Motives for moisture control

by Jeff Gelski
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"Just add water” may sound like a simple step in a formulation, but water and moisture control may prove problematic — and beneficial — in product formulation. Managing water may help in creating gluten-free products, extending the shelf life of tortillas and increasing the yield of meat and poultry products.

According to Euromonitor, the gluten-free market in the United States was $491.4 million in 2009, and it looks to rise to $670.7 million in 2012.

To replace gluten-containing wheat when creating gluten-free products, companies may use tapioca and rice, said Chris Thomas, senior technologist of bakery applications for National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, N.J. Tapioca and rice, though, have a higher rate of absorption and tend to stale faster.

“There are definitely differences between wheat-containing products and gluten-free products,” Mr. Thomas said.

Companies thus may find it more difficult to create gluten-free bread, a high-moisture baked food, when compared to other gluten-free products such as crackers and snacks, he said.

For gluten-free products, National Starch Food Innovation offers Homecraft Create GF, which includes flour blends from rice and tapioca that are combined with starches, either modified food starches or starches that fit in simple label, all-natural products. The starches help with moisture control.

Fiberstar, River Falls, Wis., offers Citri-Fi, an ingredient made from citrus pulp.

“It’s primarily based on its ability to bind water,” said Brock Lundberg, vice-president of technology for Fiberstar. “Whether it’s a gluten-free product, or a high-fiber product, Citri-Fi helps to keep the product moist so it doesn’t dry out quickly.”

Gluten in bread helps provide elasticity, he said. Several customers of Fiberstar have wanted to keep the moisture bound in gluten-free bread so the bread does not dry too much. Citri-Fi has been shown to keep water in the dough, he said.

Moisture control has a role in the tortilla category, too. TIC Gums, White Marsh, Md., offers Ticaloid Tortilla, a stabilizer made from a combination of water-binding hydrocolloids. It has control in ice crystal formation for frozen tortilla applications.

“Gums in general hold moisture and help maintain flexibility and softness through the tortilla’s shelf life,” said Dan Grazaitis’ a food scientist with TIC Gums. “Ticaloid Tortilla was designed to accomplish this and add improved flexibility compared to standard guar gum.”

He added tortillas need flexibility since many will be rolled or folded for both retail and food service applications.

Dollar sales of tortillas/wraps in the United States totaled $1.1 billion for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 8, which was up 4% from the previous 52-week period, according to SymphonyIRI Group. McDonald’s Corp., Oak Brook, Ill., continues to use tortillas/wraps at the food service level. The company has initiated test marketing in Florida for a new line of Fresh Garden Wraps, which include chicken. Besides chicken in wrap products, McDonald’s sells a sausage burrito for breakfast.

In meat and poultry, controlling moisture may maintain juiciness along with increasing protein yield. Citri-Fi has been shown to do both since it binds both fat and water without reducing the sensory aspects of a product, Mr. Lundberg said.

When used in meat injection and tumbling, Citri-Fi binds water and fat to prevent drip loss, syneresis, purge and ice crystal formation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service in 2009 issued a no-objection letter for the use of Citri-Fi products containing dried orange pulp in non-standardized whole muscle meat and poultry products where binders are permitted and standardized whole muscle products where standards of identity permit the use of binder.

Glazes and brines/marinades are two other ways to control moisture in meat and poultry, said Shana Brewer, a marketing manager for savory products with National Starch Food Innovation. Glazes may trap moisture in such products as chicken breasts by forming a film or coating around the product.

“It physically locks in the moisture,” she said. “As the meat is cooking, the protein may expel moisture. The glaze helps prevent that from happening.”

Brines or marinades typically contain water, salt and phosphates, as well as starches, she said. As a product is heated or frozen or thawed, the injected marinade, for example, allows the product to retain its juiciness and deliver a suculent texture for the end consumer.

National Starch Food Innovation offers starches for use in both glazes and marinades. The Novation line of starches is designed for all-natural meat and poultry products with a simple label.

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