The ingredient’s health halo makes it an attractive sweetener choice, but there are application issues formulators must address.
From hand-crafted sodas to ready-to-drink teas, beverage formulators are embracing the sweetness of honey, along with the color, flavor and viscosity it contributes. In some instances, honey is being promoted as a source of natural, sustainable energy. For example, Bee Energy is described as providing “hours of healthy, natural energy without the harmful side effects found in other energy drinks.”
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Nutrition-forward bread is trending, with ancient grains, whole grains and sprouted grains driving innovation. Many of the value-added bread varieties are sensory challenged by a heavy load of hearty flours. Honey is recognized for its ability to round out flavors and robust textures, while at the same time contributing to the bread’s naturalness and healthful halo. Dave’s Killer Bread promotes its use of honey in new Honey Oats & Flax bread by partnering with the “Save the Bee” campaign, which raises funds to improve honey bee health and nutrition to increase survival rates.
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Ice cream and yogurt both use honey for natural sweetness and distinct flavor. Honey is especially complementary to the tartness of Greek-style yogurts and Mediterranean-type flavor combinations. Think baklava. Honey works well with pistachio, as well as many other nuts. Also, the right honey may deliver a floral aroma to balance the fruity undertones of pear. This is experienced in a new flavored cottage cheese from Hood and yogurts by Chobani and Dreaming Cow.
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Honey complements many savory, spicy flavor profiles and may be used to deliver a taste of the familiar to an adventurous, global food. Honey also is viewed by gatekeepers as a smarter sweetener, thereby improving the nutrition profile of often overly sweetened children’s favorites such as peanut butter and jelly. Honey may improve the image of processed frozen foods, as well as the flavor of foods often shunned by picky eaters.
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When it comes to snacks — the food category many turn to throughout the day to carry them from one meal to the next — consumers increasingly are seeking better-for-you options. Natural honey contributes to such a positioning. Many recent snack innovations rely on full-flavor, hearty grains, as well as nuts and seeds. Honey adds a touch of sweetness while mellowing the stronger, sometimes bitter flavors. In bars, honey helps hold ingredients together, while also functioning as a humectant. With breakfast foods such as cereals and biscuits, honey’s naturalness provides consumers permission to enjoy something sweet in the morning.
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