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.

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?

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:

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.




Pulse Ingredients in Extruded Snacks and Other Products

Two cooksThis final of four, highly-acclaimed FREE WEBINARS sponsored by the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, through a grant provided by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture will be presented Thursday, November 7th.

In the first three “how to use pulses as food and beverage ingredients” WEBINARS, we reviewed:

  1. Growing consumer concerns about food allergens
  2. The ability of pulse ingredients to substitute for expensive and allergenic ingredients such as wheat gluten, nuts, dairy and eggs
  3. Formula cost benefits of using relatively low-cost pulse ingredients
  4. How to use pulse protein ingredients to boost nutritional value and improve ingredient functionality in foods and beverages
  5. How to apply pulse ingredients to specific food and beverage formulations

Already recognized for their nutritional and culinary value in much of the developing world, pulse (i.e., dry pea, lentil and chickpea) ingredients have been gaining interest among food, beverage manufacturers, nutritional product suppliers and foodservice companies as food ingredients. Among the consumer benefits driving this trend are their:

  • Uniquely rich nutritional profiles (high protein, high dietary fiber and low fat content)
  • Relatively low cost
  • Lack of allergen-labeling requirements
  • Functional versatility as ingredient in a wide variety of products
  • Their role in ethnic foods with popular appeal.
  • Environmental benefits (they are non-GMO and produced using sustainable agricultural practices)

In sum, peas, chickpeas and lentils are developing quite a culinary cachet that conforms well with many consumer expectations regarding nutrition, food and beverage product formulation, food ingredient safety and integrity and social values.

This FINAL 45-minute WEBINAR will focus on the carbohydrate components of pulses and discuss how pulse selection and processing variables can affect the performance of pulses in extruded pastas, snacks and breakfast cereals.

Also to be addressed will be the very low glycemic index (GI) value of pulses as compared to other grain and seed ingredients, its implications for public health and nutrition and how best to protect the low glycemic index value of pulse ingredients in your food formulations.

Finally, the WEBINAR will summarize this WEBINAR series, including a quick review of product formulation guidelines for bakery, beverage, batters & breaded products.

To learn more about this WEBINAR and to register for this event, visit this link: 

(Note: WEBINAR registration is limited to 250 participants)


Pulse Proteins in Value-Added Food and Beverage Product Development



SEPTEMBER 24, 2013


Legume foods represent the perfect protein food in this conflicted era of economic stress, high-value food expectations and environmental responsibility. Here is an opportunity to learn the how and why of incorporating  pulse and pulse ingredients into food product development

This addresses the third in a series of four WEBINARS that address how to use pulses and pulse ingredients in food product development.

Legume foods (soybeans excepted) fall under the category of “pulses”, which include peas and chickpeas and lentils. The distinguishing feature of pulses as foods is that 1) they are high in protein content (20-30%), high in dietary fiber (9-17%) and very low in fat. They are also highly sustainable crops. As legumes, they restore nitrogen to soils and, in most large pulse-producing regions, require only minimum if any applications of agricultural chemicals.

Because pulses are not listed as allergenic foods, they can easily replace other allergenic protein ingredients, such as egg, milk, soy, nutmeats and wheat gluten.  Their well-balanced primary ingredient components (protein, starch and dietary fiber) are also highly functional, contributing thickening, emulsification, shelf-life extension and other properties to foods.  Finally, pulse-based ingredients are low cost.

Today, “protein” is a very hot food commodity, as consumers actively seek to increase their dietary protein consumption. Why?

Pulse proteins are nutritionally beneficial

The U.S. “2012 Food & Health Survey on Consumer Attitudes Toward Food Safety, Nutrition & Health”, conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), found that 56% of consumers actively look for protein content on a food ingredient label and 48% actively try to consume a specific amount of or as much as possible protein in their food choices. The reasons given for protein’s appeal varied:

  • 88% recognize that protein helps to build muscle.
  • 69% recognized that protein “helps people to feel full”
  • 60% recognized that “high-protein diets can help with weight loss.”

On that note, pulse proteins offer  high-nutritional value, as measured by nutritional “Protein Score”: pulses offer all of the essential amino acids and a very significant component of the branched chain amino acids associated with muscle growth and healing.

Unfortunately, 25% of respondents also disclosed that they believed “Foods that contain protein are too expensive to consume as much as I would like.” For young, lower-income or overweight consumers, this number well-exceeded 30%. Well, that may be true for meat, egg and dairy products, but it is not the case for pulse foods and pulse protein ingredients.

