Adding value to foods often requires adding nutrients … for many reasons. First, fortification appeals to the currently intense consumer interest in health and wellness. It also addresses significant public health concerns. Many foods permit safe conveyance of these nutrients in stable appetizing form. Still, delivering these nutrients can challenge the product developer’s expertise and the baker’s art.
For many years, fortification of baked foods simply meant basic enrichment — the mandatory addition of thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, iron and folic acid. But recently, the concept of fortification has come to include nutrients as diverse as omega-3 fatty acids, soluble dietary fiber, choline, lycopene, vitamins D and K2, resistant starch and even phosphatidylserine, a phytochemical that supports a qualified claim for improved cognition.
Making choices about how to fortify must start with working out answers to the question of why to fortify.
TRENDY, YET BASIC
"One of the biggest trends appearing on the consumer market is value-added food," said E.B. Russell, technical manager, food ingredients, Budenheim USA, Plainview, NY. "More and more staple products seem to have the addition of enrichment." These involve fiber, mineral enrichment, vitamin fortification, even the whole grains claim, she observed. "With the baby boomer market taking an active interest in their health, foods that incorporate value-added (characteristics) will continue to sell well."
Eating out remains on the rise, making enrichment of such foods a good idea, according to Charles Morris, manager, dry sweetener research and research manager for bakery, ADM Specialty Food Ingredients, Olathe, KS.
"The trend is clear," stated Lucien Hernandez, nutrient business manager, Balchem Encapsulates, New Hampton, NY. "Marketers want to make foods healthier. It’s a challenge from the strategy point of view." He observed that food marketers struggle with diverging consumer attitudes about eating for enjoyment vs. eating to achieve nutritional needs. "Making, and selling, a nutritionally enhanced product is a bit of a marketing challenge."
Cristina Munteanu, food applications specialist, GTC Nutrition, Golden, CO, pointed out the rising number of label claims for balanced energy and weight management, issues that can be addressed through fortification.
Taking personal responsibility for one’s own nutritional status is an idea that’s gaining traction, according to Aaron Hebert, sales and marketing manager, The Wright Group, Crowley, LA, and is reflected in the demand for fortified bakery products. "Within the industry, bakers are answering the demand with products that people understand," he said, citing the addition of omega-3 fish oil to breads and baked snacks. Because the value of omega-3s is well accepted already, he noted, fortification of baked foods with it "makes sense" to the public. "It is easier today for bakers to make that nutritional connection with consumers," Mr. Hebert said.
There’s still another way to look at fortification, as explained by Rodger H. Jonas, national business development manager, P.L. Thomas, Morristown, NJ. "The biggest trend in fortification is not so much about the fortification itself as it is about making sure it goes where it is supposed to in the body," he said. Calcium provides a good example because at higher doses, it does not necessarily go into bones only. "Some of it reaches the arteries," he said, "and that’s not good."
Although vitamin K1 has been suggested as a protection, it can interfere with absorption of coumadin, another important nutrient. For this reason, P.L. Thomas is working with vitamin K2, which is about to become GRAS. Found in highly fermented foods, this vitamin is supplemented at the microgram, not milligram, level and has been shown to promote absorption of calcium into bones, "even taking it out of the arteries," Mr. Jonas noted. "A recent study with postmenopausal women showed vitamin K2 stopped calcium loss from their bones," he continued.
Thus, fortification can also mean adding compounds that prompt the body to better use other supplementary nutrients.
"We have been seeing the addition of fortification to foods not generally fortified before," said Monte White, president, Research Products Co., Salina, KS.
An important issue yet to be settled is enrichment of whole-wheat flour, particularly the ultra-fine-milled white wholewheat flour used to make today’s very popular new whole-grain, whole-wheat breads, observed Steve Schorn, corporate technical director, Research Products Co. "While the government has not yet stated its position or moved on the enrichment of whole-wheat flour, we do have some customers adding such enrichment already without the government mandate. They want to label their foods as enriched, so they went ahead with it."
Vitamin D illustrates another aspect of fortification moving beyond conventional patterns, according to Patrick Clark, vice-president, sales and marketing, Research Products Co. Studies reported at the 2006 annual meeting of AACC International showed excellent health benefits from fortifying bread with vitamin D in combination with calcium. Neither nutrient is currently mandatory, although calcium has been optional since enrichment started in 1943.
"Calcium will always be of major interest, especially as (a growing number of) studies prove the benefits for everything from weight loss to osteoporosis reduction," Ms. Russell said. "Potassium and magnesium are also mineral enrichments that should be given careful consideration." Phosphates, she explained, can deliver these added mineral nutrients in a healthy and beneficial way.
