egg consumption. I would like to think that a corporate giant such as McDonald’s has properly thought these issue through, but my own experiences with corporate decision prevent me from taking this for granted. Can a fast-breakfast food company really survive and thrive with higher egg prices?

For background, I am the co-developer and co-founder of the technology and company that pioneered in-the-shell pasteurization technology (now, National Pasteurized Eggs, of Lansing, Illinois), which stands to gain greatly from this trend. Today, I own zero, zip, nada interest in that company, although I do retain pride of accomplishment. These views are entirely my own.

Cage-free, free-range eggs are the new normal. Be safe!

Some worthwhile copy/past links for perspective:

Jay-Russell, M. and Payne, M.  Are free-range eggs safer? Special to CNN August 26, 2010

 U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Draft Guidance for Industry: Questions and Answers Regarding the Final Rule, Prevention of Salmonella Enteritidis in Shell Eggs During Production, Storage, and Transportation (Layers with Outdoor Access

The Power of Near-Real Time Food Trend Volatility Analysis

Is your food company busy addressing rising Vegan, Vegetarian, DASH, Anti-Inflammatory, ABS or Paleo diet trends today? If not, why not? These are among today’s top-10 diet trends driving consumer food choices.

Although Internet and social media analysis techniques are still in their infancy, these “big data” bases should not ignored: they best reflect what consumers think and say about their food choices. Think of the Internet as a very large consumer survey population that can be sampled at-will, at very low cost and on a near-real time basis. Internet chatter analysis also reveals trends not easily discernable using conventional analysis techniques, such as retail product scanning, new product placement tracking and consumer surveys…in near-real time! There is the problem of information clutter, however: the Internet has a very low signal-to-noise ratio and it can often be difficult to discern between what is important or relevant and what is not. Also, Internet search engines are fickle and just finding the most applicable search terms can be challenging.

This post references work undertaken at BEST VANTAGE Inc. (www.bestvantageinc.com) to establish new tools for consumer trends analysis, drawing on techniques developed by the financial industry. Previous work undertaken on this challenge is referenced here and here. In this posting, we demonstrate how volatility analysis, using our VIC™ internet chatter volatility indices, can rapidly prioritize emergent trends not readily detectable using conventional market analysis tools. The earlier warned, the faster that companies can adapt to and capture the high ground of new consumer opportunities.

Why volatility? Volatility is a leading indicator of change. Whether in nature, societies, economies or financial markets, “volatility” marks rapid exchanges of material and information that signal impending change. Internet chatter surges or wanes as individuals adapt to new information and adjust their demands and expectations accordingly. Internet chatter volatility denotes activity and information exchange: it does not explain the underlying reasons for change, which requires a more forensic analysis of the Internet database. Thus, a surge in Internet chatter signals that change is pending and that a more in-depth analysis of the underlying reasons for volatility is likely warranted.

In the chart below, the VIC™ volatilities of the top 9 diet trends (out of 40 analyzed) are presented together. It is clear that, already in late-2009 (six years ago), interest in vegetarianism surged, followed by a surge in vegan diet-related chatter beginning in 2013. These are the markers that should have signaled to the processed food, foodservice and food ingredient companies to closely track these diet trends and adjust their product lines and strategic plans accordingly. This period (2009 – present) also exhibited very significant spikes in Internet chatter volatility pertaining to high-protein, low-carb Paleo and ABS diet-related Internet chatter.

Top-9 Trend Volatility

A look at annualized growth trends in Internet chatter suggests how rapidly these four trends will remake our industry. Between 2013 and 2014 alone, BEST VANTAGE observed the following growth rates (i.e., velocity) in Internet chatter, presented along with 5-year annualized growth rates as benchmarks.

  • Vegan Diet (1-yr: 590%; 5-yr Annualized Growth Rate: 89%)
  • ABS Diet (1-yr: 315%; 5-yr Annualized Growth Rate: 115%)
  • Paleo Diet (1-yr: 159%; 5-yr Annualized Growth Rate: 101%)
  • Vegetarian Diet (1-yr: 152%; 5-yr Annualized Growth Rate: 85%)

Internet volatility and velocity analysis should not be used in place of conventional market tracking techniques. They do offer powerful early indicators of emergent trends, helping companies to know where to look and how to respond to the most volatile index of all, consumer behavior. In a future posting, I will explain the value of using Internet chatter volatility and velocity analyses as strategic decision-making tools.

