Major food manufacturers including giants like Sara Lee, Kraft, and ConAgra have been raising prices as commodity costs have soared in recent months – but if a company can provide cheaper alternative ingredients that offer additional benefits, now could be the time to attract new business.
Z Trim is an Illinois-based company that supplies corn and oat fiber ingredients, which it claims reduce fat in a variety of products such as baked goods, dressings, and milk shakes, and improve meat yields and juiciness, while improving texture and having no detectable effect on taste. Its ingredients are made from the bran fiber of corn and oats – a by-product of the milling process – and can be used to switch out a number of more expensive ingredients.
Daniel Dugan, vice president of sales, marketing and applications at Z Trim told FoodNavigator-USA at the recent Research Chefs Association expo in Atlanta: “We always say that we don’t like to see commodity prices rise, but we don’t mind.”
The company claims that its products can hold up to 30 times their weight in water, so in comparison to the use of starch in product formulation, blends incorporating the ingredients can be cost effective, the company said, with a usage level of about 1 to 1.5 percent compared to the 4 to 5 percent required of modified food starches, and can also be combined with other starches and gums, in order to improve yields.
Dugan said that right now dairy solids and soybean oil are particularly expensive, so if companies can reduce their use of those ingredients without affecting functionality, they could see big benefits in terms of cost reduction – and others besides.
“We are not only seeing it from a cost reduction standpoint, it also cleans up the label,” Dugan said. “You can put on ‘corn fiber’ and take off ‘modified starches’ for example.”
In addition, he said that the ingredient acts as a lubricant because it brings more water into a product, meaning that in the extrusion process, the extrudate moves through machinery in about a third less time, which also provides cost advantages.
“It’s always a combination of things,” Dugan said. “If we go into a cheesecake, for example, and we can take out a third of the cream cheese, you are taking it out and making it more healthy, and we are also talking out those dairy solids, so you are getting a huge cost saving for people.”
However, while the company is able to provide its ingredient to manufacturers within the United States, he added that it is struggling to find a non-genetically modified (GMO) corn source that would be acceptable for other markets.
“It’s impossible to get non-GMO corn at a reasonable cost,” he said.