Cutting-edge fortification, as described by Mr. Morris, involves materials such as isoflavones, phytosterols and vitamin E. "There is some interest in the market in putting isoflavones in bread to support a cholesterol-reduction heart health claim," he said. "With phytosterols, you only need 0.4 g to make the heart claim. With vitamin E, 300 IU equals 100% of the daily RDI for this vitamin." Such fortification levels are doable.
Tate & Lyle’s R&D team in Decatur, IL, took a different approach by developing a range of formulating slants it terms the Enrich solution sets. "These can include not just vitamins and minerals but also fibers and other materials," explained Doris Dougherty, senior food scientist, Tate & Lyle, Decatur, IL. In fact, the Sandwich Cracker ENRICH contains probiotics, live cultures of beneficial bacteria, in the filling along with 6 g per serving of prebiotic fiber to satisfy the Digestive Health and Immunity platform. Another solution set, Cereal Bar ENRICH, uses whey protein and fiber to improve satiety, a benefit directed at weight management.
Both applications were driven by market need, according to Ms. Dougherty. "We conducted consumer research around these platforms," she said. "(Food companies) recognize the high level of consumer interest."
Fortification is also moving into the arena of qualified health claims, typically made for dietary supplements but gaining interest among food formulations. As a result, fortification becomes more specific and focused on the application, according to Mr. Jonas. "Consider glucose control," he said. "That’s the description used rather than ‘lower glycemic.’ Another focus is appetite suppression. Heart health is the leader now (in fortification supplementation), but there’s also bone health, gut health, satiety, even memory improvement."
THE WHY FACTOR
Health-conscious consumers show high interest in fortified and supplemented foods, but public health policy provides the basic motivation. "The main reason to add micronutrients, especially to staple foods, is to prevent massive nutrient deficiency diseases," stated PJF de Vries, senior nutritionist, Health & Nutrition Competency Center, CSM, Diemen, The Netherlands. Yet food availability and dietary intake pattern have changed dramatically since fortification was first introduced in the mid-20th century.
"In addition, scientific knowledge about nutrition and health has increased dramatically," Mr. de Vries said. "Still, micronutrient suboptimal intake levels in populations of developed countries are prevalent and are even potentially increasing due to the changed dietary habits. There is increasing concern that high intakes of added sugars might compromise intakes of micronutrients."
He identified the elderly as needing special attention because they have decreased energy needs yet sustained needs for micronutrients. Others considered to be at risk for lower-thanoptimal micronutrient intake include adolescents and women.
Mr. de Vries cautioned, however, that overfortification must be avoided. "First, most micronutrients have an upper tolerable level that should not be exceeded," he said. "Second, nutrition is a matter of balance. Carefully chosen additions of micronutrients to foods may help to reach and/or maintain this delicate balance."
For products outside the federal Standards of Identity for enriched foods, the decision about whether or not to fortify is up to the food processor, the baker. "The (processors) will need to decide for themselves whether to fortify and at what level — 10% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), 25%, 100%?" said Mr. Morris. "Enrichment ingredients are expensive. So, ask yourself, ‘What is the target market? What are you trying to achieve? Is it to make a health claim, or to just look better than the competitor?’" He said ADM is seeing a number of fortification applications at the low range of inclusion.
Fortification works better in some foods than others. The ready-to-eat breakfast cereal category was an early adopter. "Cereal products are a good vehicle because they can be used as a full meal," Mr. Morris said. Since few other foods are eaten along with such a meal, there is less possibility of overshooting the body’s nutritional needs even when fortifying RTE cereals to the full 100% of RDAs. "And it’s a dry system. Fortification works quite well in cereals and stays stable," he added.
Nutrition bars are just such a "snack," and several suppliers described this category as well suited to fortification. During processing, "they need the least treatment," Mr. Jonas observed, "and some are just extruded."
Manufacturing issues play a part in selection of fortification targets and methods. "The food processor should know the category before selecting the fortification approach. You need to delineate the processing conditions and desired shelf life to best understand the fortification choice," Mr. Jonas advised.
Bread systems don’t have the same shelf life as RTE cereals or nutrition bars, and they contain much more water, as Mr. Morris observed. "This brings complications." He listed other factors that should be considered, including finished pH of the food; color, aroma and flavor profile; processing temperatures and times; ingredient interactions; segmentation tendencies; certification under kosher, halal or organic standards; restrictions involving allergens and GMOs; biostability; dosage levels; carrier, flow agent and encapsulation requirements; and iron type requirements, among others.
In developed markets such as the US and EU, growth is generated mostly from development of new kinds of existing products. This also applies to fortification applications. "The EU seems to be a bit behind because of concerns about ‘overfortification’ if minerals or vitamins are added to different foods," said Claudia
"With bakery applications, you have to choose the medium to carry the fortification," Mr. Jonas said. This could be the dough stage or a topping. "Chocolate could be such a medium," he added.
