The new consumer research data explores perceptions of food hydrocolloids, finding that such ingredients have strong potential to add value to food and drink products by informing consumers on the natural origins of such ingredients.
Writing in Food Hydrocolloids Dr Susana Fiszman from the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology, Spain, and her colleagues noted that with marketing requests for ‘clean label’ formulations steadily increasing, it will become important for consumers to be given more detailed information on the sources, processing and uses of hydrocolloids in products.
“With the increasing competitiveness of the world food market, consumer demand has become more fragmented, heterogeneous and dynamic,” said the authors. “As a result, many food industry sectors compete not only on efficiency and quality control but also by increasing the value added to their products.”
“Now is the time for manufacturers to make a move to inform consumers about the natural sources of the hydrocolloids they use and explain how they are obtained and why they are necessary: these, among others, are points that add up in favour of their use without eliciting negative perceptions.”
Fiszman and her colleagues suggested that adding value to products is a consumer-oriented concept: “Consumers need to know about it, knowledge will make them feel closer to the product and the perception of low risk will allow them to make a responsible choice.”
They added that hydrocolloids also have ‘good prospects’ in terms of potential marketing to consumers due to their natural origin in familiar sources – “which are ‘cleaner’ in the consumers' eyes.”
“Hydrocolloids are used in food products to thicken, gel and/or stabilise; but it would be very useful to remind or tell consumers that hydrocolloids help during manufacturing processes," the authors suggested - noting that the use of hydrocolloids during manufacture helps to improve textures and often gives a better product behaviour during packing.
Fiszman and her team also noted that hydrocolloids help to increase shelf life by preventing crystallisation and syneresis, improving freeze/thaw stability, and also preserve product properties during heating or microwaving.
By building this information in to messages that remind consumers of the natural origin of hydrocolloids, the research team suggests that the food industry can create increased value for thier products.
In the new study, the authors surveyed a total of 140 consumers aged between 22 and 60 years of age – revealing a strong association between the idea of ‘industrially processed’ foods and additives/thickeners.
Whilst the study suggested that hydrocolloid thickeners, as a result, are often associated with ‘processed foods’, the researchers also reveal that consumer perception of risks associated with thickeners is low.
They added that future communication on additives in food could also be targeted at shifting consumer attitudes away from the perception that ‘synthetic equals dangerous’.
“If consumers who have strongly negative attitudes towards chemicals no longer equated synthetic with toxic and natural with safe, consumers would be able to judge food hazards more appropriately,” said Fiszman.
“The good news is that, in general, all these points are easily within reach for food hydrocolloids.”
Source: Food Hydrocolloids
Volume 30, Issue 1, Pages 477–484, doi: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2012.07.001
“Exploring consumers' knowledge and perceptions of hydrocolloids used as food additives and ingredients”
Authors: P. Varela, S.M. Fiszman