Varied values of soy sauce

by Jeff Gelski
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Consumers may associate soy sauce with Asian food, but food manufacturers could consider it for additional ingredient uses. For example, soy sauce, when used as a flavor enhancer, may help lead to "clean labels," or those with natural-sounding ingredients, for a variety of products.

Meat, poultry, vegetables, seafood, condiments, cured meats, soups, marinades and even chocolate are potential applications for Kikkoman soy sauce, said Koji Hasagawa, R.&D. manager for Kikkoman marketing and planning, Chicago. The product may work in clean-label products because it is made from wheat gluten through a natural process, he said. Formulators thus may enhance flavor without using such ingredients as H.V.P. (hydrolyzed vegetable protein) or M.S.G. (monosodium glutamate).

Products promoted for lacking M.S.G. have become a $1 billion market in the United States, according to The Nielsen Co., New York. Sales rose 9% over a one-year period and reached $1.16 billion in U.S. food/drug/mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 29, 2008. Sales of soups with claims of "no M.S.G." leaped more than 37% to $185.5 million. Sales of frozen prepared foods with claims of "no M.S.G." increased more than 11% to $126.2 million.

The contents of soy sauce must be broken out on the label when soy sauce is used as an ingredient because it has no standard of identity in the United States, according to Kikkoman. Soy sauce from Kikkoman may carry the following declaration: soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt and less than 0.10% sodium benzoate as a preservative).

"The primary difference between shelf life of soy sauce with sodium benzoate and one without sodium benzoate would be most evident in an open product," Mr. Hasagawa said. "Soy sauce in itself is very stable shelf-life speaking, but adding a preservative to it greatly helps it retain its properties longer after opening."

St. Louis-based Nikken Foods USA, Inc. also offers some soy sauces that have no M.S.G. The company’s dry soy sauces may be used as a flavor enhancer for different food systems, such as meat-based frozen entrees, said Herb Bench, executive vice-president. For example, while soy sauce still sees a lot of use in teriyaki-flavored products, it also may boost the flavor in barbecue products, he said. Another Nikken soy sauce is lighter in color, making it more applicable for poultry products.

Lower-sodium soy sauces also have entered the market. While its soy sauce normally is 35% salt, Nikken Foods also offers one that is 20% salt.

To keep pace with demand, Nikken Foods USA added a spray drier to its facility in Shanghai, The People’s Republic of China, Mr. Bench said. In 2008, the company expanded at a plant in Japan. A new spray drier in operation there may produce up to 100 tonnes per month, Mr. Bench said.

"The new spray drier will enhance our business growth here in America as well as around the world," he said.

Soy in the news

• High-oleic oil: A high-oleic soybean trait being developed by an alliance between Bunge Ltd. and E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. is on track for limited production in 2009, pending regulatory approval, according to Qualisoy. The soybeans contain at least 80% oleic acid, which increases the stability of the oil when used in frying and food processing, and less than 3% linolenic acid, which allows the oil to be used in products with reduced fat and no trans fat.

"The food industry continues to search for trans-free oils at a lower cost with improved stability," said Dennis Byron, vice-president of crop development for Pioneer and vice-chairman for Qualisoy. "High-oleic soybean oil will offer far greater stability and versatility in a wider variety of applications."

• Extruded soy crisps: Clextral, Inc., Tampa, Fla., now offers extruded soy crisp products. They allow manufacturers to add soy crunchy nuggets in such foods as breakfast snacks, granola mixes, nutrition bars and specialty bakery products. A twin screw extruder cooks and shapes the soy crisps while protecting the proteins, amino acids and minerals that provide health benefits.

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