“Consumers want clean labels, but it comes at a cost” that has forced some manufacturers to sacrifice either their margins or the shelf-life of a product, neither of which is ideal, said Courtney Schwartz, marketing director for Kemin Food Technologies, Americas.
For example, she explained, negative consumer response to the preservative TBHQ has led some formulators in fats and oils to simply remove the ingredient, rather than replace it with an alternative that might be more expensive.
While this might make economic sense, “many times the shelf life of snack foods need to be 12-18 months and just removing that antioxidant really puts your brand at risk for color and flavor degradation” that could cost the company repeat sales, she said.
She added with Kemin’s new clean-label, natural solutions and technical knowledge, manufacturers can keep products fresher and safer longer without sacrificing their margins or dramatically altering the price point for consumers.
For example, Kemin’s oil-soluble green tea extract GT-FORT, which received FDA GRAS status earlier this year, can replace less desirable ingredients, like TBHQ, and maintain stability and shelf-life of fat-containing foods by significantly delaying lipid oxidation in food. And because it is green tea, consumers recognize and feel comfortable with the ingredient, Schwartz said.
The ingredient, which is labeled as an antioxidant, also can help manufacturers make on-demand front-of-pack claims, such as no artificial preservatives or flavors – which can be leveraged for a more premium price point that helps cover the cost of the more expensive ingredient.
GT-FORT can also help companies cut other ingredient costs, Schwartz said. She noted that when FDA directed companies to remove partially hydrogenated oils from products, many were pushed to purchase more expensive high oleic oils. But with GT-FORT, she said, companies can use less expensive oils and still see the same shelf life.
“So, depending on what their cost targets are, there are ways they can still stay on cost target and have some flexibility with their oils,” she said.
Another option that Kemin is “just finalizing” after about three years of development is a rosemary and ascorbic acid blend that provides “a bit more oxidation stability.” This “cleaner label” option complements the GT-FORT by offering a less expensive solution that “really rounds out our portfolio,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz noted that the new blend is similar to a competing product that recently came off patent, but has a better dispersion that provides more consistency and does not separate the same way.
Kemin expands into bakery & snacks at large
Kemin also is expanding its list of shelf-stability solutions for baked goods and snacks that go beyond tortillas, which has been a key focus of the company for years.
“For the last 10 to 12 years, we have just offered mold inhibitors to the corn tortilla side of the business, but now we have expanded our capabilities to whole dry blending. So, that allows us to offer batch packs or premixes to all of the specialty flour tortilla producers and from there to all baked goods,” Schwartz said.
She explained that as part of this investment, Kemin has hired formulation experts who are specifically familiar with formulation with enzymes that can help companies clean up their labels.
In addition, she noted, this month Kemin opened a new $1.5 million facility similar to a small industrial sized bakery that will allow it to run all of the bakery premixes so that its customers will not have to shut down and clean their own lines to try the new mixes.
Plant-based is the future
These developments also are helping Kemin reach towards its goal to make half of its portfolio plant-base ingredients and plant-extracts, Schwartz said.
“We have been around 55 years and when we started we were definitely a chemical company. In 2013, maybe 5% of our total sales were plant-based options,” but now Kemin is shifting its portfolio to be more plant-based in response to consumer demand.
In this spirit, the company is working on a “very clean label or natural mold inhibitor that we hope to launch in 2021,” Schwartz said.
Specifically, she said, the company has developed a natural fermentation process that will allow it to offer a one to one replacement for synthetic propionic-acid “that would be huge for industry” because it would be able to go into dried or liquid calcium propionate at a cost comparison level “that no one else has yet.”
She added: “Our ultimate goal is to have a full portfolio for people to make the choices that meet their needs best and allows them to make the claims they want to make.”