Oats and barley were also the topic of an education session held June 24 at the I.F.T.

Wellness ingredients were in abundance on the exposition floor of the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition, held June 21-24 in New Orleans. Ingredient suppliers are targeting a number of health-related categories in an effort to capture a slice of what is becoming a burgeoning market.

The ingredient supplier BASF, Florham Park, N.J., identified prescriptive eating as a trend and offered prototypes at the I.F.T. to highlight how its ingredients may fit into the trend.

“Prescriptive eating is about coming up with specific food or beverage products that are friendly to consumers with specific health conditions,” said Eva C. Johnson, regional marketing manager of Human Nutrition N.A. for BASF.

BASF sampled a diabetic friendly drinkable yogurt during the I.F.T. that also featured plant sterols.

“In this case we created a product that is diabetic friendly and has heart health benefits,” Ms. Johnson said. “It is low carb, but showcases our plant sterols. Diabetics are concerned about blood sugar, but they are also concerned about cardiovascular disease and have an interest in ingredients that may lower cholesterol.”

BASF also identified healthy snacking and children’s nutrition as a trend. During the exposition, the company offered samples of a snack bar fortified with omega-3 fatty acid fish oil and vitamin D3, a graham cracker featuring omega-3s, and a chocolate almond nut butter with omega-3s.

“The line between meals and snacking continues to fade away,” Ms. Johnson said. “Consumers want healthy ingredients in their snacks; they want convenience and nutrition in one product.”

Ludger Eilers, business manager of nutrition and health for BASF North America, said the company’s prototypes were designed to take the guesswork out of what can be a complex nutrition and quality equation.

“There is tremendous opportunity when you consider that 6 in 10 U.S. adults consume specially formulated functional foods and beverages at least occasionally,” Mr. Eilers said.

Managing the glycemic index

PLT Health Solutions, Inc., Morristown, N.J., introduced Benecarb during the I.F.T. The ingredient, which is sourced from molasses, may reduce the glycemic impact of a broad range of foods and beverages, with particular advantages in carbohydrate-rich formulations, according to the company.

Benecarb is high in antioxidants, minerals and polyphenols and has been clinically shown to reduce the glycemic index of foods and beverages by up to 20% at addition levels of 4% to 6% of total carbohydrate content. The company added that since the ingredient is sourced from molasses, it is considered clean label. The ingredient comes in a liquid form and may be dropped into existing formulations using existing equipment, according to the company.

“These days, the blood sugar impact of foods and beverages is on everyone’s mind — from the mom who avoids giving her children beverages that cause a sugar spike and wants foods that help maintain a healthy weight for herself, to the athlete who wants peak performance or the person trying to manage their blood sugar health,” said Sid Hulse, director of new product development for PLT Health Solutions. “The choice of lower glycemic foods and beverages run from emotional to experiential to daily diet management and support long-term health. Benecarb’s ability to lower the glycemic index of foods responds to all of these drivers.”

Benecarb has been shown to lower the glycemic index of food and beverage systems up to 20% based on the 100 point glycemic index scale and may change the classification of a food from high or medium to medium or low, according to the company.

“The term glycemic index is beginning to become known by consumers,” said Barbara Davis, director of medical and scientific affairs for PLT Health Solutions. “But people implicitly understand blood sugar management and how it can benefit their lives. A recent consumer survey showed that one-third of consumers would like more ingredients to help balance blood sugar. Blood sugar control is linked to issues such as sustainable energy, weight control and an overall healthier lifestyle. Benecarb can help address all of these issues.”

Oats, barley and beta glucan

DSM Nutritional Products, Parsippany, N.J., offered a range of wellness ingredients during the I.F.T., most notably the company’s Oatwell Oat Beta-Glucan. Oatwell is a soluble fiber that supports a variety of health benefits, including blood glucose control, digestive health, satiety and heart health, according to the company. During the I.F.T., DSM Nutritional Products exhibited a number of beverage products featuring Oatwell.

Oats and barley were also the topic of an education session held June 24 at the I.F.T. During the session it was noted that oats and barley are known for their durability, versatility and health attributes, and there is now evidence that oats and barley reduce cholesterol levels and that they moderate blood glucose concentrations following a meal, said Susan M. Toth, Ph.D., research scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. In addition, she said there is research to support that oat and barley foods increase satiety after meals, a sensation of feeling full after meals, which may aid in weight maintenance.

In China, barley and oats are used in a variety of products, from cereals and noodles to beverages and flat bread, said Bo Jiang, Ph.D., professor of food science and executive director of the State Laboratory of Food Science and Technology at Jiangnan University in China. Oats are now the third largest food staple in China, growing in popularity as that country deals with rising rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and intestinal issues.

In the United States, barley and oats primarily are used for animal feed since they are difficult to break down, or “fractionalize,” into edible and easy to use food components, said Keshun Liu, Ph.D., a research chemist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit.

“Food uses of barley and oats are rather limited due to lack of palatability of whole grain foods and the functionality of milled flour,” from these grains, “and a poor public image,” Dr. Liu said. In addition, the United States has “ample and affordable supplies of other grains,” such as rice and wheat, which are more “palatable and versatile.”

And yet discoveries of the varied health benefits of oats and barley have spurred food scientists to develop new and more efficient methods of breaking down the components and nutrients in these grains, to make oats and barley easier and more appealing to eat, and for use as food additives.

“If we can improve the processing of barley and oats, we can improve public health,” Dr. Liu said.

“Many researchers have worked on processing barley or oats into value-added fractions enriched with nutrients, some with commercial success,” Dr. Liu said. The U.S.D.A. has developed improved dry and wet methods to more quickly, easily and affordably transform barley and oats into functional ingredients. However, he added that food scientists and engineers have more work to do to “commercialize” the methods, and “to educate consumers about the health benefits of beta-glucan and these two grains.”