Gainers and Losers: Dietary Trends and Proteins

Diet trends rank high in consumer consciousness and food and beverage purchase decisions. This can be direct or indirect, as social clusters exchange information and influence each other’s food preferences: friends influence friends. Some diet trends reflect value systems (e.g., veganism); some reflect self-actualization (weight-control diets); some reflect health concerns (e.g. gluten-free diets) and still others draw on scientifically generated, whole-health recommendations (e.g., the DASH diet). Two key questions are: which diets predominate in the consumer consciousness and how will they affect consumer food and beverage choices?

One way to track consumer diet preferences is through the Internet. Internet chatter provides a “big data” measure of what society is talking about, ergo its priorities. On May 5th, Daniel Best of BEST VANTAGE Inc. will demonstrate how Internet chatter analysis, using tools developed by the financial industry to analyze stock market activity, can be utilized to quantify and prioritize dietary trend activity in a presentation titled “Proteins: Quantifying the Odds for Market Success” [Global Food Forums’ Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar, May 5-6 in the Chicago area].

The presentation’s prioritization and analysis of forty diet trends should help companies identify and react to major trend shifts on a near-real time basis and also help them avoid Black Swan events. For example, the graph presented below ranks leading diet trends by their average annual growth rates over a 10-year period. But how should these 10-year trends influence near term-decision making? The tools presented should help quantify and rationalize strategic planning protocols as well as provide guidance on how to better engage in the battle of ideas on the Internet. Internet chatter analysis will provide valuable insights into consumers’ protein preferences, with respect to sourcing, processing and consumption.

10-yr Annual Diet Trends

Taking stock of consumer food trends

Can tools utilized to analyze the stock market be similarly applied to the Internet? Both the Internet and stock market represent large “big data” databases reflective of consumer sentiment and valuation judgments. Food companies’ futures hinge upon their ability to rapidly analyze and respond to continuously evolving consumer trends. However, Internet data is plagued by low signal-to-noise ratios and search engines can be highly erratic. In a presentation titled “Proteins: Quantifying the Odds for Market Success” (Global Food Forums’ 2015 Protein Trends and Technologies Seminar, by Chicago, Illinois on May 5-6), Daniel Best of BEST VANTAGE Inc. will demonstrate how Internet chatter-based volatility analysis can be used as a near-real time tool to red-flag trend shifts for food companies. He will suggest ways to exploit such data to advantage and help reduce Black Swan risks. For example, Internet traffic analysis indicates that while the “Paleo” Diet (unfavorable to dairy, soy, cereal and legume proteins) has been rapidly rising in consumer consciousness, it has also been highly volatile since late-2010, suggesting that major shifts are underway. This contrasts with the gluten-free trend, which has exhibited rapid and steady growth but low-volatility in Internet chatter, an indicator of category stability.Paleo Trend

Mandatory Beer-Ingredient Labeling: Good or Bad?

My answer is “good…very good!”. Here’s why.http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-still-life-beer-glasses-image20703622

Based on what I observed happen to the food and beverage industries following passage of the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA), my prognosis is that ingredient labeling for beer will be one of the best things that will happen to the craft beer industry (caveat emptor: I am not a brewer…only a supplier of goods and services to brewers). Here is the why thereof and what to do about it…

We know how this story came to pass. Early this past June, North Carolina citizen-activist blogger Vani Hari, “The Food Babe”, launched an on-line petition demanding that the brewing industry fully disclose the ingredient contents of its products on its labels. Shortly thereafter, the consumer-activist Center for Science in the Public Interest jumped aboard. By the end of the month, Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors had fully capitulated to her demands. This, folks, signaled the moment the regulatory train left the station: be assured that mandatory ingredient labeling is now moving clickety-clack toward full-steam regulation and implementation.

When the NLEA passed in 1990, there arose a loud wailing and tearing of hair by food and beverage processors because of the added costs of analyzing product nutrient contents, product reformulations, QA/QC compliance and nutritional label redesigns. At the time, it was posited that consumers really wouldn’t care about all that added information, anyway, and that the added costs would only serve to discourage new product launches.