Understanding the ingredient’s functionality and properties is essential. Oat-Vantage oat bran concentrate from GTC Nutrition will support heart and glycemic health claims at as little as 1.4 g per serving, according to Ms. Munteanu. "Nutrients that are not typically used in a particular food system, but are used for fortifying purposes, can impact the finished product and therefore may require additional formulation development or process modifications," she said. "Oat-Vantage has a high water holding capacity, which can keep the texture of bakery products such as cookies softer for a longer period of time."
The soluble corn fiber Tate & Lyle put into its cracker application is a new material, too. "It can be used instead of corn syrup in most formulations," Buhmann, R&D vitamins, Mühlenchemie GmbH & Co. KG, Ahrensburg, Germany. "Once this problem has been solved, say by defining new limits and possibly restricting fortification to certain food systems, a new growth phase could follow."
One of the most powerful new food fortification ideas is the combination of prebiotics and probiotics. "This trend from Europe is heading our way because of the symbiotic relationship (between the microorganisms and the fibers they feed upon)," said James T. Kopp Sr., vice-president, Nutritional Food Ingredients, Lallemand Advanced Baking Solutions, Montreal, QB.
One such application is the Tate & Lyle Enrich cracker platform made with Lallemand probiotics. It also uses inulin, resistant starch and soluble corn fiber. "We spent the time and effort to validate the prebiotic-probiotic aspects by doing studies to document the benefits," Ms. Dougherty said. Ms. Dougherty said. To demonstrate the application, the ingredient supplier hired a contract manufacturer to make samples distributed at industry shows. "We are ready to do the same with the Enrich nutrition bar platform to accomplish the necessary process and product validation," she continued.
LEVELS OF USE
Calcium and folic acid illustrate the physical conundrum of dosing. The RDA for calcium is 1,000 mg per day, with folic acid 0.4 mg. "That ratio makes it hard to formulate addition of both to flour through a single means," said Mr. Schorn. "A slight miscue on dosing (into the flour stream) won’t affect calcium, but it can really throw off the delivery of folic acid."
For this reason, Research Products recommends use of different feeders to separately add some ingredients, according to Mr. White. "We generally recommend rates around one-quarter ounce per cwt. We have feeders that can adjust to meet the flour flow rate in the mill, which can range from 10 to 12 oz to several pounds per minute depending on the additive being dispensed."
Mills install feeders at different stages of the process, according to company preference, explained Mr. White. Some are located so they act at the end of the milling cycle but before storage. Other mills may prefer to feed these materials right before the flour is packed off or transferred into rail cars.
Nutrient materials can be very concentrated, and Mr. Morris explained that often the only way to ensure accurate use at the bakery is to either entrain all the nutrients into the flour stream at the mill or to use a dry premix or liquid solution. "These materials involve very small measurements," he said. "That’s why they are often placed into a dry, flour-based mix to scale at the ounces-per-cwt level rather than mg-per-cwt. This puts additions at the bakery-scale level."
Premixes also suit the miller’s use. "Premixes are developed in close cooperation with the customers according to their requirements," Ms. Buhmann observed. "Precise dosing is essential." The design of content and packaging optimizes nutrient delivery. "At the flour mill, a powder with flow behavior and physical properties similar to flour is most suitable," she continued. "Otherwise, consistent dosage will be difficult, and the material may separate from the flour."
Some materials may require protection. Vitamin C and omega-3 fish oils are good examples. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, can be used not only as a fortifying agent but also as a functional bakery ingredient. "Ascorbic acid needs a certain level of immediate reactivity as a dough conditioner, but as a vitamin, it must remain intact in the finished product, often for up to several weeks of shelf life," explained Kristine Lukasik, Ph.D., manager, applications laboratory, Balchem Encapsulates. "Vitamin C is water soluble and not at all stable to baking temperatures. Without the protection afforded by microencapsulation, you won’t meet a label claim without significant overdosing. In addition to adding expense to a formula, the high levels of ascorbic acid in the dough may create effects that a processor may not be expecting."
Unintended oxidation also dogs the use of omega-3 fatty acids, resulting in off-odors and unpleasant tastes. "The omega-3 fish oils that have become so popular in baked foods must be able to withstand the high heat of the baking process while remaining highly bioavailable," said Azarel Nieves, national bakery lab manager, The Wright Group. He urged bakers to work with suppliers that microencapsulate such nutrients and provide formulation support during the development process. "This allows the quick turnaround and easy introduction of a new fortified product."
