NutraCea has received approval from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to supply stabilized rice bran as an enhancer for pulverized meat and poultry products.
The Phoenix-based company hopes to reach new markets following the approval, and has filed a provisional patent for the rice brand, both in the US and internationally.
NutraCea claims it has significant cost and nutritional benefits and can be used in meat and poultry sausages that contain binders, nugget-shaped patties, meatballs, meatloaf and meat and poultry patties.
Kody Newland, senior vice president of sales at NutraCea, told FoodNavigator-USA.com that soy protein isolates are often used in meat products as extenders. Now, however, rice bran can be used instead or in combination with these.
While he said soy protein isolates can carry a price tag of $1.25 per lb or higher, NutraCea's list price for rice bran is just $0.45 per lb for the granular version and $0.55 per lb for the fine version.
Not only does this translate into significant costs savings for the manufacturer, but it can also result in a non-allergenic product without soy.
Meat extenders are typically used in place of meat fat, which is extracted. Newland said this makes for a more nutritious product, as rice bran has been found to be very rich in nutrients.
Finally, he said rice bran has excellent water binding properties "so you can add more water."
"This makes for a more juicy hot dog."
Newland expects the rice bran may prove particularly popular with manufacturers who serve the school nutrition programs, where hot dogs and corn dogs figure large - but where good nutrition and low costs are shaping factors.
"The USDA approval presents an important opportunity for NutraCea to begin to supply hundreds of new customers, who will be able to capture cost savings and improve product yields" said Brad Edson, president and CEO for NutraCea.
Earlier this year, the company entered the lucrative edible oil market, following the completion of its purchase of South America's largest rice bran oil processing facility.
Stabilized rice bran benefits
Rice bran is a by-product of rice processing that is usually discarded or used as animal feed. While it is rich in fiber and a host of other beneficial nutrients, one of the main attractions for manufacturers is the cost savings it can confer.
Manufacturers are keener than ever to reformulate to save costs as global food prices have recently soared as a result of competition from emerging markets, competition for grains for use in biofuels, growing populations and emerging markets placing pressure on demand, and poor harvests.
A NutraCea-sponsored study conducted by research firm Ingredient Technologies found a variety of benefits arising from adding SRB to chicken nuggets and hot dogs.
Gits Prabhu, who oversaw the study, said the addition saved costs, increased yield and improved the healthiness of the profile. Crucially, it did this with "minimal change in taste".
He added: "Incorporating SRB at 2 percent and 3.5 percent inclusion levels in chicken nuggets lowered production costs by $0.02 and $0.04 respectively per pound. In hot dogs the production costs are reduced by $0.01 and $0.02 respectively by pound when SRB is used at 2 percent and 3.5 percent inclusion levels."
According to Newland, the acceptable level of SRB in hot dogs and sausages is 3.5 percent, but can be higher in some countries outside the US.
"This represents a new channel of distribution for NutraCea and we intend to pursue this marketing opportunity in a global scale," said Newland.
While it was historically used in feed, the company said is more efficient and environmentally sound to add it to meat during the processing phase.
NutraCea manufactures and distributes products and food ingredients made from rice bran through proprietary technology and processes.
While it has mainly focused on rice bran, the company filed for a provisional patent protection for its stabilized wheat bran technology this January.
The same month, it entered into an alliance to construct a new flour mill in Indonesia to incorporate the firm's new technology.