Developing or reformulating products that are healthier is an on-going challenge, with a constant stream of ‘eat this’, ‘don’t eat that’ ‘eat more of..’, ‘eat less of…’ messages. In our heart of hearts, as product developers, we know that the key message and solution to the ‘obesity epidemic’ is; consumers should simply eat less and exercise more. Good nutrition, for the most part, is ‘calories in vs calories out’ and that consumption of anything in moderation is sensible.
The current global health issue – manifesting itself in the form of obesity, cardiological issues and diabetes isn’t purely a ‘1st world’ issue either. It is having a substantial impact on the so-called ‘developing nations’, those economic sleeping giants; the ‘BRICs’ and ‘MINT’ nations. Turkey, and others like it along the old Silk Road, are consuming vast amounts more salt than the 2g sodium / day recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). In fact around 90% of countries consume 50% more than this(1). Likewise in Mexico; 2013 saw the introduction of a ‘tax’ on sugar sweetened soft drinks, as Mexico had attained the dubious accolade of the ‘Worlds Fattest Nation’(2).
We also live in a commercial, media driven and increasingly small world. The impact of this is seen by ‘over consumption’ on a group of nations that are economically considered emerging.
This presents many opportunities for ingredient developers; to develop the holy grail of products that have lower calorie density, deliver the same functionality and hit the right sensory buttons. We are starting to see the evolution of scientific and technical developments that will achieve this. The ‘Soda Lo’ salt product from Tate and Lyle is a perfect example of how even basic ingredients can be manipulated. In this case to achieve a sodium chloride based salt reducer. The hollow crystalline structure is effective since we only ever taste around 20% of the salt we consume. Whilst the science and technology to get there is clever, the sensory mechanism is simply a function of the surface area on the palate. Understating the interaction of the ingredient in the mouth is key to engineering ingredients in such a way that they tick all the health and nutrition boxes.
It is also important to consider how the matrix of the food itself might affect the delivery of the ingredient. This is an area being explored by the University of Illinois(3) whose research has considered the porosity and structure of products and the impact of processing on the final perception and delivery an ingredient. These are areas that have largely not been considered by the core food and drink manufacturing industry.
This does however sound like a lot of food scientist at their worst; tinkering, manipulating and messing around with food which should be pure and natural. This is another of the food technology paradoxes; the consumer wants choice and wants to indulge in food, and not have an impact on long term health; solutions that can be provided by food science. They also reject the ‘Frankenstein’ foods.
However, the world is changing and this should be considered an opportunity for product developers and researchers. The so called Millennials are making different choices, they have broader tastes, are more open to trying new things, and are not constrained by traditional purchasing habits. This allows the introduction of new products, new ingredients, new tastes and textures and new experiences that could also go some way to helping solve nutrition related health issues through influencing the adoption of next generation smarter and healthier ingredients.
The essential step in achieving this is to get the reformulation process right, consider the role of the ingredients and consider their true importance.
Steve Osborn is Principal Consultant at The Aurora Ceres Partnership Ltd which was established to help the food and beverage industry create value and excellence through informed innovation management and the dedicated team at The Aurora Ceres Partnership Ltd work closely with partners and clients from inception and throughout the evolution cycle, bringing expertise and insight through knowledge transfer and collaboration. Steve will be contributing to the Food Matters Live 2015 seminar programme.
1.Powles, J. et al. (2013) Global, regional and national sodium intakes in 1990 and 2010: a systematic analysis of 24 h urinary sodium excretion and dietary surveys worldwide. BMJ Open 3:e003733 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003733
2.United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation June 2013
3.Michail, N., Changing Food Porosity could cut Salt and Fat. http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science/Changing-food-porosity-could-cut-salt-and-fat first accessed 14/04/15
22nd April 2015