The food industry is under pressure to be developing healthier products that contain less negative nutrients such as sugar, salt and fat. At the same time, such products are only acceptable to consumers if they still taste good and have the right mouthfeel.
The ingredients firm’s portfolio includes aspartame, seasonsings, the flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate, and the low sodium flavour enhancers monoammonium glutamate and monopotassium glutamate. It will conduct research on how these can best used in applications in four initial areas: sugar reduction; salt reduction, textural improvement, and the incorporation of ingredients to improve health.
Brendan Naulty, president of Ajinomoto Food Ingredients, said his company is in the “perfect position to provide tools to meet these goals without compromising health or enjoyment”.
Health boosting – or functional – ingredients in foods represent a fast growing areas of the food industry. According to a study released earlier this month by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the US functional foods market was worth $27bn in 2007.
A company spokesperson did not respond prior to publication with details on its functional ingredients offering or plans.
But earlier this year it did receive FDA no objection that a new Dihydrocapsiate ingredient structurally similar to components derived from hot chili peppers – but without the pungency – is generally recognised as safe (GRAS). Capsinoids have been researched for their positive affects on energy metabolism.
The Application Center North America was formally opened on August 3 and includes an analytical laboratory with HPLC. It will have a staff of five, including executive director of business development and application innovation Jiro Sakamoto.
Naulty called the move “a huge step forward for both Ajinomoto and our customers, reflecting our commitment to leadership in the North American food ingredient market”.
More than a supplier
The move is in line with an industry trend for ingredients firms to work ever more closely with the manufacturers they serve, over how best to use value-added, specialty ingredients. Gone are the days when an ingredient would simply be ordered, delivered, and left to the customer to work out how to use it.
By working with their customers side-by-side, they can advice on how to use ingredients to get the best results, and come up with tailored solutions to meet specific needs.
Other companies that have developed strategies to work closely with customers over reformulation include Tate & Lyle, which has developed product development platforms ‘Rebalance’ (to make foods less bad) and ‘Enrich’ (to add healthy ingredients into the mix).
Tate & Lyle tends to use ingredients in its portfolio, such as sucralose and Promitor fibers, in these applications developed on these platforms.
On the texture side, National Starch Food Innovation has opened two centers – one on either side of the Atlantic – in recent years that allow product developers to work alongside the suppliers’ food technologists and chefs.