Ulrick and Short plans Q1 sweet potato starch production

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Starch, Adrian short

Clean label functional starch supplier Ulrick and Short expects to harvest and produce its first ingredients from sweet potato in early 2011; and is investigating new nutritional combo offerings.

The company has contracted sweet potato growers in South America. It started investigating the possibility of deriving starch from sweet potatoes about 18 months ago as it identified a need for a starch ingredient source that is non-GM and not at risk of GM contamination.

Joint managing director Adrian Short told FoodNavigator.com that the majority of functional starches for food are from waxy maize, production of which in Europe is non-GM.

However when European-grown material is short, suppliers may be loathe to seek top up stocks from South America due to the risk of GM contamination in transport. The effect is increasing prices.

Short believes the innovation is the first time company to make functional sweet potato starch for use in foods, and there are currently no indications that sweet potato will be grown in South America. He said Ulrick and Short expects the new starches to be “cost-competitive”​ with waxy maize starch, and the superior stability over waxy maize means there will be cost in use benefits.

The company originally planned to launch the new starch in 2010, but had to delay it due to some teething troubles with the crop. It has carried out pilot trials, however, and selected customers have been able to trial its use.

The company found that sweet potato starch can give similar or even better results than waxy maize in sauces and soup, proving pouring quality, thickness and body. The processing it uses retains its native (natural) declaration, and it works well in acidic formulations and products that must endure temperature extremes through freezing or microwaving.

Nutritional starches

Another new development on the horizon for 2011 is a line of nutritional ingredients from Ulrick and Short.

Short said there is currently debate about how much benefit from ingredients such as omega-3 oil is transferred to humans due to the rigours of processing, so the company is investigating ways to boost stability using its store of clean label ingredients.

One solution could be to use starch to encapsulate nutritional ingredients such as flax oil. This would yield a combo ingredient that would bring technical benefits to the formulation and nutritional benefits for the consumer.

The use of clean label materials for encapsulation is attractive because it fits with the priorities of consumers who seek out added nutrition.

“A lot of protective agents are not clean label,”​ said Short. “Consumers who buy a product because it is rich in omega-3 or added fibre may be less likely to purchase it of the ingredients list is as long as your arm.”

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