Sweet and certified

by Jeff Gelski
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The organic food category is getting sweeter judging by Organic Trade Association statistics and product introductions at the association’s "All Things Organic" trade show in April in Chicago. The O.T.A.’s 2007 Manufacturer Survey showed U.S. sales of organic snack foods jumped 21% to $807 million in 2006 and projected a 2007 market of about $1 billion.

The trade show, meanwhile, featured its share of organically sweetened products. FullBloom Baking Co., Newark, Calif., introduced a rhubarb strawberry bar and an agave-sweetened snacking granola. Peak Foods, L.L.C. launched TruWhip, a frozen whipped topping made with more than 70% organic ingredients.

Ingredient suppliers thus have heard requests from customers wanting to create organic snacks, desserts and confectionery items.

While organic confectionery products make up 2% to 4% of the overall confectionery snacks market, organic snacks and cereal bars may receive a 25% to 60% premium over similar non-organic items, said Megan Rose, marketing representative for Clasen Quality Coatings, Middleton, Wis. With that market in mind, the company launched CQ-Organics, an organic confectionery coating line available in dark, white and yogurt formulations. Organic peanut butter coatings will enter the market this summer.

Quality Assurance International, based in San Diego and approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, certifies the coatings as organic.

"As an ingredient supplier to the food processing industry, we want to offer innovative formulations that complement our customer’s new product development requirements," Ms. Rose said. "Launching an organic confectionery coating line accomplishes this and fits within our capabilities of being a highly specialized coating manufacturer."

Clasen Quality Coatings will feature its CQ-Organics line at "The Best of Food Thinking 2008," the Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting and Food Expo set for June 28 to July 1 in New Orleans.

Grain Processing Corp., Muscatine, Iowa, will feature its Maltrin OR organic rice maltodextrin at the I.F.T. event.

"The objective was to offer an organic Maltrin line that meets the same high quality and characteristics as our original corn-based Maltrin while using a certified organic process," said Kate Gilbert, associate scientist in food technical services for GPC.

At its I.F.T. booth, the company will showcase an organic frozen dessert with Maltrin OR.

"The organic soft-serve frozen dessert demonstrates the enhanced texture and body and clean flavor profile of Maltrin OR in a taste-sensitive formulation," Ms. Gilbert said. "Maltodextrins are beneficial in frozen desserts because they can increase solids without adding excessive sweetness or freezing point depression."

Other potential applications include sports beverages, nutrition bars, prepared beverages and dry mixes, she said.

"Maltrin OR can add a chewy texture and improve shelf life in healthy snacks like fruit snacks and granola bars," Ms. Gilbert said. "They can also function as a carrier for flavors and spices used in snacks and cereals."

She added that the bland flavor, low hygroscopicity and high solubility of Maltrin OR make it ideal for spray drying flavors, colors and fruit juices.

Confectionery products are potential applications for organic peanut flour and organic roasted aromatic peanut oil from Golden Peanut Co., L.L.C., based in Alpharetta, Ga., and owned by Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur, Ill. The peanut flour may work in any food product where a roasted peanut flavor is desired, including confections, nutrition bars, compound coatings, seasoning blends, reduced-fat peanut butters and sauces. The oil may be used as a base for peanut flavor systems, a salad or cooking oil.

About four years ago, customers for peanut flour and oil asked Golden Peanut Co. if it could become certified organically.

"We did, but it took a couple more years for the organic market to develop to a point that we had customers willing to issue purchase orders for organic peanut ingredients," said Bruce A. Kotz, vice-president of specialty products for Golden Peanut Co.

The International Organic Crop Improvement Association, based in Lincoln, Neb., and approved by the U.S.D.A.’s National Organic Program, certifies the peanut flour and peanut oil. Golden Peanut Co. has supplied organic peanuts for years. They cost about twice as much as conventional peanuts, Mr. Kotz said.

Price may vary on organic ingredients, said Peter Murray, senior technologist at Kerry Ingredients & Flavours, Americas Region, in Beloit, Wis.

"Generally speaking, though, cost is increased all along the supply chain and cost is passed on accordingly," he said.

For organic snack production, Kerry offers soy flours, concentrates, isolates, seasonings and flavors, he said. For organic confections, the company offers flavors and soy isolates.

Ms. Rose said supply challenges exist for organic confectionery ingredients because of the level of development in the sector.

"Organic snacks and confectionery products represent a small sector of the organic food market compared to more readily available products such as organic produce and meat," she said.

Organic ingredients designed for snacks and confectionery items were on display on the "All Things Organic" exposition floor. Briess Malt & Ingredients Co., Chilton, Wis., featured organic caramel candy that used organic BriesSweet tapioca syrup as a 1:1 replacement for corn syrup. Global Organics, Ltd., Boston, reported its organic black cocoa powder, which may be used in chocolate sandwich cream cookies, is now available.

Minneapolis-based Cargill featured an organic cranberry almond granola bar sweetened with organic glucose syrup and a raspberry-flavored water sweetened organically with Zerose erythritol, a polyol with no calories.

Analyzing the sustainability market

The Natural Marketing Institute, Harleysville, Pa., uses LOHAS as an acronym for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability. The N.M.I. describes LOHAS consumers as active stewards of the environment, dedicated to personal and planetary health, lifestyle-oriented, and heavy purchasers of green or socially responsible products, including organic products. Eighty-one per cent of the LOHAS segment buys organic, according to the N.M.I.

Sustainable product adoption may involve organic products, said Laurie Demeritt, president of The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash., in a presentation at The F.M.I. Show in Las Vegas in May. In phase one of sustainable product adoption, consumers seek foods and beverages that are natural, organic, local or fresh, according to the "Sustainability from a Consumer Perspective" survey from The Hartman Group.

"Local and organic are flipping in terms of importance to consumers," Ms. Demeritt said.

Consumers believe products grown closer to them are fresher, and they want to support producers who live near them, she said.

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