There seems to be no let up in consumer demand for reduced fat products. However, a number of technical barriers and key challenges remain for many manufacturers wishing too create low fat products that taste just as good as their full fat counterparts, according to Koos Oosterhaven, business manager at NIZO Food Research in the Netherlands.
Speaking with FoodNavgator at the recent Fi Europe show and expo in Frankfurt, Oosterhaven noted that manufacturers wishing to reduce fat levels by more than 30% are likely to run in to problems because after this level the flavour and taste perception of products can begin to be dramatically altered.
"You need to compensate for the missing flavours, you need to compensate for the different taste, and you need to define technologies which could bring the additional flavours and additional tastes that are important in a full fat product and also therefore for a low fat product," he explained - adding that one of the most common technical issues with reducing fat is that any reduction alters flavour release, which can make reduced fat products taste very different to full fat products.
"Once you understand which flavours are being released in time, in the mouth, during oral processing, you can also compensate for that," said Oosterhaven. "We have to understand how fat contributes on food products for the different tastes which occurs."
"It's not a fact of one size fits all."
The NIZO expert commented that manufacturers must understand that once a consumer has experienced a product with full fat they will expect the same from a low fat product,
"If that match is not correct ... you have a problem," he said. "So we have to tune in to individual products and what a new technology can bring or compensate for."
Oosterhaven told us that utilising a combination of encapsulations, emulsion technologies, and even modifying the stability of the lower levels of fat in the product can help to increase perception of flavours and of fat textures.
"So you can also think of making the fat - which is reduced in a product - to make that more unstable," he said. "What you actually do is while oral processing you get a more unstable emulsion or unstable situation which makes the fat which is in there more available for receiving at your taste buds."