Pulses proteins are highly cost-effective.

Pulses and pulse ingredients can be used to very cost-effectively boost the protein value of foods: for example, an analysis of the cost-per-unit protein of pulses found that they generally cost between 1/10th to 1/20th the cost-per-unit of protein in egg and milk ingredients. In addition, they exhibit very low price volatility, which is helps food and beverage-company purchasing agents sleep better at night. This, too, renders them highly desirable in food and beverage formulations.

On Tuesday, September 24, 1:00 – 2:00 PM U.S. Central Standard Time, the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council will host the third in its series of four FREE “Food R&D Trends” WEBINARS that offer practical “how-to” guidance on using pulse ingredients as value-added protein sources in food and beverage formulations. Pulses can play a very important role in cost-effectively satisfying growing consumer interest in the protein and amino acid value of their foods.

The WEBINAR will address the following:

• Pulses as Food Ingredients

• Why the Growing Consumer Interest in Proteins

• The Nutritional and Nutraceutical Value of Pulse Proteins

• How to Use Pulse Ingredients in High-Protein Food and Beverage Applications

• Food and Beverage Formulations

For more details on this FREE WEBINAR and how to register and participate, please follow this link:

Napa Valley (California) Culinary Tour (September 17-18, 2013)

If you can fit it into your schedule, please join the feast. A FREE event open to the food industry: Developed and underwritten by the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council together with the Culinary Institute of America, this two-day educational seminar will take place at the Culinary Institute of America’s premier culinary college at the elegant Greystone in St. Helena, California (a 90-minute drive from San Francisco, Oakland or Sacramento airports). The event will explore and create new food, beverage and nutritional product concepts using pulse and pulse-based ingredients.

Please note: although attendance and lodging is underwritten by the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, you will still need to provide your own transportation.

Editorial comment: I attended a similar horizon-expanding culinary event in Chicago earlier this year, sponsored by the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council in conjunction with Chicago-based Culinary Sales Support, Inc. and I can thus highly recommend attending this Napa Valley event if you can at all fit it into your schedule.

Not only will you gain a hands-on education about a new and exciting growth category and its many, many applications, you will also walk away with many new creative product ideas developed by America’s leading culinary institute. In BEST VANTAGE Inc.’s view, pulses represent a still early-stage product category for the American food and foodservice industries. The stunning rise of hummus as a ($0.5b -plus) retail and foodservice product category in just a decade should alert us all to the future possibilities for this category. The Chicago presentation was replete with ideas for pulse-derived baked goods, salad toppings, sauces, desserts, nutrition bars, soups, meats and beverages. I would expect even more creativity to find expression at this upcoming Culinary Institute of America event in September.

Many of today’s pulse-based product applications draw from recipes originating in South Asia or the Middle East. This is only the first stage. The next stage of development will see the fusion of pulse and pulse-based ingredients into new combinations tailored to American tastes and imaginations. (a wasabi-flavored hummus developed by chefs at the Chicago event offered very interesting retail possibilities, in my view). Be forewarned, however: you may inadvertently waaay overeat. — Daniel Best

To find out more about this event and to register, please follow this link:

August Observations

Here are some quick summary alerts on the following subjects:

  • Food price projections and climate (all good news!)
  • U.S. Food & Drug Agency (FDA) Inspections and GRAS Self-Approvals (uh-oh!)
  • Dietary fiber can aid calcium absorption (who knew?)

Food Price Projections

All good news! Through our friends at Purdue University, we learn that the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture is predicting “bin-busting” harvests of corn and soybeans. From our friends at Food Business News (FBN) magazine (, we are alerted to the fact that the price of sugar has been plummeting, due to record high harvests. These events have unfolded as had been predicted by Drew Lerner of World Weather, Inc. at FBN’s (highly recommended!) “Annual Purchasing Seminar” in June, 2012, which pointed to fading La Niña conditions as signaling the beginning of a gradual end to the extended and extensive drought period of the past three years. Current favorable crop conditions are projected to continue into at least mid-2014. This should have a salutary effect on food prices and ease profit-margin pressures on food companies. Hopefully, this also foretells a burst in new food and beverage product innovation as raw material pressures ease for the foreseeable future.,-soybean-yields.html#!

Is More Food Scrutiny Warranted?

The U.S. Food & Drug Agency (FDA) is notoriously underfunded and understaffed and it can’t  (and shouldn’t) try to be everywhere all the time. However, pressures are mounting in terms of proposed import compliance changes and GRAS self-affirmations.

