Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the recent IFT trade show in Las Vegas, SunOpta’s senior group vp of Innovation and Sustainability James Podolske said that the product represented a breakthrough for sustainability as well as functionality, as rice hulls normally would be a waste product.
Podolske claims that the fiber is the first such ingredient on the market, allowing companies to add a significant quantity of fiber from rice hulls rather than rice bran.
“Rice hulls are very high in silica so the challenge has always been to strip away the silica. We have come up with a process to do that,” he said, adding that the process was proprietary. “…Through our process we can control the texture of it. We can control how soft it is, how flexible it is.”
The ingredient is also useful for gluten-free formulations, as it is “absolutely guaranteed gluten-free”, according to Podolske, and it taps into the trend for natural ingredients, with a very clean label declaration of ‘rice fiber’ on ingredient lists.
However, it is the ability to add large amounts of fiber without functional or taste problems that is the ingredient’s greatest advantage to food manufacturers, he said.
“We understand how to disassemble it and get the functionality out of it. If you wanted to get to the same level of fiber with bran you would have to use two or three times as much…It allows companies to make the same “good source of fiber” claims without adding too much bulk, and without taste issues.”
In order to qualify for a “good source of fiber” claim under FDA regulations, a product must contain 10%-19% of the recommended daily value per reference amount customarily consumed (RACC). To qualify for an “excellent source” claim, it must contain 20% or more of the daily value.