They were wrong. Implementation of the NLEA unleashed a boom of creativity and new product development that broke new profitability barriers for the food and beverage industries – a trend that continues to this day. I also could not help but notice that the newly reformulated products entered the market at markedly higher prices. You see, consumers really did care about what is in their food and drink! And once companies found that these consumers actively read nutrition statements and ingredient labels and were willing to pay premiums for products that disclosed more information, the rush was on to give them what they wanted. Over the next two decades, consumers paid ever-increasing premiums for product that claimed natural, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, “ancient” and other ingredient-based claims…as long as the products were properly validated and came with a story. Does anyone today seriously believe that most Western consumers really don’t care about ingredient labels?

I am convinced that full-scale ingredient disclosures by the brewing industry will set-up another boom time in premium craft beers and allow brewers new latitude to experiment with new, healthy and value-added ingredients. My much-smarter-than-me Wisconsin born-and-bred spouse assures me that beer is Nature’s ultimate health food and, as we know, craft beer saved the world. Beer ingredient labeling will help consumers understand the how and why.

For brewers that adhere to German Reinheitsgebot German Beer Purity Law standards, mandatory ingredient labeling probably won’t be a big deal. For the craft brewing industry, it can be a very big deal (for example, do you prefer to use “unknown flavorant” or “natural citrus peel” in your craft beer?).

First, the craft brewing industry is an artisan industry that justifiably prides itself on innovation based on secret processes and ingredients. Second, craft brewers must (or should) now develop products with an eye to eventual full disclosure. Does any brewer want to get caught with ingredient statements that leave them open and instant public critique? As the Food Babe demonstrated, today’s internet-wired consumers react to news…good, bad, true or false…fast, very fast!

It is now up to the craft brewing industry to insert itself into the process early so that it can help decide the terms under which full ingredient disclosure will come to be. Better that than, alternately, leaving such decisions to the tender mercies of consumer activists and the Treasure Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

But, I propose again…this is all good news. As the food and beverage industries’ experience with NLEA demonstrated, providing more information to consumers only serves to increase the premium that they are willing to pay in exchange for the verifiable qualities and benefits of the products obtained. And, for now, the craft brewing industry has plenty of time to prepare itself to fully exploit the new opportunities to come.

And, oh yeah, about ingredient label designs: don’t panic. There is no need to ruin the artistry of a craft beer label. Instead, pick up a nutrition bar and see how creatively the nutrition bar industry dealt with ingredient labeling requirements. The craft beer industry is one of the most creative industries we have. I have no doubt that good, artistic solutions will be found.

Agree or disagree? Please let me know.

Working with oat syrup sweeteners – I could use your help!

I recently started working with all-natural, non-GMO oat syrup sweeteners on behalf of one of my clients (South Dakota-based Oat Tech, Inc.) and I would greatly appreciate your professional insights into and advice on how to best apply such ingredients to the manufacture of yogurts, grain, and nut-based “milk alternatives” such as rice, almond, flaxseed drinks, or even whipped-cream toppings and other dairy desserts, for that matter. At present, these products rely on sugar as their sweetener of choice.



These (fructose-free) syrups are available as 80%-solids in 42 DE and 60 DE (dextrose equivalents) or as dried syrup solids (42 DE only). A strong advantage these sweeteners offer is that they have a very clean (non-bitter) flavor, highlighted with caramel, honey and vanilla notes. Their ingredient label designation is either [oat syrup] or [dried oat syrup solids].


I was looking at how these syrup sweeteners affect mouthfeel and texture in non-dairy “milk” beverages (rice, almond, flaxseed, etc.) and fermented dairy products (yogurt, quark, skyr, etc.). I obtained very good results by simply stirring or whipping the oat syrup sweeteners into these finished products at levels of 5% or 10% – they contributed sweetness, texture and a “rich” mouthfeel to the products. For some of the high-protein drinks, the syrups significantly blunted their chalky mouthfeel and extended their flavor carry-through (especially for vanilla). A side question: is the high-protein content of these products the source of their chalky mouthfeel? However, these were just kitchen-counter evaluations – I recognize that they may or may not reflect production-scale realities.

