Driven by consumer desire, in the 1990s manufacturers turned increasingly towards low-fat products. Although today the trend has considerably calmed down and R&D departments have cut down on fat-free research, growing numbers of health conscious consumers mean that the market still needs effective fat replacers.
As a food ingredient, fat is important in food preparation and consumption because it gives taste, consistency, stability, and palatability to foods and helps us feel full so we stop eating.
On the whole, fat replacement involves working with a number of ingredients to manage water, structure, colour, processing characteristics, flavour and appearance. Many product developers have found 'favourite' fat replacers that fit easily into their ingredient legends.
"Benefat is a constructive fat-based alternative to conventional fat in the diet that offers food processors a safe and effective way of improving the nutritional profile of foods without compromising taste, as the calorie value is one third lower than ordinary fat,' said Torben Svejgaard, president of Danisco Emulsifiers.
Salatrim, an acronym for short-and long-chain triglyceride molecules, is a structured triacylglycerol derivative constituted predominantly of mixtures of stearic and acetic, and propionic and butyric acids esterified with glycerol. The product, that delivers 5 kcal/gramme (EU has approved it as having 6 kcal/grammes, in the US it is 5 kcal/grammes), has been developed by Danisco for a number of confectionery and bakery applications, and in the US the ingredient has GRAS affirmation for confectionery, dairy products, margarine and spreads, baked goods, and snacks.
With long-awaited approval now granted, Danisco is set to drive the product into the European market - an area for which the company has high hopes.
"We expect annual sales of between €7 and €14 million after an introduction period of two-four years. This corresponds to approximately 0.1 per cent of the market for chocolate and cakes," Svejgaard said earlier this year.
But it hasn't been a smooth ride for salatrim. Last year the Danish Consumer Council expressed concern that excessive use of salatrim could cause gastrointestinal problems. At the time, an industry spokesperson argued that salatrim offers food processors a safe and effective way of improving the nutritional profile of foods without compromising taste.
All components in salatrim are present in the foods a person consumes in the course of a normal day. They also argue that an abnormally high consumption of any product will produce a reaction, even too much fruit or vegetables, normally regarded healthy, will result in a stomach ache.
Salatrim has been tested by the EU Scientific Committee on Foods (SCF) and the UK's Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP). These tests showed no traceable discomfort at an intake of 30g per day. It was projected that the average consumption of salatrim would be below this level.
Arguably as a nod to these concerns, when the Commission granted approval this week it stipulated that the standing committee had opted that authorisation requires all products containing salatrim to carry a statement that excessive consumption may lead to gastro-intestinal disturbance. Labelling will also identify the product as containing 'reduced energy fat (salatrim)' and state that the product is not suitable for children to eat.