KANSAS CITY — As more shoppers gravitate toward fresh foods in lieu of processed items, bakers must examine how their products align with this changing attitude. Americans are consuming more produce than ever, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but the average U.S. diet still falls short of the recommendations listed in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans due to lack of access, busy schedules, poor eating habits and more.
Fruit and vegetable powders give snack producers an opportunity to provide consumers with nutrient-dense products that can be conveniently enjoyed without the intense prep work other fresh items require.
By using powdered produce as a small portion of the total formulation, bakers may elevate a product’s nutritional value. These concentrated powders contain 100% real fruits and vegetables and retain essential vitamins and minerals, with or without adding flavor or color, depending on the ingredient and the supplier. This flexibility comes in handy when bakers are developing a new product or searching for a way to remove artificial ingredients consumers may distrust.
“The ability for formulators to make a serving of fruit or vegetable label claim is one of the greatest benefits that affect consumers,” said Otis Curtis, technical business development director of Crystals for Kerry Group. “Additionally, powders provide the authentic taste of real fruits and vegetables and can be labeled as simply the source fruit on the ingredient declaration. This is attractive to today’s consumer who is looking for products made from recognizable ingredients.”
A natural solution
Ingredient processors use a variety of methods to preserve the nutritional benefits of powdered produce and create powders that can be stored at ambient temperatures. In-house freeze-drying processes help preserve the fresh flavor and wellness benefits of fruits and vegetables while drum drying may be used for economical and low-micro fruits, vegetables and blends. Kerry’s fruit and vegetable powders, labeled as Crystals, are developed using a proprietary, low-heat continuous drying process that retains the authenticity of taste, color and nutrition.
Milne MicroDried also uses a unique method to produce its powders. Through a radiant energy vacuum, drying technology applies microwave energy to bulk-solid foods inside a vacuum allowing the whole fruit or vegetable to be used.
These ingredients may be incorporated into traditional items such as cookies, cakes, bars and pastries. Due to the demand for healthier products, they are also finding their way into macaroons, chips, popcorn and popped rice snacks, said Heidi Farkas, national sales and marketing manager for Milne MicroDried.
Wayne Lutomski, vice-president of international and global ingredients at Welch’s, pointed out the added benefits of powders over their whole-form counterparts, noting how they allow for a more even incorporation of flavor and color, making production times more efficient and less costly. Their two-year shelf life also helps manufacturers overcome many of the problems traditionally faced when adding produce to baked foods and snacks.
However, before adding a fruit or vegetable powder to a new item, formulators must consider the conditions in which it will be processed. For example, some powders may have a higher hygroscopicity than others, so those should not be used in products that need to maintain a crisp texture. Furthermore, powders may absorb moisture if not stored properly.
Baking methods may also play a factor. When using a powder high in antioxidants, ingredient handlers should minimize any interaction with heat sources or risk losing nutritional benefits. Maintaining the original substance will allow formulators to retain a stronger antioxidant content.