New innovations and patents are spinning acid whey into a useful and functional ingredient.

CHICAGO — The recent rise of Greek yogurt has resulted in the surplus of a problematic byproduct called acid whey. For every gallon of Greek yogurt produced, three gallons of acid whey are strained off during processing. But with its low pH and high mineral content, this ingredient has been difficult to dispose or repurpose — until recently, that is. New innovations and patents are spinning the waste material into a useful and functional ingredient.

Acid whey was one of five “ingredients to watch” highlighted by Mintel, Chicago, during the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition held July 11-14 in Chicago.

Stephanie Mattucci, global food science analyst for Mintel.

“Because of the Greek yogurt boom, (manufacturers) have so much of this acid whey, and they’ve had to figure out something to do with it,” Stephanie Mattucci, global food science analyst for Mintel, told Food Business News. “That’s what drove sweet whey. They had so much sweet whey from all of the dairy production and cheese making that manufacturers figured out how to deal with that, and now you see whey in a host of products.”

Several patents filed last year aim to transform acid whey into a functional ingredient, particularly for beverages. Because of its low pH, acid whey’s nutrients are more bioavailable, research suggests.

While still found in very few products, the use of acid whey as an ingredient increased 129% between 2010 and 2014. Acid whey is not common in the United States, but the ingredient is making its way in juices and other beverage products in Eastern Europe.

Brooklyn-based yogurt maker The White Moustache has introduced a line of beverages made with acid whey that contains live probiotics and calcium. Flavors include ginger, sweet beet, honey lime, pineapple, and passion fruit, as well as a plain variety that may be used in smoothies or juices or as a brine for poultry.

Developers of sports nutrition products, such as drinks and gels, may consider acid whey as a source of electrolytes, Ms. Mattucci said.

Read on for four more ingredients to watch.

Tiger nuts are small tubers that are touted for nutritional benefits.

 

Tiger nuts

Also known as chufa or earth almonds, tiger nuts are small tubers that are touted for nutritional benefits, with prebiotic fiber, iron, potassium and other vitamins and minerals. “Nuts” is a misnomer — the crop is actually nut-free, as well as gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan friendly.

“Tiger nuts have a tie-in with the Paleo diet; it’s a loophole,” Ms. Mattucci said.

A Brooklyn-based company called Organic Gemini offers several products featuring the ingredient, including TigerNut Flour, a baking alternative for gluten-free, nut-free products; and TigerNut horchata beverages made with pureed vegetables. The company also sells tiger nut granola, tiger nut oil, and raw tiger nuts in bulk.

Algae ingredients are replacing trans-fats, dairy and eggs in many free-from foods.

 

Algae

Algae ingredients are replacing trans-fats, dairy and eggs in many free-from foods. As a more sustainable substitute for olive or canola oil, algae oil may be produced in an environmentally controlled facility unlike conventional oil crops. Other benefits include a neutral flavor and stability.

“Algae oil also has similar levels of healthy monounsaturated fats as well as low levels of saturated fat,” Ms. Mattucci said.

Algae oil adds DHA omega-3 fatty acids to Chobani Tots Greek yogurt pouches from Norwich, N.Y.-based Chobani and Horizon Organic strawberry-flavored fruit snacks from Denver-based WhiteWave Foods.

Kokumi, like umami, adds a premium mouthfeel in snacks and sauces.

 

Kokumi enhancers

An emerging Japanese taste concept is kokumi, which, like umami, adds a premium mouthfeel in snacks and sauces. Kokumi is said to replicate the sensation of slow-cooked cuisines with a taste and texture likened to that of Gouda cheese.

Scientists have linked the kokumi flavor to a group of molecules called gamma-glutamyl peptides. The addition of kokumi to foods may help reduce fat intake by imparting rich and lingering flavors. Japanese snack maker Calbee delivers kokumi flavor profiles in a line of potato chips, including a steak flavor variety that replicates the taste of a juicy steak with a combination of wasabi and soy sauce flavors.

 “The addition of kokumi enhancer can help the broth of instant noodles taste richer and thicker, delivering the taste of a real homemade broth,” said Gwen Crothers, a global food science analyst for Mintel.

Busier lifestyles lead consumers to choose more convenient solutions for meal preparation, such as ready-to-use sauces. The use of kokumi enhancers in sauces may simulate a traditional, home-cooked meal, Ms. Crothers said.

Matcha green tea powder boasts benefits of health and sustained energy.

 

Matcha

Boasting benefits of health and sustained energy, the green tea powder is gaining steam in such products as chocolate bars, ready-to-drink beverages and snacks. Two Moms in the Raw, Longmont, Colo., makes green tea vanilla truffles with a blend of organic matcha green tea powder, almonds, cacao and vanilla bean powder.

“Matcha may be used across food and drink products to add valuable nutrients, but also impart a rich green color, which will appeal to the health conscious,” said Laura-Daisy Jones, a global food science analyst with Mintel.

From a small base, new global food and beverage launches featuring matcha as an ingredient grew 132% between 2012 and 2014, said Mintel. Eighty percent of matcha products introduced during the period came from Japan, but matcha is moving to more markets, spanning the categories of bakery, desserts, confectionery, sauces and seasonings, and snacks.