Fat reduction market seen as stable

by Keith Nunes
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Sodium reduction may be the topic du jour, but fat reduction remains a key trend as many consumers continue to seek food and beverage products that will assist them in achieving their weight management goals. Food manufacturers have not lost sight of this category as a spate of recent product introductions indicates.

Kraft Foods Inc., Northfield, Ill., for example, has extended its Philadelphia Cooking Crème line with two reduced fat varieties: Italian cheese and herb and savory garlic. The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., also recently introduced Eggo Homestyle Low Fat waffles as an extension of the company’s successful Eggo line of products.

But the issue of fat has become somewhat more comp-licated as consumers learn more about the differences among the types of fats and those that may be better-for-you options.

“Increased consumer demand has prompted manufacturers to bring new foods and beverages to market touting healthy fats and oils content,” said David Sprinkle, publisher of the mar-ket research firm Packaged Facts, New York. “And these products have sold well enough, even in tough times, that they’ve emerged as relatively recession-proof compared to other food categories. Some may point out that many fats and oils such as butter, margarine, and cooking oils are household staples that consumers will always buy, but make no mistake, this newfound health perspective is driving sales.”

Global Industry Analysts, Inc., San Jose, Calif., published a report earlier this month that described the U.S. fat replacers market as highly mature and holding a reasonably stable niche in the global low-fat food trade. The market research firm added that it predicts the market segment is poised for healthy growth in the next few years.

“In particular, functional fat replacers have been growing at a healthy pace over the years, triggered by increasing health concerns and demand for food ingredients that enhance flavor and texture,” the G.I.A. report said.

Carbohydrate-based fat replacers, which include cellulose, maltodextrins, gums, starches, fiber and poly-dextrose, will continue to lead the market for fat replacers, because of their status as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration, according to the G.I.A. Fat replacer in-gredients that offer dietary and processing advantages are likely to witness healthy growth, with carbohydrate-based fat replacers poised to achieve a compound annual growth rate of 5.7% through 2017.

The report also noted that fat replacers are anticipated to see significant growth in the dairy, spreads and meat categories.

Overall demand for protein-based fat replacers is expected to grow at a “tepid” pace, the G.I.A. said.

Manufacturers of protein-based ingredients are more focused on dietary app-lications such as beverages and sports nutritional products instead of fat substituting applications, primarily due to the demand for dietary and nutrition-focused products.

There have been a number of fat replacers introduced targeting the dairy market. Chr. Hansen, Horsholm, Den-mark, recently introduced a series of YoFlex and nu-trish yogurt cultures designed to improve the taste and texture properties of low-fat yogurts. The company noted that the simple label trend is driving yogurt product development toward the use of a minimum of ingredients, which for yogurt means milk, cultures and possibly an inclusion. The trend precludes the use of stabilizers, thickeners and added flavors to compensate for the lack of fat. The company’s new cultures are designed to overcome the negative characteristics associated with low-fat yogurts.

“If the amount of yogurt with reduced fat has not grown any faster it is because the quality simply has not been good enough,” said Morten Boesen, marketing manager of fermented milk cultures for Chr. Hansen. “Consumers refuse to accept a poor taste or a thin, watery mouthfeel, no matter how healthy a product may be.”

The new portfolio consists of seven cultures and three of them feature probiotics to improve gut and immune health, according to the company.

Corn Products International/National Starch Food Innovation has launched the Novation Indulge 3340 texture system. The clean label/simple label system delivers an indulgent, thick and creamy, gelled texture, when desired, in cultured dairy products, according to the company.

Novation Indulge 3340 enables product developers to produce a range of healthy and indulgent dairy products on conventional stirred yogurt equipment while possibly reducing production time and costs. The company used the system to create samples of fromage frais (a cheese) with lucuma fruit and coconut topping that was offered during the 2012 Engredea trade show earlier this month in Anaheim, Calif.
“Consumers are increasingly gravitating toward natural, clean label products across all food and beverage categories, especially dairy where natural is innate to the source,” said Leaslie Carr, marketing manager with National Starch Food Innovation, based in Bridgewater and a business unit of Corn Products International. “Novation Indulge 3340 texture system is a unique solution for manufacturers looking to reduce fat and calories to provide consumers with clean label, healthier alternatives that deliver the same taste and texture profiles they expect from traditional indulgent dairy products.”

Besides being used in in-dulgent dairy desserts, the company said Novation Indulge 3340 may be used in fermented dairy products such as yogurt and sour cream where it is desired to increase the gel strength and firmness of final products while providing clean melt-away and fat-like texture characteristics. The system is resistant to high temperature, high shear and low pH, and it also is characterized as having cold temperature stability and providing a smooth, creamy texture.

A joint initiative between Fiberstar, Inc., River Falls, Wis., and Gum Technology Corp., Tucson, Ariz., has the potential to replace the fat in products across a variety of categories. The Hydro-Fi ingredients combine citrus fibers from Fiberstar and hydrocolloid-based stabilizer blends from Gum Technology Corp. Hydro-Fi has been formulated to replace 50% of the eggs and reduce costs in cakes, according to the two companies. In reduced fat ice cream and sorbet, Hydro-Fi reduces ice crystallization, improves texture, increases overrun and delays melting. It also improves texture and reduces staling in baked goods and improves yield in meat products.
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