Snack producers and bakeries are making efforts to include more fruit ingredients in the products they offer to appeal to consumers looking for healthier, better-for-you food choices. Use of real fruit ingredients resonates with consumers, since it communicates a fresh, real, wholesome message.
Van Drunen Farms, Momence, IL, is developing new tools to help calculate and substantiate serving claims. “Substantiated serving claims from whole food has moved past a ‘trend’ and into a common request from our partners,” says Andrew Wheeler, corporate director of marketing. “We developed Truserv as a brand that is emblematic of our line of freeze-dried fruits, and vegetable powders and pieces, that deliver real, whole-food fruit and vegetable serving claims.” He notes that they are seeing this approach used for bars, cookies and other bakery applications. “We tie production data to USDA MyPlate servings data, so our partners’ label claims are supported by a documented and verifiable audit trail.”
Freeze-drying works best when piece identity, real-food nutrition and flavor, and a light texture or crunch is needed. Freeze-dried fruit are available in various particle sizes, ranging from pieces and slices to whole fruit.
“Beyond the fresh flavor and cellular integrity, shape, and natural color of freeze-dried fruit, this dehydration process is still the standard bearer due to its ability to retain the nutritional profile of the fresh material, which includes the biological activity like fiber and protein and phytochemical content along with enzymatic activity,” says Wheeler.
Freeze-dried berries are used in snack products like chocolate bark, where they offer low water activity and maintain the fruit’s “light and crunchy snap,” lending to a desirable mouthfeel and positive overall snack experience, explains Wheeler.
Van Drunen Farms also offers new “cluster technology” to combine fruit and vegetable pieces or powders into bite-sized clusters.
“Functionally, fruit ingredients can aid in shelf-life extension in a number of applications, ranging from bars to cakes, while boosting fiber and nutrient claims,” says Jeannie Swedberg, director of business development, Tree Top Inc., Selah, WA. “Dried fruit pieces and powders also contributes various functional properties, such as aiding with humectancy, attaining target pH level, controlling water activity—water activity levels below 0.60 inhibit most microbial growth—adding a fruit servings claim and/or as fat replacer in baked goods.” Tree Top also provides minimally processed fruit purées to and provide enhanced color and flavor.
Doehler North America, Cartersville, GA, recommends its highly viscous purées made of on-trend fruits, such as dates and figs, as ideal for enriching natural snack bars and balls. The company notes that consumers are constantly looking for exciting multi-sensory experiences, including snacks with optimal bite—from chunky to crispy—and appealingly brilliant color.
Doehler notes that superfruit juices, which are known for their high content of vitamins and antioxidants, are perfect for products that merge elements of health and overall eating enjoyment. Cranberry, pomegranate and aronia are most choices to add nutrition, value, brilliant red color and excellent flavor.
“Fruit d’Or recently added organic fruit powders, protein fruit powder and aseptic fruit purées to its product portfolio to extend its range of organic dried cranberry and wild blueberry products,” says Michèle Poulin, marketing, Fruit d’Or, Villeroy, Quebec. “Berries are increasingly popular, and Fruit d’Or, a family business that began as the first organic farm in Canada, develops and manages over 70 percent of the world’s supply of organic cranberries.”
Wild blueberries are the next big trend, suggests Poulin. “We have just launched our line of unsweetened organic cranberry and wild blueberry purées in aseptic packaging. When used as a replacement for oil in baking and dessert recipes, the cranberry or wild blueberry unsweetened purée adds polyphenols and anthocyanins, both well known for their antioxidant activity, fiber content and great taste.” The purées also add color and have very low sugar content.
The company’s soluble cranberry powder contributes flavor and color, extends moisture, and aids with viscosity control. Partly soluble cranberry powder adds fiber and proanthocyanidins to products; partly soluble cranberry protein powder also adds protein and a balanced ratio of omega 3 and 6 to the mix. “These powders save time, are always in season, and add a natural pop of color to your product. They are ready-to-use. Simply add to dough or fillings for baked goods, desserts and confectionary treats,” says Poulin.
The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Folsom, CA, notes that over the past several years, the blueberry industry has experienced extraordinary growth, with increased per capita consumption rising each year and a record number of new products entering the market. Blueberries combine attractive color, appealing flavor and noted health benefits. They are available in fresh, frozen, dehydrated, freeze-dried, concentrate, juice and powdered formats.
