SunOpta has developed its line of sunflower-based ingredients to include a sunflower paste designed to be used in the same way as almond paste in bakery and confectionery products.
Sunzipan Sunflower Paste is made from roasted sunflower kernels which are ground and then sweetened, and the company is promoting it as a shelf-stable, highly nutritious ingredient to which fewer people are allergic than tree nut pastes.
Nuts are generally considered to be value-adding ingredients, and the company said Sunzipan adds “highly desired nutty flavor” at a lower cost than using tree nuts.
The company’s director of North American ingredient sales, Ellen Bragg, told FoodNavigatorUSA.com that the company had been interested in making a sunflower-based equivalent to a bakery ingredient that was already well-known. The name itself, she explained, is a nod to marzipan, while it acknowledges the ingredient’s sunflower origin, and the company is in the process of trademarking it.
She said: “It is not treated with almond flavoring – that would be another option – but the sunflower flavor is distinctive and delicious ‘as itself’…By making a condiment rich in sunflower, we felt this was a new way to incorporate sunflower nutrition into bakery products. Formerly only tree nut based options were available.”
SunOpta grows hybrid varietal sunflower kernels, including some varieties that are high in oleic acid, which is known to improve shelf life and stability by its antioxidant properties. Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid which is said to be beneficial to heart health.
The development of the new ingredient comes as many companies are looking to replace their more expensive ingredients with cheaper ones, without sacrificing consumer acceptance of taste and texture.
Bragg said: “Sunflower paste is also a third less expensive than almond paste, so it may enjoy interest from our bakery trade to evaluate less costly condiments at a time in our economy when cost containment is highly valued.”
According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), more than 12 million Americans – or four per cent of the population – suffer from a food allergy. FAAN says that approximately 3.3 million Americans are allergic to either tree or peanuts, but while sunflower allergy is considered to be rare, “reliable figures aren’t available.”