Counting (down) calories

by Jeff Gelski
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Grain-based foods companies have found success in increasing the number of snack products they offer. In those same products, they may seek to decrease the number of calories. Ingredient suppliers may assist, especially when it comes to reducing calories from fats and sugars.

According to a Technomic survey, 48% of consumers said they snack at least twice a day. The “Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report” examined snack preferences, attitudes and purchasing behavior of more than 1,500 consumers.

“Recent consumer research in-dicates that snacking is becoming a larger part of consumers’ daily lives,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice-president of Technomic. “Pressure from the nutritional disclosure legislation has prompted the food service industry to reduce calorie counts in meals. As a result, Americans are now more inclined to graze throughout the day, seeking snacks that provide fuel between traditional meal parts.”

Two companies known for cereal have taken advantage of the snacking trend.

Special K Cracker Chips from The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., ranked No. 7 on the 2011 New Product Pacesetters list from the Chicago-based SymphonyIRI Group. The product had first-year U.S. sales of $50.6 million, according to SymphonyIRI. The product’s success had some influence on Kellogg further expanding in the snack category with its announcement to acquire the Pringles snack business from Procter & Gamble.

“I think also we have an increased focus on our international snacks business today than what we had a year plus ago,” John Bryant, president and chief executive officer of The Kellogg Co., said when the Pringles’ deal was announced Feb. 15. “I think the success of brands like Special K Cracker Chips as well has given us even more interest in this particular area.”

Minneapolis-based General Mills, Inc. also has increased its presence in the snack category. In the third quarter ended Feb. 26, net sales for the company’s Snacks division grew 7%, which reflected strong growth by Nature Valley and Fiber One snack bars.

General Mills’ snack sales in convenience stores have increased at a 13% rate over the past four years, said John Machuzick, senior vice-president of Bakeries & Foodservice, in a March 21 earnings conference call.
“We’ve been growing distribution on existing snack lines like Chex Mix, and we’ve developed unique items for these outlets such as our line of Betty Crocker dessert snack bars and Wheaties Fuel bars,” he said. “We’re working on more new snack items to continue to leverage this growing food outlet.”

As the number of snack products has gone up, so has the number of calories Americans consume from snacks. According to a “What We Eat in America” dietary survey from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, snacks provide about one-third of all daily calories from solid fats and added sugars. The U.S.D.A. called those calories “empty calories” in the survey that included 5,000 adults age 20 and older.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 speaks about over-consumption of calories and its effects on obesity. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer are among the conditions most often associated with obesity, the guidelines said.

“To curb the obesity epidemic and improve their health, Americans need to make significant efforts to decrease the total number of calories they consume from foods and beverages and increase calorie expenditure through physical activity,” the guidelines said. “Achieving these goals will require Americans to select a healthy eating pattern that includes nutrient-dense foods and beverages they enjoy, meets nutrient requirements and stays within calorie needs.”

Consumers already are seeking low-calorie options. According to the Calorie Control Council, an international non-profit association representing the low-calorie food and beverage industry, 82% of American adults consume low-calorie and sugar-free foods and beverages.

Fruit fiber for fat reduction

An option in reducing calories in products may come from certain plant fibers because they may mimic fat, according to Fiberstar, Inc., River Falls, Wis. The plant fibers are incorporated into foods with additional water to partially replace a portion of formula oil or fat. The fat mimetic binds with extra water to provide volume while mimicking the texture, mouthfeel and flavor delivery of oil or fat. The fat mimetics may be derived from a variety of sources, including oat, wheat or corn.

Fiberstar offers Citri-Fi, which is made from orange pulp. It includes soluble fibers, insoluble fibers, proteins and sugars.

Fiberstar uses a patented mechanical process to open the fiber structure and create porous fiber matrix. Citri-Fi may employ multiple binding mechanisms, the lipophilic binding of protein to fat and the hydrogen bonding of the soluble fiber and insoluble fiber to water. Citri-Fi thus binds and retains water and oil through cooking, baking, freezing and storage.

Citri-Fi may replace 20% to 50% of formula oil or fat.

Penford Food Ingredients, Cen-tennial, Colo., last year introduced PenFibe RS, a food grade modified resistant potato starch. It may be used to increase total dietary fiber of food and reduce caloric content, said Bryan Scherer, director of research and development.

“It is non-allergenic, bland in flavor and neutral in texture,” he said. “It also contributes almost no viscosity to food systems and has a very low water-holding capacity. As a result, there is no noticeable off flavors or gritty, sandy texture often seen with many other insoluble fiber sources. It has excellent recovery through a variety of manufacturing processes and is well-suited for baked, fried and extruded products and snacks.”