The FDA presented two proposals in July to expand food safety controls on imported foods. This will require more on-site inspections of facilities that export food to the U.S. The FDA anticipates doing this through 3rd party auditors.  This will be very good news for 3rd party auditors but not so good news for international food and food ingredient exporters that will now have to contend with new layers of compliance requirements under the U.S. Food Safety & Modernization Act (FSMA). The rationale for this decision is good, but it will significantly raise barriers for exporters of high-value foodstuffs to the United States. The U.S. is a net importer of high-value foods and, for some categories (e.g., seafood), is almost entirely reliant on foreign sources. Hopefully, this will not dissuade food importers from bringing new and trend-breaking foods and ingredients to our tables just because a full regulatory-compliance infrastructure is beyond their reach. (e.g., acai, quinoa, chia). Think about how this could impact the Free Trade movement, for example – added compliance requirements will require more intermediaries, not fewer.

Note: we include two such auditing experts in our BEST VANTAGE Inc. family of food industry professionals: Richard Stier and Rebeca Lopez-Garcia (Mexico). You can review their bios here:

A bit more problematic is an article published in the August 7th issue of the Journal of American Medical Association [] that alleges that the “potential” for conflicts of interest is rife in the process whereby the FDA allows “self” approval of new foods and ingredients as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).

Unfortunately, the authors of that paper display little appreciation regarding the realities of GRAS affirmations from the perspective of government resources and capabilities. For GRAS self-affirmations of new ingredients, the government makes the suppliers do their own homework in documenting the safety of new foods and ingredients. Self-affirmed GRAS foodstuffs can be foods commonly consumed in other parts of the world or ingredient fractions refined from existing foodstuffs. The GRAS self-affirmation process has opened doors to an explosion of new food and food ingredient offerings to the benefit of the commonweal. Absent any evidence that this system has failed or is broken, tampering with the self-affirmation process can only serve to constrain and bottleneck one of the last remaining creative and dynamic sectors of our economy. So, absent of any such evidence of failure or danger to the public welfare, we say: don’t tamper with a GRAS self-affirmation process that works!

Prebiotics Aid Calcium Absorption

An endearing quality in the field of nutrition is conventional wisdom endures even as established dogma remains ever elusive. Not long ago, it was assumed that dietary fiber (specially soluble fiber) consumption interfered with essential mineral absorption.

Via the California Dairy Research Foundation (, we learn of a Purdue University study that concluded that the consumption of 5 grams per day of prebiotic galactooligosaccharides significantly increased calcium absorption from milk in teenage girls. Obviously, if confirmed, this opens up tremendous new dairy product development opportunities to the public good.

Never, never take anything for granted in the fast-evolving field of nutrition!



Pulse Ingredients as Egg and Dairy Ingredient Alternatives

RandDTrends3smallEgg and dairy ingredients contribute critical nutritional and functional benefits, including adhesion,
gelling, aeration, binding
and emulsification, to a broad spectrum of
products. However, they
do come with some negatives that warrant consideration:

  1. Their use in American food products requires allergen-warning statements to be posted prominently on the front panels of food package labels.
  2. They are also expensive and subject to considerable price volatility.

In this increasingly cost-sensitive food industry environment, the relatively new pulse-ingredients category offers cost-effective alternatives to egg and dairy ingredients, either as partial replacers or 100% substitutes in formulations.

“Pulses” refers to high-protein legume foods, such as peas, chickpeas and lentils. As food ingredients, they offer superior nutrition, functionality, non-GMO appellation, clean-label designation and sustainability appeal. Generally, pulses contain 20-30% protein and are high soluble and insoluble dietary fibers, from which much of the ingredient functionalities (e.g., emulsification, water management) of pulses derive.

On Thursday, August 22, 1:00 – 2:00 PM U.S. Central Standard Time (CST), the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council and BEST VANTAGE Inc. will host the second of four FREE “Food R&D Trends” Webinars that offers practical “how-to” guidance on using pulse ingredients as alternatives to egg and dairy ingredients in food formulations.

Topics to be addressed in this webinar include:

  • Pulses as food ingredients
  • The role of egg and dairy ingredients in food product development
  • The advantages of pulses: formulation; cost savings; labeling and nutrition.
  • How to use pulse ingredients egg and dairy alternatives in food formulation

To Register:
Registration for this FREE Webinar is limited to 250 participants, so please use the following link for more details and to reserve your place:

This Webinar has been made possible through a grant from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.