Growing consumer demand for nutritional foods will always be tempered by demands for taste, said ingredients firm Cognis at last week's IFT exhibition.
That is why the company has developed two distinct strategies; ingredients for wellness and functionality, along with traditional food ingredients.
"We are unusual as we have two portfolios," Cognis vice president David Eckert told FoodNavigator-USA.com in New Orleans last week.
"Not many companies make this distinction, but this enables us to show how food companies can put the two together."
As Eckert explains, Americans don't want to change the way they eat, but they want healthy ingredients. "This is a tall order, but perfect for us."
The trick for Cognis then is to demonstrate to manufacturers that they do not have to compromise taste to achieve nutrition. According to Euromonitor, the US functional and fortified foods market was worth an estimated $5215.8 billion in 2004 and is set to grow by around 33 percent in the next five years, reaching $692.5 billion by 2009.
Last week at IFT, Cognis launched this business strategy with a range of ingredients designed to improve both functionality and nutritional value. One product on display was a yogurt combining Tonalin CLA, a conjugated linoleic acid, and Lamequick whipping agent.
"We've received recognition that Tonalin CLA can help to reduce body fat, and that it discourages regain as long as consumers continue to use the product," said Eckert.
Indeed, an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that CLA reduced body fat mass in overweight, but otherwise healthy adults, by as much as nine percent. Eckert claims that process modification ensures that CLA achieves a neutral taste, while the whipping agent adds mouthfeel.
On the functional side, the firm's Lamequick CP 637 whipping agent offers manufacturers textural advantages, and by increasing the volume of air, can reduce the number of calories in a serving.
"This shows that we can combine health and food technology to produce a product that tastes good and feels good," said Eckert.
Indeed Marion Schulde, global market segment manager, food technology, Cognis Nutrition & Health, argues that the product samples demonstrate Cognis' ability in combining two pressing issues.
"First, busy consumers demand foods and drinks that that are convenient, delicious and healthy," she said. "Second, the companies making these products require the 'know-how' to improve their handling appearance and shelf-life to ensure profitable sales."
Another ingredient being introduced at the IFT is gelatin-free Xangold, a vegetarian lutein esters beadlet designed for baked goods including bars, crackers and cereals. There is growing evidence to suggest that lutein ester supplementation helps in maintaining healthy vision throughout life.
"We're really targeting this market," said Eckert. Indeed, last week we made a huge investment at the company's site in Illertissen, Germany. "This $25 million sterol esters manufacturing plant is the largest single investment we've ever undertaken," said Eckert.
"We see a continuing need and desire for these products," said Eckert. "Indeed, overlying this trend is a move towards functional food rather than supplements. Europe has been quicker to accept functional foods, but it is entering the mainstream in America through the beverage sector."
And finally, Cognis used the IFT exhibition to promote its Nutrilife range of enzymes for improving dough properties and increasing yeast volumes in baking applications.
"These new enzymes are a cost-effective way of improving production of fresh bread, baguettes and rolls," said Eckert.
The Nutrilife enzymes can be used alone or as a component of an improver together with emulsifiers, sugars and oxidants. The enzyme is added to the flour stage of the mixing dough.