KANSAS CITY — Some people may enjoy the texture of walnuts in ice cream or the crunchiness and flavor of almonds in chocolate. Other people may have trouble delighting in such treats because of allergies to peanuts and tree nuts. Innovative ingredients and flavors are making that type of treat possible for them.
About 15 million people in the United States have food allergies, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), McLean, Va. Peanuts, tree nuts and seafood account for the majority of allergic reactions in teenagers and adults. The number of children in the United States with a peanut allergy more than tripled between 1997 and 2008, according to a study by FARE.
Nadanuts from Inclusion Technologies, Atchison, Kas., may be used to create products for people with peanut or tree nut allergies.
“Even the plain unflavored Nadanuts have a nutty-type flavor due to the toasted wheat germ component,” said Dennis J. Reid, vice-president of sales and marketing. “The ‘legacy’ formulas have (natural and artificial) flavors, but we have screened and have available a full range of natural nut-type flavors, including peanut, macadamia, hazelnut, cashew, pecan, walnut, almond and even combination flavors like caramel nut, praline, banana walnut, etc.”
Depending on the recipe, the basic ingredients in Nadanuts are soybean oil, wheat germ, sugar, sodium caseinate (milk protein), wheat gluten, natural flavors and TBHQ (tert-Butylhydroquinone) added to preserve freshness. Non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. versions of Nadanut are made with colors sourced from nature and natural antioxidants. The ingredients work in a range of applications, Mr. Reid said.
“The one exception is in high-moisture batters and systems where they tend to get soggy quicker than a nut when exposed to free moisture,” he said.
Other Nadanut benefits are no volatility in supply and a longer shelf life.
“Nadanuts also have both a plant protein (wheat) and dairy protein (casein),” Mr. Reid said. “So they offer a ‘complete’ protein profile with all the essential amino acids a human needs.”
Prova, a French company with a U.S. presence in Danvers, Mass., last year introduced a line of 30 allergen-free nut flavors that may be used in a range of products. Some of the flavors are peanut, pecan, pistachio, coconut, pine nut, almond, cashew and hazelnut.
“We have eight different nut flavors that we like to focus on in the U.S.,” said Brian Wilson, applications lab manager for Prova and based in Medford, Mass. “From those we have liquid and powder options in natural flavor, N and A (natural and artificial) flavors, and artificial flavors.”
He said toasted nut flavors are difficult to replace since the degree of roast greatly dictates the flavor of the nut being replaced.
“Almond flavors can be difficult because there is a vast difference between raw almonds and almond extract,” Mr. Wilson said. “Most consumers expect their almond flavors to be similar to the extract profile, which has very strong cherry and benzaldehyde notes whereas raw almonds have a much more bland flavor with a slight woody note. Raw and toasted almonds do not have this cherry flavor profile so it is important to know what profile the customer is actually looking for.”
Hazelnut flavors may be difficult to replicate as well.
“People generally want the Nutella-style hazelnut but don’t always realize how much of that flavor is coming from the chocolate component,” Mr. Wilson said. “Raw hazelnuts also have stronger woody and metallic notes than people expect, so it is important to know if your customer is looking for raw or ‘confectionery’ hazelnut.”
Nut flavors do well in applications with a good level of fat, like baked foods and ice cream.
“Nuts by nature have a high fat percentage so replicating them in an application that has a significant fat content will make the flavor taste more (like) the real thing,” he said. “Applications where there is not a lot of fat can be difficult. Products containing non-nutritional sweeteners, like stevia or monk fruit, can have their off-notes enhanced by nut flavors.”
Regulatory issues potentially may arise with alternative ingredients for peanuts and tree nuts.
“Companies have to be careful about what their primary display panel contains when using an allergen-free flavor as a primary flavoring component,” Mr. Wilson said. “They need to work with their regulatory department to ensure that they are not committing some type of food fraud.”
Finding alternative ingredients to help people with allergies expands beyond peanuts and tree nuts. More than 170 foods have been reported to cause reactions in the United States, but the eight major food allergens — milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish — are responsible for most of the serious food allergy reactions, according to FARE. Low/no/reduced allergen claims accounted for 46% of total new snack product launches in the United States in 2017, according to Mintel Global New Products Database.
Cargill, Minneapolis, offers sunflower and canola lecithins that have the same functionality as soy lecithin. They may be used in chocolate, confectionery, baked foods and convenience foods.
“Dispersibility as well as functionality, taste and color are very comparable to soy lecithin,” said Bill Gilbert, certified master baker, principal food technologist at Cargill. “As a result, Cargill’s sunflower or canola lecithins may be used as a one-to-one replacement for other lecithin types, making it easy for food manufacturers to incorporate into their product lines with only minor adaptions.”
International Dehydrated Foods, Inc., Springfield, Ill., offers Chikpro chicken protein isolate powder that is free of dairy and soy. Each 30-gram scoop of Chikpro contains 25 grams of protein. It may be incorporated into applications such as snacks, smoothies and ready meals.
Products from Enjoy Life Foods, Chicago, a business of Mondelez International, are free from gluten and 14 common allergens: wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, casein, soy, egg, sesame, sulfites, lupin, mustard, fish, shellfish and crustaceans. In its products the company uses grains such as quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and sorghum. A combination of baking powder, flax and applesauce is used in place of eggs.