I’m especially interested in these products because they are such fast-growth food product categories. According to MarketsandMarkets, the ($8.0b+ global, $1.5b+ U.S.) grain and nut-based “dairy alternative beverage” market is forecast to continue growing at a 15% compounded annual growth rate. According to the report, growth has been especially strong in the Asia-Pacific region. The high-protein U.S. Greek-style yogurt boom, meanwhile, continues to…well, boom! However, a number of these yogurts that I have evaluated have “mouthfeel” challenges, such as dryness or poor flavor balance and carry-through.


  1. Could any of you food scientists, chefs or food engineers share with me whether you have investigated the inclusion of similar syrups (corn, HFCS, honey, rice, tapioca, etc.) into such products and recommend the best way whereby to duplicate the effects that I have observed at the kitchen-top level, on a small (laboratory)-scale, sufficient for show-and-tell presentations (short-of pilot-plant scale testing, that is)?
  2. Are there any formulation, quality or processing obstacles of which I should be aware?

Daniel Best (BEST VANTAGE Inc.) to speak at April 2014 “Proteins Trends and Technologies” Seminar.

Daniel Best will speak at the Global Food Forum’s 2nd Annual “Protein Trends and Technologies Seminar” (April 8-9, in Arlington Heights, IL) on the topic of how to establish practical working criteria in choosing between different protein ingredient options.

The food industry will soon face a plethora of different protein ingredient selections, even as global demands for protein are soaring. Best’s presentation, “Sooo many proteins, so little time: how to choose” is designed to help food, beverage and nutritional industry professionals make clear-eyed choices based not just on protein functionality, but business and legal considerations as well.

The first day (April 8th) of the two-day Protein Trends and Technologies Seminar, “Strategic Insights for Business Growth”, will emphasize marketing, business and regulatory aspects of the surging protein ingredients industry. The second day, “Formulating with Proteins”, will focus on the technical and quality challenges of incorporating protein ingredients into finished food, beverage and nutritional products. For more information on this conference and how to register, please visit:


Note: This 2nd Annual Seminar continues 2013’s highly acclaimed “Proteins” seminar hosted by Global Food Forums, a complete Conference Report on which can be downloaded from this Link:


Daniel Best (BEST VANTAGE Inc.) to address “Gluten Free” Product Development Breakfast Meeting

The Chicago Section IFT is sponsoring a Technical Breakfast Seminar on “Gluten-Free Products” from 7:00 – 10:00 AM at the Mintel Group, Ltd.’s Chicago office on April 3rd, 2014. The Mintel Group is a leading global market research organization. Daniel Best will present on “Gluten-Free Formulation: As Good…or Better?”, describing how the rapid rise of this category offers opportunities to develop products that are qualitatively better than the gluten-containing products that they are designed to replace.

Gluten-Free products may still be early-stage, but they are here to stay and, as was the case with “Organic”, could set new standards for quality that will dramatically expand their appeal. The ultimate success of this category will depend upon the ability of product developers to design added ingredient and nutritional integrity into their products to guarantee their long-term success. This presentation will provide examples of how new ingredients are being used to contribute superior value and performance to gluten-free products.

Additional presentations at this technical breakfast include:

  • The Rise of Gluten-Free: Trends in the US Free-From Market”, by Stephanie Pauk, Global Food Science Analyst, Mintel
  • Expand Your Gluten-Free Formulating Toolbox” by Jennifer Williams, Senior Application Scientist, Penford Food Ingredients

To learn more about this Technical Seminar Breakfast meeting and how to register, please visit this site:


2013 Global Food Forums’ “Clean Label” Conference: top-line summary.


Clean Label

Global Food Forums’ first-ever “Clean Label” conference was held in Oak Brook,Illinois (a suburb of Chicago) on October 29th and 30th, 2013. The well-attended conference stimulated dynamic interactions between participants and speakers that underscored the importance of and confusion engendered by this trend. Archived presentations from this meeting can be viewed at the link provided at the end of this posting.  Here are quick-read highlights of the meeting’s presentations:


Looking for “short” ingredient lists

Steven French (NMI) noted that In 2012, “51% of consumers surveyed indicated that they selected foods on the basis of the ingredient list, and 52% of consumers selected on the basis of the nutritional facts panel” and 47% say they looked for “short” ingredient statements.

Shrinking retail space for processed foods

Leslie Skarra (Merlin Development, Inc.) explained that retailers are shrinking “processed” food shelf space while imposing clean-label demands on their own private label brands. Different retailers maintain their own lists of “approved” ingredients.