"Some things simply can’t go into certain applications or processes," Mr. Jonas said, citing clear beverages as a particularly difficult fortification platform. "But there are technologies to get around these disadvantages, including nano-encapsulation that’s even capable of making oils into water-soluble ingredients." He mentioned that cocoa extracts with their favorable antioxidant properties are being examined this way, too.
"Vitamins lose activity when exposed to oxygen, light and heat, so mixes should be stored under dry conditions, below 75% relative humidity, and cool or ambient temperatures of 4° to 25°C (39° to 77°F)," Ms. Buhmann said.
And care must be taken even when using bakery-friendly packets or tablets. Mr. Morris cautioned that these must be completely dispersed before addition to the dough system. "Also, enrichment should never be dissolved in the same container with oxidation tablets because they will neutralize each other," he stated.
Some nutrients have the potential to affect other ingredients in the formulation. "For example, minerals such as iron or zinc can trigger hydrolysis or oxidative reactions in fat and, hence, increase the risk of rancidity," Ms. Buhmann said. "The chemical form of the mineral, as reduced metal or as salt, has a significant effect on those side functions of the metals."
"Understanding the nature of these materials is essential when adding them as fortification," Ms. Russell said. "Pay attention to the solubility and pH requirements." Granulation size, too, will affect the choice for a particular application.
Choline, authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to allow a content claim for healthy metabolic functioning, can be highly reactive in some forms. "So, instead of blending the very hygroscopic dry form of choline directly with flour, and having it react with the flour’s moisture, you will want to add it in a different form, say a liquid or encapsulated particles," Mr. Hernandez said. "The point of incorporation will be different, too."
Methods for adding probiotics, too, must foster their survival in the finished product. "Probiotics need to be protected from heat and high moisture," Mr. Kopp said. While most formulators recognize the need for heat protection, it’s the moisture content that can trip up success. "High moisture dilutes and kills the probiotic bacteria, so a high-fat, high-protein matrix can be protective," he continued.
"Thinking about bakery applications and probiotic ingredients, the question becomes how to marry them," Mr. Kopp said. "With bread, the heat process is too long, but what about items that have shorter exposure to heat? What about refrigerated items? Refrigeration diminishes the effect of a high-moisture environment." He noted that "some interesting things" are currently being tested such as icings and pastry applications.
Describing development of the Enrich sandwich crackers, Ms. Dougherty put the inulin and resistant starch in with the flour, a procedure no different than other dry materials. The probiotics, however, were added to the oil component of the filling. Nutrition bars fortified with whey proteins followed standard form-and-cut procedures. "The protein does need to be warmed to hydrate properly," she observed, "but this is common for such proteins."
And after baking, users are welladvised to check the resulting level of added fortifications. "The final vitamin content should be monitored by analysis, not just by calculation from the input, to avoid over- or under-dosage," Ms. Buhmann said.
THINK AND ACT
Fortification is on a roll. "If you don’t fortify your product now, begin as soon as possible," advised Sam Wright IV, president, The Wright Group. "Consumers are far past avoiding food and food ingredients that are unhealthy and are now actively seeking food that provides extra nutrition."
Picking the right partner goes a long way to ensuring success. "Develop (your applications) with a company that understands the challenges of formulating fortification systems for baked foods," Mr. Wright said. "With the technology, relevant experience and market understanding, choosing the right group to help develop your fortified product can be the determining factor in that product’s success."
"Contact (supplier) companies that work with leading-edge technology," added Mr. Jonas. "If you don’t, you’ll be behind. Market conditions in the nutrition segment of the food industry change daily."
And pick applications likely to support the extra costs. "The cost structure of fresh bakery items is typically so narrow that manufacturers can’t often manage much novelty in fortification," Dr. Lukasik said. "This is more doable in the snack food area, where value-added products are becoming a more mainstream offering."
Bakers should expect their suppliers to give advice about bioavailability issues, too. "Adding any mineral enrichment can provide different attributes, but ensuring that the mineral’s bioavailability (reaches) the end user should be most important to all parties," Ms. Russell said. "Key points are helping customers understand bioavailability and determining what product is the best choice for their application."
Taste and texture characteristics must be maintained or improved when fortifying foods, Ms. Munteanu explained.
Positioning the finished product involves another set of conditions. "You, the formulator, would be well advised not to think so much about the therapeutic benefits as about the lifestyle advantages," Mr. Hernandez stated. "Go for ‘better energy’ rather than medical phrasing such as ‘inhibits lactic acid formation.’ The subtext can be therapeutic, but the message has to be lifestyle.
"From a marketing point of view, select the nutrients that are most consistent with the character of the product and its underlying value," he added.
What bakers and food processors must comprehend is the consumer interest involved, according to Ms. Dougherty. "Why would a consumer want to purchase something that’s not a standard product? The consumer message is critical."