The 'clean' trend is shifting from the label to processing

by Keith Nunes
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Cold-brew, cold pressed, fermented, H.P.P. beverages
Processing techniques perceived as “clean” include cold brewing, cold pressing, fermentation and high pressure processing.
 

FRANKFURT, GERMANY — The global scope of the clean label trend was on display on the opening day of Food Ingredients Europe, taking place Nov. 28 – Nov. 30 in Frankfurt. It is clear the trend has gone mainstream globally and is beginning to move into ingredient and finished product processing techniques.

Processing techniques that may be perceived as “clean” include cold brewing, cold pressing, fermentation, high pressure processing and the use of super-heated steam. Such processes give consumers the perception that products manufactured using the techniques are more natural, according to several speakers who made presentations on the opening day of the tradeshow.

Thomas Evans non-alcoholic beverage
Thomas and Evans offers a non-alcoholic beverage that is essentially a distilled and filtered soft drink.
 

“This is all about what we’ve seen before as consumers are looking for clean label, more natural products,” said Kyra Teeken, a market analyst with Innova Market Insights, Arnhem, The Netherlands. “They want to know about the processing as well.” 

Kyra Teeken, Innova Market Insights
Kyra Teeken, market analyst with Innova Market Insights

Ms. Teeken said fermentation is a processing technique that is well known among consumers and up-and-coming techniques include cold brewing and cold pressing. She added that some processing techniques also may give products a premium positioning as well, referencing a non-alcoholic beverage sold under the Thomas and Evans brand that is essentially a distilled and filtered soft drink. 

“We are also seeing such products as cocoa and teas undergoing barrel aging,” Ms. Teeken said.

Barrel-aged tea
Products such as teas are undergoing barrel aging.

Joost Blankestijn, a researcher with TNO Innovation, a contract research organization based in The Netherlands, said his organization is partnering with food manufacturers to research a variety of processing techniques. One technique TNO Innovation has worked with is super-heated steam, which involves heating steam much higher than normal steam so that it forms a dry gas. 

Joost Blankestijn, TNO Innovation
Joost Blankestijn, a researcher with TNO Innovation

Super-heated steam may be used for the finished frying of a variety of product applications, in order to produce products that are lower in fat, said Mr. Blankestijn. The technique may be used to also modify such ingredients as flour or starch to enhance their functionality.

Earlier this year TNO Innovation introduced a research initiative to develop food ingredients using microbiologic fermentation strategies. With consumer demand for cleaner labels and natural foods with milder processing, there is renewed interest in the process of fermentation as a method of generating authentic, value-added ingredients to foods, according to the research group.

Super-heated steam fries
TNO Innovation's super-heated steam may be used for finished frying to produce products lower in fat.

“There are a lot of products made with the use of fermentation,” Mr. Blankestijn said. “The technique allows you to make all kinds of ingredients, including preservatives and sweeteners.”

He said the end goal of the project is to develop a full line of clean label ingredients.
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