Produce-based enhancements provide nutritional boost
People live busy lives and don’t often have enough time to consume the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables daily, which is why many companies are embarking on innovations in powders to enhance food and beverages and provide minimally processed ingredients derived from whole fruits and vegetables.
Plant-based ingredients, including protein derived from pulses, flour from algae or crispy inclusions from peas, are all recent attempts by companies to add the vitamins and minerals present in foods, including fruits or vegetables, in a concentrated form.
Rikka Cornelia, product manager for BI Nutraceuticals, Long Beach, California, said there has been a spike in demand for U.S. grown fruit and vegetable powders in the past few years.
“U.S. grown fruit and vegetable powders are on the rise because they address the local trend. Consumers are increasingly seeking products closer to home, whether that is attending the local farmer’s market or specifically looking for products with ‘Made in the USA’ claims,” he said. “With the negative media attention regarding ingredients originating from China, a product automatically has more merit when it has ‘Made in the USA’ on the label.”
In addition, U.S. grown fruit and vegetable powders also play into the mainstream trend of clean labeling. Consumers are seeking labels with fewer, more recognizable ingredients; recognizable meaning whole foods that inherently contain the desired functionality and/or nutrient, such as incorporating Acerola for its vitamin C content or Carrot Fiber for its fiber content and attractive orange color.
Nathan Holleman, vice president of marketing and sales for Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients, Nashville, North Carolina, said natural flavors, natural colors, natural sweeteners, non GMO and gluten free are all popular in the powder industry.
The company processes sweet potatoes into single-strength sweet potato juices and concentrates, as well as dehydrated sweet potato granules and flour.
“There was/is an abundance of sweet potatoes left over after number 1’s are selected for the fresh market. Some of the remaining product finds its way into fries, canned sweet potatoes, etc., but there still was an abundance of wholesome but not particularly pretty product left over to be used elsewhere,” he said. “North Carolina grows about half of the sweet potatoes produced in the U.S. Farmers needed help fully utilizing their production, and we felt there is sufficient demand for the juice concentrate and dehy products to warrant construction of (a new processing) facility.”
David Wintzer, co-creator of WEDO Gluten Free, Park City, Utah, notes the company is the only one doing banana flour in the U.S., and sweet potatoes, yucca and coconut are all popular powders, with cassava and banana in early stages of development.
“Green bananas are naturally high in starch so it’s an easy transition when it comes to baking with the flour. The starch allows it to mimic wheat-like qualities remarkably well,” he said. “Another thing that has come to fruition within the last couple of years is the understanding of resistant starch. A prebiotic that feeds the good bacteria in the gut and naturally resides in green bananas (banana flour).”
Dan Goral, director of sales & marketing for Powder Pure, The Dalles, Oregon, said the company relies on a process that retains more color, nutrition and flavor than other drying process and the “hot” item within the product line is organic kale.
“Kale is a superfood that is on trend. This is frozen in the field so to speak. It is very difficult to handle truly raw ingredients unless the plant is local to the growing region,” he said. “We believe a processing facility using our technology will be located in every major growing region within the next 10 years.”
Cornelia notes that increased consumer awareness about overall health and the role food and beverages play in it has given rise to the powders.
“Although it has always been known that fruits and vegetables contain nutrients essential to our bodies, there has been a spike in interest in recent years since a majority of the population is realizing they are not consuming enough,” he said. “In simplifying the supply chain, there is a reduction in opportunities for contamination and disruption to occur. U.S. grown ingredients allow for easier traceability and visibility. As the safety of our foods remain a consistent source of media attention, transparency is becoming increasingly important to both the consumer and manufacturer.”
According to Wintzer, people enjoy the simplicity of WEDO’s flour products for health and performance reasons.
“Grains are starting to get eliminated, and more natural (few ingredient) products are making their way to the front of the shelves,” he said. “People are demanding better products and becoming more educated about what they put in their bodies. A lot of these products are very nutrition and even more versatile and we are starting to see that people are willing to pay more for healthy, quality foods.”
Goral said clean label and whole food powders with no carriers are important in the industry.
“Another trend is that our customers want to claim one whole serving of fruit or vegetable in their product,” he said. “There’s a large customer demand due to a health conscious aging population and healthy eating trends.”
Although nothing can replace whole fruits and vegetables, fruit and vegetable powders offer a convenience the whole forms cannot. They can be easily blended together to offer a broad spectrum of nutrients and incorporated into a variety of products so consumers are able to receive several servings of fruits and vegetables from just one source.
Holleman says that because people today are more educated about the food they consume, they want more natural food products containing minimally processed ingredients that are as close to the natural product as possible.
“For us it means working with growers to ensure a safe raw ingredient with trace back and trace forward capabilities,” he said. “It means reaching out to and being involved in new product formulation where quality and food safety matters. We think in the long run it will be good for everyone involved; consumers, farmers and the company; it’s based on a sustainable model.”
Customers are also looking for nutrition and functionality in their food, not just empty calories.
“Our products are non-GMO and gluten free, and our juice concentrate can be used as a sweetener in beverages (in place of HFCS) and in baked goods,” he said. “Also, we’re seeing an increase in vegetable/fruit juice beverages in an attempt to lower calories and boost nutrition.”
Another benefit, Wintzer said, is they are providing a simple product with one ingredient that customers can understand and relate to.
“In addition, we are providing an economic opportunity for small-scale farmers whose excess crops would otherwise go to waste,” he said.
Other companies making noise are Elite Spice, a dehy and ingredient maker using onion and garlic powder, and AppleActiv, which is using antioxidant extracts and powders from apple peels.
Most in the industry believe the new offerings have only scratched the surface for what these products can do and there will be a ton of spin-off products hitting the market soon.