The cereal major has filed a patent on a technique to pelletize – compress or mold into a pellet shape – calcium and fiber to better incorporate them into a RTE cereal product.
General Mills has used a gelatinized starch to bind the particles of the fiber and calcium into non-expanded pellets for fortification of the cereal, but stressed that percentage values of ingredients are crucial.
“The expanded cereal products, such as extruded puffed RTE cereals which contain the pellets, exhibit a crisp, uniform texture and cell structure, improved, prolonged bowl life, a non-gritty mouth feel, and a smooth, uniform surface appearance even though they are fortified with high amounts of the solid or particulate insoluble nutritional components,” it said in its patent filing.
“The extent and direction of the expansion is essentially unhampered by the incorporation of the insoluble components, and is the same or substantially the same as for products which do not contain the insoluble components.”
Keeping nutrient value high
The cereal maker acknowledged that lots of processes have been developed to incorporate vitamins and minerals into foods – including the use of starch as a binder. But it said, in most cases, large amounts of starch were used reducing the amount of vitamin or mineral available for incorporation into food.
In its process, General Mills said the pelletized neutraceutical products contain relatively low amounts of starch or other encapsulation materials which increased the amount of insoluble nutritional component available for fortification into expanded RTE cereal products.
It said the ideal amount of partially gelatinized or fully gelatinized starch should be between 5-20% of the dry weight of the vitamin/mineral and binder, but could be anywhere from 5-40%.
The fiber/calcium should ideally represent 80-85% of the overall dry weight when mixed with the binder component.
Interference with expansion
When it comes to the expansion process of RTE cereals, General Mills said solid insoluble particles like dietary fiber or calcium carbonate interfere with the bubble forming process and therefore hamper the extent and direction of the expansion of cereal.
This, the company added, can then adversely affect lots of the cereal properties, including expansion, texture, bowl life and surface appearance.
“Dealing with all of these effects is challenging because there are multiple interconnected systemic parameters, such as viscosity and bubble nucleation, and mechanisms, such as rate of hydration and mechanical mixing at work. When RTE cereals are fortified with both fiber and calcium these challenges are further amplified,” General Mills wrote.
However, when pelletized and distributed evenly in the RTE cereal dough ahead of processing, it said dietary fiber and calcium do not have the same negative impacts on the end product.
General Mills noted that the pellets should ideally make up 15-25% of the overall weight of the final product.