More boldness for the buck

by Jeff Gelski
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Consumers still may pay more for a value-added breaded item in a tough economy, but food manufacturers had better deliver on the value. Consumers are becoming more selective on how they spend their food dollars and thus raising the bar on quality, said George Manak, vice-president of marketing for Southeastern Mills, Inc., Rome, Ga.

"What we’re being asked for is just bold flavors, and I don’t mean bold as in spicy," he said of customer requests for batters and breadings. "If you are doing a cheese-breaded piece of chicken, you need to make sure the cheese flavor really stands alone.

"Or if it’s a specific variety, make sure it’s not a non-descript flavor. If you say cheddar, make sure it’s cheddar."

More consumers might seek the Mediterranean flavor profile. Food service customers of Richmond Baking, Richmond, Ind., seem to be asking for it more, along with South African flavor profiles, said Rick Theidel, a manager in customer development. Richmond Baking has introduced the Mediterranean flavor profile in batters and breadings for vegetables and poultry.

The Mediterranean flavor profile uses more rubs, Mr. Theidel said. It’s also a clean flavor profile with little aftertaste.

Restaurant customers also are seeking ways to save on costs, Mr. Manak said. Miniature portions might allow three people to dine for the cost of two people. The smaller portions might make them more experimental, too, in that they are taking a chance on a smaller item and not a full-blown entree.

"People seem to be more accepting to expand their horizon of flavor and texture when there is not as big a risk — a couple of bites and it’s done," Mr. Manak said.

Examples of smaller portions might be miniature breaded chicken sandwiches or breaded ravioli with a tomato dipping sauce. While such items generally are now on restaurant menus, food service trends sometimes find their way into retail products, Mr. Manak said.

He added convenience and health and wellness are two other trends affecting the batters and breadings category. Researchers continue to seek better coatings for use in the microwave and the oven. Coatings with whole grain may give a product a healthy halo. Southeastern Mills offers a multigrain coating with four whole grains.

Whey protein may lower fat content

Battered and breaded chicken patties dipped in a whey protein isolate (W.P.I.) solution showed lower lipid content compared to a control group of patties in research at the University of Ohio in Athens. The results make whey protein isolate a promising alternative in lowering fat content of fried foods, according to the researchers.

The treated chicken patties were battered and breaded with crackermeal, dipped in a W.P.I. solution and then deep-fried to an internal temperature of 74° Celsius (165° Fahrenheit) before being stored frozen. Control patties were treated similarly except they were not dipped in a W.P.I. solution.

The researchers used three levels of pH (2, 3 and 8) and four levels of concentration (0, 2.5%, 5% and 10%). Dipped patties showed significantly lower lipid content compared to the control access across all concentrations. Concentration levels showed the highest lipid reduction at pH 2 and pH 3 with 10% W.P.I. concentration. Moisture content was significantly lower across all concentrations and pH levels compared to the control. Dipping the patties in the W.P.I. solution increased hardness and crunchiness but did not change the flavor profile.

"These results suggest that W.P.I. exhibits oil-barrier properties that are dependent on pH and concentration when used as a post-breading dip in fried foods," said University of Ohio University researchers Dr. Robert G. Brannan, Ph.D., a food scientist, and Eunica Mah, a graduate student.

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, September 16, 2008, starting on Page 39. Click here to search that archive.

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