“Dried blueberries are perfect for granola and snack mixes,” suggests Tom Payne, industry consultant, U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. “They work well in ultra-performance foods, where they are becoming a staple ingredient because of antioxidant and anthocyanin content. Dehydrated blueberry powder works well in rice cakes and other low-moisture applications.” He notes other formats like frozen and IQF berries can be ground directly into mixes, imparting rich blueberry flavor, and can add intriguing effects like blue swirls or patterns. Blueberry concentrate can sweeten and color granola bars, bagels and cookies. Concentrated purées form the basis of custom pastes.
In order to help snack producers and bakers build product appeal, the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council has created The Real Blueberries seal, available to companies who verify the use of authentic, real blueberries in their products.
Wine RayZyns, made from premium dried wine grapes, hit the market about a year ago. “Wine Rayzyns are a superfood that combine the unique flavor of the wine grape with the power-packed nutrients of wine grape seeds and skins, as well as the added and satisfying crunch of drying these with the seed intact,” says Andrew Cates, co-founder, The Wine RayZyn Company, Napa, CA. Wine RayZyns contribute antioxidants, polyphenols and fiber.
Cates notes Wine Rayzyns have very low water activity, suggesting them for breakfast bars, energy bites and granola mixes, or combined with chocolate. They’re available in three varieties: CabernayZyn, MerlayZyn and ChardonayZyn.
Stone fruit solutions
Montmorency cherries offer a unique sweet-tart taste and flavor versatility, enhancing sweet, salty and spicy snacks and baked goods. The cherries are available dried, frozen, canned and as juice, both concentrate and single-strength.
“Dried Montmorency tart cherries are a great addition to snack and bakery applications, as they help bind dry ingredients, add moisture and provide texture to products,” says Mollie Woods, executive director, Cherry Industry Administrative Board, DeWitt, MI. “They also have low water activity and can be used in low-moisture products.” She recommends frozen tart cherries for bakery applications like muffins, scones and hand pies.
Woods notes that numerous research studies have linked Montmorency tart cherries to an array of health benefits, including improved sleep, reduced inflammation, better heart health and aid with exercise recovery. “U.S.-grown Montmorency tart cherries are abundant in anthocyanins, a natural compound that contributes to the ruby-red color and distinctive sour-sweet taste. This phytonutrient, a type of flavonoid, is also behind the potential health benefits of Montmorency tart cherries.”
Peter Sidwell, chef, author, founder of Simply Good Food TV and ambassador for the California Dried Plum Board, Sacramento, CA, is a firm believer that real, pure ingredients make great food, and feels there are numerous opportunities for California prunes. “There is so much you can do with California prunes, whether chopped, in powder form, or with the whole fruit.” He suggests prune powder for brownies and pancakes to reduce levels of sugar and butter. Prunes can also help contribute to a longer shelf life for baked goods and snacks.
Sidwell notes that California prune powder also provide natural—and numerous health benefits. Prunes are nutrient-dense, providing vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. One serving of prunes delivers 3 grams of fiber and is an excellent source of vitamin K.
Naturally sweet and flavorful
With consumers growing more cognizant of dietary sugar levels, often looking to reduce their intake of added sugars, fruits provide an alternative.
California prunes contribute natural sweetness to help reduce sugar. “As a natural sweetener, California prune powder reduces the necessary amount of sugar while maintaining the correct texture and flavor in the mix,” says Sidwell.
Doehler’s MultiSweet Fruit provides the natural sweetness of fruit and has a sweetness intensity comparable to sugar. The fruit sweetener combines fructose, sucrose and glucose to deliver an expected, fully rounded taste. Use of MultiSweet Fruit enables manufacturers to claim “sweeting from the fruit.”
Swedberg points out that in some cases fruit ingredients can enhance or amplify sweet flavors already in a product, so sweetener levels can be reduced.
When it comes to flavor pairing, matching a well-known fruit with a more-exotic one generally works well, explains Swedberg. “It provides a bit of familiarity, yet allows for taste exploration without jumping totally into the unknown—i.e., mango and peach, strawberry and jackfruit. You can also put apple and matcha together, or pear and basil.” She also points to the rise of more savory-flavored snack bars. “Fruit ingredients can make a good bridge by adding a bit of sweetness or tartness to the flavor profile.”
Doehler suggests combining fruits with botanical flavor profiles to create familiar—yet new and exotic—taste sensations, such as orange and spice, red berry and thyme, raspberry and lavender, or apple and cardamom.
With consumers growing more aware of the benefits of plant-based diets and looking for healthier, better for you options, the time is ripe for fruit ingredients.