While many consumers think of nutritional additives as the definition of functional ingredients, bakers in particular know them in a very different way. Fats, oils, fibers, starches, proteins and vitamins are one side of the coin, but the other is more technically focused when it comes to bakery prep.

“The baker’s definition of ‘functional ingredients,’ which are also sometimes termed ‘functional additives,’ are comprised of emulsifiers, dough conditioners, crumb softeners, enzymes, antimicrobials and antioxidants (the ones that retard rancidity in shortenings and oils, not the PACs and similar compounds that confer an implied health benefit).” says Laurie Gorton, executive editor at Baking & Snack magazine. “They are added at very low percentages and are present to adjust performance or shelf life. Many of these have so-called ‘I can’t pronounce it’ chemical names.”

It’s not only on a chemical and biological level that these kinds of functional ingredients change things, however.

“These functional ingredients can be used to improve characteristics of a finished good such as its texture, mouthfeel, structure, or shelf life,” says Julie Pizzey Faber, marketing and compliance manager for Pizzey Ingredients, which produces these types of functional ingredients. “Typically, they do not add taste or nutritional attributes to a product.”

And as for being unpronounceable, Faber agrees that there is a stigma against that quality, but most of that is simply due to either a lack of or misinformation.

“There is certainly a lot of consumer pushback on the use of unpronounceable or unrecognizable ingredients,” Faber says. “A lot of this stems from a lack of education, and consumer mistrust of the food business. Thankfully, there are a few ways for a company to address this issue. One of these is to reformulate a product using cleaner or more recognizable ingredients, while maintaining the characteristics of a product that includes a traditional functional ingredient.”

As an example, Faber noted that Pizzey’s BlendPur flax can replace guar gum in tortillas, which is typically used to improve texture, moisture, and shelf life during storage.

“However, there are some drawbacks to using guar gum, including price volatility,” she says, “In addition, some consumers cannot digest guar gum, and others simply do not consider it to be a ‘clean’ ingredient because they aren’t used to it. In our work, we have found that BlendPur Flax can be used as a 100 percent replacement for guar gum in a tortilla formulation, creating tortillas that are soft, pliable, and easy to roll and stretch. Tortillas including BlendPur have a longer shelf life than tortillas without a hydrocolloid added, and the manufacturer has the benefit of a healthful, clean label ingredient that is less expensive than guar gum.”