From fungus to CBD and adaptogens: SoRSE Technology on integrating functional ingredients into packaged food

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Demand for functional ingredients in everyday foods is on the up / Pic: GettyImages-kerdkanno
Demand for functional ingredients in everyday foods is on the up / Pic: GettyImages-kerdkanno

Related tags adaptogens Cbd Functional food functional beverage

Consumer demand for functional products is rising. SōRSE Technology’s Director of Research and Analytics, Donna Wamsley, speaks to FoodNavigator about the ingredients that are poised to benefit.

Working alongside packaged food and beverage brands, SōRSE Technology believes it can make ‘better tasting, more effective products’ leveraging its water-soluble emulsion technology. The company has developed a proprietary water-soluble emulsification process for ‘any’ oil-based ingredient that, it says, can integrate functional ingredients into commercially available consumer packaged goods.

Research director Donna Wamsley explained this is an important characteristic for food and beverage manufacturers working in the functional space.

“An oil-based functional ingredient like CBD can be difficult to work when infusing it into a food or beverage product because oil doesn’t play well with water; it doesn’t always evenly disperse. Creating a shelf-stable and homogenous water-soluble emulsion makes CBD easier to work with for the product developer and makes ingesting the finished product a more enjoyable experience for the consumer.

“The most important goals when converting CBD [for instance] into an emulsion are homogeneity, stability, and accurate dosing. At SōRSE, we are always fine-tuning our processing specifications for consistency so that our product has the same dosage every time and is shelf-stable for at least 12 months. Not all CBD emulsions are created equal, so carefully evaluating suppliers and emulsion technologies is imperative to the product development process. Food innovators using CBD have taken creative approaches to their flavour profiles, and the result is diversity in choice for the consumer.”

It is easy to see how this technology is relevant as food and beverage makers look to incorporate more functional ingredients in their formulations.

Consumer expectations of a functional flourish

Consumer demand for everyday food and beverage products that also deliver a health boost is rising.

Amid the global coronavirus crisis, research from ReportLinker put the global market for health and wellness foods at US$764bnn, with a projected compound annual growth rate of 4.8% between 2020-2027.

Wamsley believes that, alongside health, simplicity is one key reason why we are seeing ingredients traditionally associated with the nutraceutical sector migrate into mainstream food categories.

“The trend of delivering nutra ingredients through everyday foods is picking up steam because consumer demand for these types of products is on the rise. Today, most consumers want to minimize the number of products in their daily health routine yet still get the nutritional value of all the vitamins, minerals, supplements, and other functional ingredients. The best way to achieve this is to pair functional ingredients in food or beverage products. Currently we are seeing products featuring adaptogens, probiotics, prebiotics, and collagen.”

While the global COVID-19 pandemic may have accelerated this trend, Wamsley noted that consumer understanding of the role diet plays in a healthy lifestyle has been on an upward trajectory for some time.

“For the past few years, consumers have been focused on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes getting regular exercise, practicing mindfulness and meditation, and paying attention to their emotional wellbeing. This became all the more relevant last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic started. Since last March, consumers have taken the time to educate themselves on ingredients that boost immunity and provide other health benefits, and with that, functional food and beverage items are more sought after. While consumers want food and beverages to taste delicious, if they are functional as well, consumers will feel more satisfied.”

Ingredient forecast: From ferments to fungus 

What ingredients does Wamsley believe particularly resonate with today’s consumers?

“Flavour-wise, adaptogens and botanical flavours like hibiscus are on the rise. The factor driving this is increased consumer focus on their health and wellness.

“Fermented foods like drinking vinegar, kimchi, and kombucha are also gaining in popularity. Another trend we are seeing is products with Ginger, Ashwagandha, and Ginseng, which are earthy and provide a little heat. To deliver impactful flavour innovation in a product on a shelf, product developers have to be mindful of how flavours complement – not conflict with -- one another,”​ she advises.

Wamsley also expects fungus and mushrooms to gain traction. She said that while this is a familiar product it also benefits from associations with traditional Asian medicinal use and its ‘earthy’ flavour delivery.

“Most consumers are familiar with mushrooms as an ingredient in savoury dishes like soup, pasta sauces, or gravy. Mushrooms are considered a staple in many people’s diets because they lend earthy flavours to dishes as well as deliver important nutrients such as Vitamin D, Vitamin B6, and Selenium.

“Certain varieties of mushrooms like Reishi, Shitake, Maitake, Chaga, and Lion’s Mane are believed to have medicinal qualities; in Japan and China, dried mushrooms and mushroom extracts have been used for centuries to boost the immune system, lessen stress, improve sleep, and treat infection. Today, mushrooms can be found in a variety of formats, including vegetarian ‘burger’ patties, jerky, chips, seasoning, infused beverages including creamers and tea, and protein powders.”

With plant-based and botanical flavours on the rise, Wamsley said one factor that companies need to take into account in their formulations is flavour consistency.

“An important factor for food makers to consider when working on flavours sourced from agricultural ingredients is the slight variation in quality from year-to-year and region-to-region; this is to be expected, as the growing conditions are never the same.

“To provide consistency, flavours can be modified to complement the agricultural ingredient so that it is similar from production lot to production lot and year-to-year. If you look at mint as an example, it is possible to create essential oil blends so that it is standardised from each year’s harvest. In that way, a consumer product can maintain a predictable and consistent flavour.”

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