Food companies interested in ADM's NovaLipid zero/low trans fat oil line at the International Food Technologists (IFT) conference in New Orleans, for example, were being gently reminded that there are only a few months remaining before the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) January 1, 2006 trans fat labeling requirement takes effect.
This will oblige nearly all food products on sale in the US to clearly mark whether the product contains trans fats, which have been associated with elevated cholesterol levels leading to coronary artery disease.
"Even though there are only five months left before the deadline, some companies have not worked on this too much," ADM brand manager Chris Banocy told FoodNavigator-USA.com."But there is a perfect storm coming in January. After Christmas as we all know, all the stories will be about dieting and how to lose weight, and this is when the trans fat regulation also come into force.
"Some companies will be ready, some will not, but consumer are likely to demand products low in trans fats. They increasingly understand that these are bad, and I think that as a result, this is going to be a big, big issue."
Products with ingredients that contain lower or no trans fatty acids are already gaining consumer recognition. According to New York-based AC-Nielsen, US sales of products already labeled "no trans fat" increased 12 percent to $6.4 billion for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 2, 2004, compared with the previous 52-week period.
ADM's Novalipid line could help food makers tap into this trend. The company's award-winning enzymatic interesterification system takes soybeans and converts them into oil that is low in trans fats. This means that manufacturers who use the Novalipid line in their products do not have to put 'hydrogenated' on the label.
Enzyme interesterified shortenings and margarines can be used in the baking, margarine, confectionery, snack and cereal markets. Many food companies have been quick to see the advantages of this.
"Our R&D guy has been swamped with requests - for the last year and a half we've just been working with one company after the other, for everything from fried snacks to baked goods. All Fritolay brands for example now contain zero trans fats."
A variety of food and beverage samples using the NovaLipid product including a Cajun-style sandwich, whole grain hushpuppies, baguettes, gourmet cookies, cinnamon Danish and a chicory café au lait were available at ADM's IFT stand for attendees to taste.
A second major issue that ADM has sought to address is increased consumer demand for whole grain foods and increased dietary fiber intake. The US diet is notoriously low in fiber, but new ingredient solutions could help consumers take fiber in more appealing ways.
Proposed solutions from ADM include new Kansas Diamond white whole-wheat flour, Prolite wheat protein isolate and Fibersol-2 digestion-resistant maltodextrin.
Kansas Diamond white whole-wheat flour is an extra-fine flour designed to produce finished goods with the health benefits of whole-wheat flour and the consumer appeal of white flour. The flour is made from the finest hard white wheat and according to ADM is nutritionally equal to traditional whole-wheat flour.
The product can be use in applications such as pizza crusts, bread, bagels, pasta, cookies and tortillas.
Prolite wheat protein isolates on the other hand are a highly functional line of ingredients ideal for improving traditional food products. The wheat proteins act as a powerful whipping protein that can also improve volume in whole grain and a variety of other applications.
ADM also claims that the functional wheat proteins can deliver excellent film-forming, adhesion, binding and coating properties. These ingredients can help existing products cross into new categories by removing allergens like dairy and egg, reducing sugars and increasing protein.
Finally, Fibersol-2 digestion resistant maltodextrin offers the benefits of increased fiber content, in a form that is clear or transparent in solution, highly soluble and stable under virtually all conditions. It does not interfere with the taste of products, and Banocy claims that the product may actually help "round out" the acidic or other flavor notes.
These two ingredient lines from ADM show how increasing demand for healthier foods - both from consumers and regulators - is driving food ingredient innovation. For his part, Banocy is impressed with how manufacturers have adapted to this new environment of health consciousness.
"I'm pleased with the response I've seen in the food industry to these challenges," said Banocy. "They seen what has happened to the tobacco industry, and are taking their responsibilities seriously.
"But being healthy is all about balance. It's about exercising regularly as well, and the food industry is now doing a good job in complementing this.
"There are now healthier products. Soy milk for example does great - it is interesting that consumers seem to latch onto certain products. And a lot more food manufacturers are putting out nutritional information, where ten years ago there was nothing."