11 Dec 2014
Taste Matters: Innovations in Free-from Product Formulations seminar was the theme of the second session of the day, and began with Joe Callery, Celtic Chocolates’ Founder and Managing Director, speaking on Advances in Taste and Texture for Dairy- and Lactose-free Products.
Celtic Chocolates is the leading supplier to the UK market of ‘free from’ choc products – ‘choc’ being a term for cocoa-based chocolate alternative, as not all their products conform to the EU directive definition of chocolate.
They are not only dairy and lactose free – but nut, gluten and egg free too. As well as their own Choices range, Celtic Chocolates supply four major supermarkets with own brand dairy-free chocolate.
The story began in 2006 with Belgium-based Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of cocoa and chocolate ingredients and products, who had developed several variants of alternative chocolate product based on differing proportions of rice milk and the carbohydrate inulin, as well as the usual cocoa ingredients.
Callery was interested in it, and after some negotiation was eventually able to present one made-up variant to potential clients – that is, supermarkets. The goal was to at least match but preferably score higher than the current dairy free option which both Sainsbury’s and Tesco had in store – which happened to be the only product without a ‘contains milk’ or ‘may contain milk’ warning on their shelves, but in which neither supermarket had great confidence from a taste perspective. Promisingly, both considered the product superior.
However, when pitted against the existing dairy-free chocolate products in store, the proposed products received a mixed reception from the first consumer panel to which they were presented – one product performing well, but two others poorly. Feedback was taken on board and incorporated into reformulations, which were re-presented to larger consumer panels. Issues surrounding over-flavouring and texture were raised. The products were tweaked again, until a high level of acceptance among panels was achieved, and the journey to launching the products began.
“Consumer panels are vital in stopping you launching products which aren’t going to be successful or which may damage the brand,” summarised Callery. “If you get it right, there are big competitive advantages.”
Arla Foods Ingredients Inge Lise Povlsen tackled the fascinating subject of Overcoming Texture and Sensory Challenges When Developing Egg-Free in Bakery.
Catering for those with allergy, Povlsen stressed, is not the only reason to bake without egg – there are benefits in lowering cholesterol content of foods, in meeting cultural or religious sensibilities, in improving food safety, and in reducing costs, for example.
But there are practical consequences. Egg is a “backbone”: it strengthens, emulsifies, has a stabilising effect when air is incorporated into baked products (especially in sponge cakes), and has a high moisture content – which impacts mouthfeel, texture and sensory perception of the finished product.
Functional milk proteins (FMPs) offer a good alternative. Modifying certain whey proteins produces FMPs with unique functionalities, which have the added benefit of a healthy amino-acid profile too. The characteristics of the tailored FMPs allows egg-free baking with improved stabilisation, structure and moisture, as well as volume and mouthfeel.
What the FMPs can’t do is replace the flavour and colour imparted by the egg. To compensate, vanilla and chocolate can be used for the former, and betacarotene for the latter.
What Products do People with Coeliac Disease Want? This was the question posed by Kathryn Miller, head of Food Policy at charity Coeliac UK.
The food potentially available to coeliacs could be split into three categories, summarised Miller:
1. Substitute gluten-free foods
2. Naturally gluten-free foods
3. Mainstream products – which or may not be gluten free.
Health issues are a concern. Gluten-free bread is often fattier, and not always fortified with calcium – which coeliacs generally have a greater requirement for – or other nutrients. Research into the nutritional adequacy of the gluten-free diet has found that coeliacs have a lower intake of iron, calcium and B vitamins. In common with the rest of the population, fibre intake is low, and Miller emphasised that whole grain rice, buckwheat and gluten-free oats are important, along with fruit and vegetables.
Sadly, many coeliacs stray from the diet: the reasons include higher cost, poor access / availability, and poor taste and texture. In trying to tackle this, and provide coeliacs with what they want and need, Coeliac UK have devised a Gluten Free Guarantee basket of eight essential items and asked supermarkets to pledge to stock these in all of their stores. Asda are the first to commit, with M&S, Tesco and Waitrose agreeing to a variation – with a longer-term aim to meet the goal.
Coeliacs need more foods to be labelled gluten-free, cheaper gluten-free foods and more options when eating out, said Miller.
Using Best Practice in Allergen Sampling and Testing to Support Free-From Claims is a vital aspect of safety control in food manufacturing for brands who choose to make such claims, and the talk by RSSL’s Barbara Hirst offered an illuminating insight into what is involved.
The primary mistake in food manufacturing is not necessarily contamination. Putting a product in the wrong packaging or, in the catering industry, serving a diner the wrong meal, is worse. While the potential for human error can never be eradicated, staff must be trained in best practice. Basics must be in place first.
Taking the right kind of sample for testing is key. Potential milk contamination in a fruit smoothie is going to disperse evenly and a small sample will suffice, while potential nut contamination in a muffin is trickier to find, and will need a large sample.
What to test? Ingredients, the finished product, the production line, or rinse water? And which laboratory test to use? These questions need thought. ELISA is the most popular test, but isn’t available for all 14 allergens, so you may need to use DNA-detecting tests too. New mass spectrometry tests are highly accurate, but still prohibitively expensive.
There are some ‘DIY’ test kits available. “Some are good, some are not,” advised Hirst. They are not suitable for finished products, only environmental swabs and rinse waters.
She added: “We work with a gluten-free manufacturer who had been using these test kits for three years without a positive result. As a one-off, they sent a product sample to the lab for ELISA testing – and it was a long way from being gluten-free. Be warned. You must validate your tests.”