Industry is missing a trick by failing to capitalise on technological solutions for reducing the levels of ‘unhealthy’ ingredients such as salt, fat, and sugars in food products, to help produce natural and healthy foods, says Dr Wayne Morley, who is head of food innovation at Leatherhead Food Research
Speaking with this publication at the recent Nutraformulate conference and expo in the UK, Morley said that using technological solutions like those employed for the reduction of salt and sugar could, and should, be used in the formulation products containing delicate natural or functional ingredients.
“It’s my belief that natural ingredients, and other delicate ingredients can also be subjected to the same kinds of technology to make sure the ingredient that you are using are fully active and functionally available,” said Morley.
“For example, if you used the same technology as for salt reduction, but with a flavour, then you could use a lower level of the flavour,” he said.
“I think the food industry has spent a lot of time and effort on reducing salt fat and sugar, because they are undesirable and consumers are demanding healthier foods,” noted Morley.
He explained that whilst some approaches involve the use of ‘like-for-like’ replacement ingredients, many have simply tried to use less of the ingredient, but to make what is in the food more readily available.
By making the ingredient more available in the food, the amount of it you do have is able to ‘do more work’, said the Leatherhead expert.
“A good example of this is for salt or for sugar. We know that if you making a dry product and you make the salt of sugar crystals smaller then you get an enhanced perception in the mouth,"
“Therefore you can use lower levels of those ingredients but still get the same sensory performance,” he explained.
Morley said that many products using this sort of technical solution to increase the efficiency of ingredients – and therefore reduce the need for them in large quantities – have the same sensory qualities as their fuller fat, sugar, or salt counterparts.
The Leatherhead innovation expert said that companies looking to incorporate functional ingredients into products, or those looking to move towards cleaner label natural products could benefit from applying these approaches to the delicate ingredients they are using.
“You could perhaps use a natural flavouring that was more expensive, but use it at a lower level to maintain the same costs and still get a full flavour delivery, if you used the same principles for the flavours as you do for salt or sugar reduction,” he explained.
He added that the use of double emulsions could also benefit industry looking to use functional or natural ingredients: “Double emulsions in particular are a good example of a technology that you can use because you have two separate water phases, plus an oil phase, that you can play with – which just gives you more potential to produce the product to your advantage in terms of manipulating the ingredients.”
“The double emulsions technology has been around for a long time, and there have been a lot of attempts made to use them for salt or fat reductions, but the technology could be of great benefit to other areas like natural colours or for encapsulating bioactives,” said Morley.