Consumers expect to see added sugar in donuts and candy bars. But when they discover reams of it in dried fruits, juices and other products marketed as healthy foods, they feel shortchanged, and rightly so, according to one nutrition expert.
Speaking at a panel debate at the 2013 Food Technology & Innovation Forum last week, Dr Jim Painter, professor at the school of family and consumer sciences at Eastern Illinois University, said manufacturers are required by law to list the juice content in juice products on the Nutrition Facts panel (‘contains 10% juice’).
But when the front of a 5% juice product looks identical to the front of 100% juice product sitting right next to it in the chiller, how many consumers bother to flip the pack and read the small print?
Pointing at a picture of Sunny Delight, he said: “Does it look like a juice? Does it pour like a juice? Is there a big orange on the front? But it’s only 5% juice… “
Here’s where we are getting a little dishonest
He went on to show delegates a picture of cartons of Minute Maid sitting next to each other in a chiller. One (Minute Maid Original) had pictures of oranges on the label and the phrase ‘100% juice’ on the label.
The carton next to it (Citrus punch) also had pictures of oranges on the label and the phrase ‘100% natural flavors’ in exactly the same place on the label - but contained just 5% juice.
Yet at a glance, they look much the same, he said.
He then compared Campbell Soup’s V8 Fusion, which has 100% juice, and V8 Splash, which looks very similar but has only 10% juice, he observed.
“Here’s where we are getting a little dishonest.”
Many sweetened dried cranberries are ‘more like gummy bears or M&Ms’ than dried fruit
Similarly, dried fruits are not always as healthy as they seem, with banana chips often sold deep-fried and coated in sugar while dried cranberries are typically made palatable through the addition of significant amounts of added sugar to combat their tart flavor, he said.
While there are reduced sugar dried cranberries available (Ocean Spray now sells Craisins sweetened with sucralose as well as sugar), most sweetened dried cranberries “are more like gummy bears or M&Ms” despite their phytonutrient content, he claimed.
“It’s just condensed sugar.”
Raisin juice concentrate contains small amounts of glutamic acid, and works surprisingly well in savory products
The rest of the session, which was supported by California Raisins, was led by nutrition and culinary consultant Monica Reinagel; and sports scientist Marie Spano, who explored how to reduce added sugar in everything from ice cream to cereal bars by using raisin juice concentrate and raisin paste.
As raisin juice concentrate contains small amounts of glutamic acid, it works surprisingly well in savory products from Asian cooking sauces to marinades, elevating and enhancing flavors such as garlic and ginger. Meanwhile, raisin paste can be used to reduce sodium by 10-20% in stir fries, said Reinagel.
But it also has surprising technical properties, extending the shelf-life of bread products; controlling breakage in crisp cookies and crackers, maintaining moisture in chewy or soft cakes and cookies and serving as a natural binding agent in cereal bars.
It also makes for a great sweetener in chocolate milk and ice cream, added Dr Painter, who does some consultancy work for the California Raisin Marketing Board.
Raisin paste inhibits molds, extends shelf-life and enhances flavor
Raisin paste - produced by extruding raisins through a fine mesh screen - can help manufacturers reduce sugar in sundae-style yogurts and cottage cheese, ice cream, fruit-filled cereal products, granola bars and extruded breakfast cereals, said Reinagel.
In bakery items, such as breads, cookies and pastries, it also inhibits molds, extends shelf-life and enhances flavor; while adding it to burgers and other meat products increases succulence and improves flavor, she said.
For more coverage of the 2013 Food Technology & Innovation Forum, which is organized by WTG Group, click on the links below: