A segment during ABC's Good Morning America last summer dealt with questions about the content of Taco Bell’s taco meat filling, and focused on the 12% of the meat filling composed of ingredients necessary to improve taste and texture. Trehalose, a functional carbohydrate additive, was part of that 12%.
Taco Bell is credited as doing a good job explaining the need for the extra additives, and the story turned out to be good news for Cargill, boosting consumer awareness and industry demand for the ingredient. The ABC segment is still the source of the largest increase in consumer awareness, said Karri Santamaria, product line manager – specialty carbohydrates, Cargill.
“But as more customers launch products containing trehalose, it is also helping to increase consumer awareness,” she added.
Sweetness and beyond
Trehalose is made from starch via a proprietary process. The ingredient was first developed by the Japanese company Nagase, with Cargill partnering on the sale of the ingredient in North America.
One of its first uses was in the manufacture of surimi, the white fish paste that can be textured, flavored and colored to resemble crab or lobster. While other saccharides might perform some of the same functions, they are too sweet for such an application, and Japanese consumers don’t like things as sweet as Americans do in general. Trehalose is about 40% as sweet as sucrose.
But after the ingredient’s entry into the North American market, new applications arose as consumer preferences and health targets shifted.
“We continue to see customer interest in exploring the benefits of trehalose,” Santamaria told us. “Certainly food trends support the multiple benefits of trehalose in various categories, such as freshness, flavor and texture.”
It was discovered that the ingredient could help manufacturers reach sodium reduction goals, for example, which remains a key consumer health concern. According to the 2015 IFIC Food & Health Survey, 63% of Americans consider the salt/sodium content when making decisions about buying foods and beverages, while 53% say they are trying to avoid sodium/salt in 2015.
“Trehalose enables sodium reduction, without the use of phosphates, while still allowing moisture retention for great taste and texture,” explained Santamaria.
Cargill has been in the Trehalose business for over a decade and believes the ingredient’s numerous functional properties make it a unique ingredient for use in foods and beverages.
“The biggest challenge is limited awareness of the benefits of working with trehalose and therefore less exposure to applying it in food applications,” said Santamaria. “We will work with customers to optimize product formulation with trehalose, which is a win-win.”