To meet consumer demand for more recognizable ingredients, food companies may find it’s possible to remove ingredients like TBHQ and EDTA, replace them with rosemary extracts and green tea extracts, and still maintain shelf life in the finished food product. Tocopherols and spearmint extracts are other options.
Selecting the most effective ingredients for shelf life will depend on the specific food item.
|Chandra Ankolekar, Ph.D., technical services manager for Kemin|
“With each application, the efficacy of the antioxidant is kind of unique,” said Chandra Ankolekar, Ph.D., technical services manager for Kemin Industries, Inc. “So, for example, in a fry application the tocopherols are essential for performance. Now, you can always combine them with some other plant extract. In storage oils, tocopherols are not as effective, and oil-soluble green tea extract is the best in terms of performance. So it really depends on what application you’re looking at, the intrinsic and extrinsic factors of that particular food matrix.”
Dr. Ankolekar spoke Nov. 15 in a webinar titled “Cleaner Approach to Extending Shelf Life” that was presented by Kemin and hosted by Baking & Snack of Sosland Publishing Company, Kansas City.
Bulk ingredients such as seeds, cereal grains, flour, nuts and oils should be protected up front in the supply chain to get the maximum shelf life from the finished food product, he said.
“Oil is the No. 1 ingredient that needs protection,” Dr. Ankolekar said.
Kemin tested several plant extracts as replacements for TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone) in canola oil and found that the company’s GT-Fort brand oil-soluble green tea extract worked best. In a nine-grain blend, the green tea extract performed even better than TBHQ.
Nuts and seeds often are found in nutrition bars. Because of their levels of polyunsaturated fats, nuts and seeds may oxidize quickly and decrease shelf life. Kemin tests on walnuts found rosemary extracts outperformed oil-soluble green tea extracts and other clean label extracts in replacing BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) in walnuts.
Low-moisture foods such as breakfast cereal, crackers, cookies and bars have complex microstructures and high surface areas, and they are prone to rancidity. Kemin tests on whole grain crackers found its GT-Fort green tea extracts were able to maintain shelf life when they replaced TBHQ.
In emulsion tests, spearmint extracts worked best in replacing EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) in salad dressings. Light-induced photo oxidation may occur in salad dressings packaged in transparent bottles.
“In our experiment, spearmint extracts work really well for light-induced photo oxidation and provide a much bigger improvement versus a rosemary and green tea combination,” Dr. Ankolekar said.
In fried foods, TBHQ has been shown to protect the oil in storage until the oil enters the fryer. Kemin has found a blend of tocopherols, rosemary extract and oil-soluble green tea extract works as a TBHQ replacement in oils, he said.
Synthetic ingredients such as TBHQ are cost-effective and work as shelf life extenders, but consumers increasingly want ingredients they recognize, said Courtney Schwartz, marketing communications manager for Kemin.
|Courtney Schwartz, marketing communications manager for Kemin|
“Those scary-sounding chemical terms such as TBHQ and EDTA and mono- and diglycerides really pop out to consumers as something they specifically don’t understand,” she said. “TBHQ does a nice job helping to extend shelf life, but from a consumer perspective, they just really don’t understand and don’t prefer the chemical-sounding nature or understand the benefits that (TBHQ) could provide to the shelf life of the product."
Kemin, which has a U.S. office in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2016 had The Harris Poll contact 1,006 people on-line who were age 18 and older and the primary grocery shoppers within their households. While 51% said price was the most important factor when choosing a product, 25% said the ingredient label was the most important and 31% said they always read the ingredient label.
More recognizable names like green tea extract and rosemary extract might appeal more to them. Ms. Schwartz said in some instances replacing synthetic ingredients might work best with a blend of plant extracts.
“Therefore, if you’re using a rosemary extract and a green tea extract, those two words combined could actually lengthen your overall ingredient deck,” she said.
Kemin analyzed whether the longer ingredient list might be perceived by consumers more negatively than synthetic ingredients.
“What we found is that really consumers are driven by the actual name of the ingredient in that deck rather than the length of the ingredient statement,” she said.
Turning to plant extracts as tools to extend shelf life might increase costs.“As one could imagine, plant-based alternatives definitely do cost more than the synthetic options,” Ms. Schwartz said. “It’s very difficult to answer specific cost-in-use questions as the matrix and applications rates vary so much from one matrix to the next.”