Clean label appeal is very broad

Linda Gilbert (EcoFocus Worldwide, LLC) presented data showing that “68% of grocery shoppers regularly patronize the Big Box stores, 49% shop the retail chain grocers, and 19% regularly shop at Natural Chain stores”. Gilbert summarized what consumers are looking for in each of the major U.S. retailers’ signature “clean label” brands. Private label brands have been a dominant growth trend in U.S. food retailing.


How to save on packaging costs

Ken Marsh (Kenneth Marsh & Associates, Ltd.) observed that, ”use by…” code dates are a primary cause of a lot of food waste”. He provided data that demonstrated how specific product shelf-lives can vary by as much as 300 days, depending on ambient temperature, production, transportation and warehouse storage conditions. Marsh suggested that there exists a major opportunity for sustainability improvements and cost savings through code-date differentiation for different regions and seasons.

There could also be different standards for packaging materials, depending on season – for example, using heavier (more expensive) moisture barriers during hot-humid seasons and lighter barriers for more temperate seasons and regions. “This creates more complex inventory management paradigms that could be managed through RFID technology” and that should generate substantial cost savings.

Marsh’s conclusion: “don’t package for the worst market conditions…package for the total market conditions!


Green tea and mustard seeds

Prof. Fereidoon Shahidi (Memorial University of Newfoundland) – reviewed antioxidant mechanisms and provided data demonstrating how natural green tea extract and mustard seed flour provided highly effective antioxidant protection, rivaling that of synthetic antioxidants, in a variety of food systems. The flip side is that one must minimize the presence of auto-oxidative catalysts in food and beverage systems, noting that “copper is 50-times more pro-oxidative than iron”.

Natural antimicrobials still a challenge

Kathleen Glass (University of Wisconsin’s Food Research Institute) – discussed work underway at the FRI to identify naturally derived preservatives. “Clean-label antimicrobials are often associated with colors or flavors” and tend to be more effective at lower pH values. Many are derived from natural fermentation, such as the calcium propionate produced from Swiss cheese cultures. Vinegar also has very powerful antioxidant properties, but one needs to be aware that natural antimicrobials’ effectiveness is contingent upon a wide spectrum of formulation conditions, said Glass. A checklist was provided.


Natural flavor labeling…still confusing

Prof. Gary Reineccius (University of Minnesota) – summarized natural flavor labeling regulations in the U.S. Basically, “natural” refers to any flavorant not used for any other purposes, that has been extracted or enzymatically derived from a plant or animal source or roasted. If the natural flavoring ingredient is a characterizing product (e.g., natural cherry flavor in a cherry pie), then it may be called a “natural [product]” on the front panel. Otherwise, if the natural flavoring is non-characterizing (for example, natural vanilla extract used in a cherry pie), then it must be referred to as a naturally flavored [product name] on the front panel. And much, much more…

Natural food labels are the “new tobacco”

Anthony Pavel (Morgan Lewis) – provided a refreshing presentation on “when natural isn’t good for you”. It included a thought-provoding discussion on increasing food safety and litigation risks, noting that Big Tobacco has transmogrified into Big Food as a target for the plaintiffs industry. “The plaintiffs’ bar is aggressively going after the food industry today,” said Pavel. A big focus of litigation activity has been and will continue to be the misuse of the term “natural.” So, be extra careful!

Organic and other claims still in flux

Sharon Herzog (Country Choice Organic) – shared her approach, as R&D Director, to the challenges of organic and clean label-centered product development from a working scientist’s perspective. She mentioned that the true growth market in this category was the “20-25% of households that were both ‘fact-based’ and committed to health and wellness”. Today, 81% of U.S. households buy at-least some foods from the $35b organic foods sector, said Herzog. She reviewed the challenges of conforming ingredients to the rigors of the National Organic Standards Board’s ever-changing lists and definitions for the different levels of “organic” compliance (i.e., 70%, 95% or 100%). Each ingredient requires its own supply chain due diligence, she emphasized. Plus, she added, there are all the other verifications to consider, required by the various consumer sub-segments huddled under the “organic umbrella” (e.g., free range, free trade, vegan, gluten-free). As the famed green spokesamphibian Kermit the Frog was wont to say, “It’s not easy being clean!”