PenFibe RS analyzes at least 85% total dietary fiber on starch dry solids basis (dsb). The ingredient is about 0.7 calories per gram, which compares to 4 calories per gram for protein and starch and 9 calories per gram for fats. PenFibe RS may be used to replace up to 20% of flour or grains in most applications with little or no other adjustment of the formula, Mr. Scherer said. Higher usage levels may require a slight adjustment of water content in the product.

Penford Food Ingredients also offers PenTech NG, a starch-based replacement for fresh/liquid whole eggs and dried eggs. When used as a replacement for fresh or liquid whole eggs, 5 grams of PenTech NG with 45 grams of water may replace either one whole fresh egg or 50 grams of liquid whole eggs in most baking and snack applications, resulting in a caloric reduction. This may take the calorie count down from 70 calories in whole or liquid eggs to only 15 calories using PenTech NG, Mr. Scherer said. PenTech NG has 3.2 calories per gram compared with 5.9 calories per gram of whole egg powder, he added.
Beneo’s rice starches and/or rice flour along with the company’s inulin may replace fat in puff pastry, muffins and crackers.

“The rice-based ingredients deliver structure, mouth-feel and texture, which can be further enhanced by incorporating inulin to provide an improved fat-like mouthfeel,” said Joseph O’Neill, executive vice-president of sales and marketing for Beneo Inc.

Tests at the Beneo-Technology Center have achieved a fat reduction of 31% in puff pastry when rice starch, inulin and emulsifiers are combined, he said. The Beneo-Technology Center may assist clients by providing technological assistance, starting recipes and food processing guidance.

Corn Products International, Inc./National Starch Food Innovation offers ways to reduce both fat and sugar in products. Corn Products International, Westchester, Ill., acquired National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, N.J., in 2010. Corn Products International plans to change its name to Ingredion, pending shareholder approval in May.

“Corn Products/National Starch offers functional flours, modified starches and maltodextrins such as Ultra-Crisp CS that allow manufacturers of grain-based snacks to reduce a number of ingredients, including fat,” said Patrick O’Brien, marketing manager, bakery. “Utilizing our Dial-in Texture expertise and our capabilities in the areas of applications, sensory and culinology, Corn Products can help manufacturers reduce fat without making sacrifices to the taste, texture and product quality.”

The company’s portfolio of sweeteners may assist in sugar reduction.

“Within bakery and snacks, Enliten Reb A stevia sweetener works synergistically with sugar-free bulk sweeteners such as Maltisweet maltitol syrups, Erysta erythritol and other polyol combinations,” Mr. O’Brien said.

Less sugar, still sweet

Fiber sources may assist in sugar replacement, too.

Frutalose SF75, a sweet chicory root fiber ingredient from Sensus America, L.L.C., Lawrenceville, N.J., is 75% fiber and 65% as sweet as sugar. It may serve as a 1:1 replacement for some sugary syrups, said Fred S. Kaper, president. He said he has found it difficult to communicate to customers that fiber may be sweet and replace some of the sugar or high-fructose corn syrup in a product.
“So far it seems in many cases a bridge too far,” he said.

Frutalose SF75 provides humectancy, lowers water activity (Aw), acts as binding syrup, enhances satiety and is highly soluble with 2 kcal/g versus 4 kcal/g for corn syrup. Sweet chicory root fiber is formulated in a range of leading brands of bars, brownies, muffins and cookies, claiming “good” or “excellent” source of fiber.

Sugar reduction is more significant than calorie reduction when using Frutalose SF75, said Scott Turowski, in technical sales for Sensus America.

Research showed using Frutalose SF75 in a brownie may reduce calories to 190 from 210, which includes reducing sugar to 17 grams from 27 grams per 60-gram serving. It also adds 6 grams of fiber per serving. When Frutalose SF75 is used in an oatmeal raisin cookie, calories may be reduced to 100 from 120, which includes reducing sugar to 6 grams from 9 grams per 30-gram serving.

Cargill, Minneapolis, offers Oliggo-Fiber inulin from the chicory root as an ingredient that provides benefits in digestive health, bone health and weight management.

Beneo offers Orafti oligofructose, which acts as a natural sugar replacer and has 30% to 65% of the sweetness potential of sucrose. It may be used in cereal bars as well as biscuits and cereals.
Also for sugar reduction, Beneo offers Palatinose, a low-glycemic but fully digestible sugar.

“It provides full carbohydrate energy in a balanced way over a longer period of time,” Mr. O’Neill said.
The company’s Isomalt is derived from sugar beet and is about 50% as sweet as sugar.

“When replacing sugar in a 1:1 ratio, it offers the sweetness profile of sugar and can contribute to the texture and mouthfeel,” Mr. O’Neill said.

Polydextrose, at 1 calorie per gram, has been used as a low-calorie bulking agent, according to the Calorie Control Council. Litesse polydextrose, a Danisco brand owned by DuPont Nutrition & Health, has been used to develop reduced-calorie, sugar-free products that are a good source of prebiotic fiber.
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