Clean label culinology

Mark Crowell (CuliNex, LLC) – provided specific examples of how clean-label culinology has helped food companies trade-up into new and profitable categories. For example, the Sunsweet® cooperative introduced a retail bread made and with and branded as Plum Amazins® plum concentrate. Plum Amazins contributes low Glycemic Index, high dietary fiber, shelf-life extension and preservative qualities to bread and other products and…all that with a clean ingredient label.

Natural colors: the new frontier

Prof. Ronald E. Wrolstad (Oregon State University) – discoursed on natural colors. “Neither the FDA nor the EU has a legal definition for natural colorants”, he said. The source of colorants can have a big impact on their stability. For example, anthocyanin dyes from black carrots exhibit “good-to-excellent” stability at pH<4.5 but the anthocyanins from red grape extract only exhibit “fair-to-good” stability at pH<3.5. Tomato lycopenes, meanwhile, are stable through a broad pH range. Because of their high price, natural colorants are tempting targets for adulteration. So, be careful!

Clean starch modification

Sakharam Patil (S.K. Patil & Associates) – discoursed at length on technologies used to produce clean-labeled starches. These included: a) heat-moisture treatments (i.e., controlled swelling); b) annealing ; c) dry roasting; d) spray drying and e) enzymatic modification.

Harnessing multidimensional flavor perceptions

Alex Woo (w2o Food Innovation) delivered with characteristic wry humor the basics of taste physiology and a review of natural tastants available to the product developer. This presentation segued to address the “cross-modal associations” of other sensory variables (sight, smell, tactile, sound) on taste perceptions. For example: subliminal vanilla, carbonation, round shapes, colors, color contrasts and high-pitched tinkling noises can each enhance sweetness perceptions. Who knew?

(15 minute presentations on clean label-branded ingredients)

Clean-label tomato paste extender

Erik Hassid (Givaudan) promoted a tomato paste-replacement system that provides umami impact without added MSG, as a means of softening cost volatility in tomato-containing products. If cost-volatility management is the coming thing in product development, purchasing agents will be mightily pleased.

Non-GMO, trans-fat free, no preservatives, extended shelf-life fats and oils…

Mary LaGuardia (Dow AgroSciences) promoted high-oleic, low-linolenic acid “Omega-9” oils and shortenings with greatly extended shelf lives (…and “double the fry life” of conventional shortenings) that obviate the use of antioxidants in the oil. The zero trans fat canola and soy-based shortenings and oils are the product of conventional breeding. The company offers a nifty cost-savings calculator for use of this shortening in food service operations at its website: http://www.omega-9oils.com/healthier-frying/

Sulfite-free fruit preservation

Kevin Holland (Tree Top, Inc.) presented dried, color-protected apples slices, mde using Tree Top’s new sulfite-free alternative that both preserves color and reduces sodium. The new preservative system’s label lists sea salt, lemon juice concentrate, and molasses. On a side note: molasses antioxidants have been the focus of considerable research for their nutraceutical properties. Interesting, that.

A 100% egg replacer for bakery

Diane Hoffpauer (Glanbia Nutritionals) discussed Optisol® 3000, a 100% egg replacement system applied to Italian bread formulations. Benefits included reduced ingredient costs, reduced fat, improved taste and texture, improved yield and a clean ingredient label.

Powerful all-natural flavor and salty taste enhancer

Doug Lynch used extensive documentation and live taste testing to prove the power of LycoRed’s SANTÉ all-natural sodium-reduction and flavor enhancement system extracted from tomatoes. Your’s truly tested the ingredient in soy sauce…the ingredient contributed an explosive salt taste in that medium. The ingredient contributes both umami and kokumi notes to foods and beverages.

Purple sweet potato as color and antioxidant source

Tayo Bisiolu (Vegetable Juices, Inc.) presented a purple sweet potato juice for use as a clean-label colorant that is both rich in antioxidants and nutraceutical value. The (red-purple) colorant has a two-year shelf life when stored frozen and is most stable at a pH of 3-4.

FOR A COMPLETE SET OF CLEAN LABEL CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS, VISIT THIS SITE:  http://www.globalfoodforums.com/2013-cleanlabel/downloads/