The pandemic has heightened consumers’ interest in health and well-being. According to the 2021 IFIC Food and Health Survey, 58 percent of respondents stated that healthfulness had an impact on their food and beverage decisions. In the same study, when consumers were asked what nutrients they are trying to consume, protein, fiber, vitamin D, and whole grain topped the list. Not only are consumers interested in food and beverages that are good for you, they are also interested in what’s good for the planet. Consumers are looking for greater transparency and sustainability from their food and beverages.

Remi Reguero, technical director, Benexia S.A, Santiago, Chile, explains it well: “Consumers are definitely more educated in terms of foods nutritional quality, but will never quit on taste. They will request products of great taste and great nutrition.” Plus, he notes, some consumers will assume that your processes and your ingredients comply with these three principles:

  • Produced and sourced from environmentally aware sources, meaning that you are measuring, controlling, and improving your business and product footprint, always looking for the most environmentally friendly solution
  • With social responsibility (fair trade, community engagement, equal rights)
  • Full transparency—from sourcing to your consumer table


Packing a nutritional punch

Merit Functional Foods, Old Kildonan, Manitoba, is first to market with a food-grade canola protein. Canola protein is comprised of different types of protein. The company utilizes a clean-label friendly, aqueous process technology to separate these distinct proteins. These proteins have a high purity level of over 90 percent protein, provide a neutral taste, and are non-GMO. Jeff Casper, director of research and applications, describes these exciting new products:

  • Merit Puratein C canola protein is an exciting new ingredient solution for formulators because of its high purity of over 90 percent protein, and high whipping, foaming and gelling capabilities which make it ideal for vegan, egg-free, and gluten-free bakery applications and snack foods.
  • Merit Puratein HS canola protein has a purity of over 90 percent protein with exceptional foaming and whipping capacity making it ideal for soy-free, vegan marshmallows and other aerated confections, while its unique combination of high solubility, high oil binding capacity, and low water binding capacity can significantly reduce the rate of firming over time in protein bars.
  • Merit Puratein G canola protein has the ability to replace some of the functionality of whole egg due to its gelation properties and has been used in cakes and batter-based products.

The company has developed several applications leveraging these new ingredients, Casper shares a few examples:

  • Plant-based protein bars: Merit’s plant-based protein bar concept features Puratein HS canola protein and Peazazz pea protein, with 90 percent pea protein, to help formulators create softer plant-based protein bars with a PDCAAS of 1.0 and reduce the rate of bar firming throughout shelf life. Puratein HS can be used with a variety of plant-based proteins to create softer bars, both initially and over shelf life without having to use hydrolyzed proteins that can impart bitterness and astringency.
  • Gluten-free bakery: Consumers who follow plant-based, gluten-free diets have very limited bakery options, as gluten-free applications rely heavily on egg albumen. In these formulations, the presence of eggs helps to make up for the absence of gluten proteins. Manufacturers can leverage Merit’s canola protein for its nucleation and gelation properties to develop gluten-free, vegan-friendly formulas that deliver the taste and texture consumers have come to expect with traditional baked goods.

Benexia, a company with over 25 years of experience in processing chia seed ingredients, has recently launched a new product. Benexia Xia Powder 435 LM is a clean label, 100 percent natural, environmentally friendly, nutrient-dense ingredient that is resistant to all heat treatments and processes in the bakery and snack segment. Reguero shares details about this new ingredient: “It is unique, as we concentrate all the nutrients of the chia in this product. It contains more than 56 percent fiber, both soluble and insoluble, with a high content of high biological value protein (more than 20 percent) and the right amount of omega-3 ALA (more than 5 percent). But the most interesting attributes of this product are about its functionalities. Benexia Xia Powder 435 LM adds water retention capacity and yield to the formulation, improving texture and shelf life.” This new ingredient can be used in keto, gluten-free, and low-carb applications and works well in sweet cookies, muffins, biscuits, and bars.

Increased fiber and sugar reduction are top of mind with consumers. “Since 80 percent of the immune system is tied to the gut, and the gut is where nutrient absorption happens, it makes sense that many are thinking more about gut health. Consumers are increasingly interested in the relationship between the gut and immunity and cognition. For them fiber and prebiotics are a means of supporting mood, sleep, and immunity via digestive health,” explains Sheri O’Brien, vice president, sales & marketing, BioNeutra North America Inc., Edmonton, Alberta.

One of the challenges with reducing sugar is the formulator needs to not only replace the sweetness but also re-create the functionality, bulk, and mouthfeel. BioNeutra North America has a couple of new products that can rise to the challenge. The company recently launched VitaFiber DX, an added fiber solution that also excels in reduced-sugar applications. “VitaFiber DX has sugar-like bulk and solubility and is an FDA-approved dietary fiber. We created VitaFiber DX to replace sugar’s functionality without trying to match its sweetness and to contribute fiber and prebiotics to formulations. In addition to sensory and functional benefits such as browning and excellent digestive tolerance, VitaFiber DX provides the highest FDA approved dietary fiber and prebiotic of any product in our portfolio,” explains O’Brien. It comes in a dense syrup with a light-yellow color and has no aftertaste.

VitaFiber PLUS is another relatively new addition which delivers soluble, FDA-approved dietary fiber and sugar-like functionality with light sweetness. “VitaFiber PLUS adds fiber and prebiotics to bakery and snack applications while also replacing the mouthfeel of sugar. It works especially well in formats such as cereal and snack bars, where the functional properties of sugar are needed but the application partially relies on another source, such as high intensity sweeteners for sweetness,” explains O’Brien.

Both VitaFiber DX and VitaFiber PLUS are great solutions for replacing the functionality of sugar and adding dietary fiber and prebiotics to biscuits, cakes, cereal bars, cookies, doughnuts, meal-replacement bars, muffins, nutritional bars, protein bars, and other snack and bakery applications.

Offering solutions to reduce sugar and sodium is a priority for Ajinomoto Health & Nutrition, Itasca, IL. The company recently launched AJISWEET Natural Sweeteners to help reduce sugar content. “AJISWEET is a high-quality stevia-based sweetener with the ability to deliver delicious, sweet taste and enhance mouthfeel, block bitterness and reduce unwanted lingering sweetness while minimizing off tastes in a variety of reduced sugar, no sugar, and clean-label applications like cereals and bars, baked goods, and more. Nutritional benefits of this solution include decreased calorie and carbohydrate consumption through sugar reduction,” states Sarah Corwin, Ph.D., R.D., senior principal scientist, applications development.

Consumers are not only interested in products that are not only good for them but also good for the planet. Giacomo Cattaneo, EverVita product owner, EverGrain Ingredients, St. Louis, explains: “Today’s consumer is far more discerning, not only considering their individual health when seeking quality ingredients but the health of our planet, as well. This has put more of a spotlight on plant-based protein sources, creating tremendous opportunity for new sources to capture attention. Barley is that disruptor, a fresh face in developed categories that are craving innovation.”

EverGrain has seized this opportunity and created 2 new innovative fiber and protein barley products which are perfect for snack and bakery products. Both products include a unique combination of fibers and proteins that make up to 80 percent of the ingredients, with little remaining starch.

  • EverVita Pro: feature fiber (40 percent) and higher protein content (>33 percent) and can be labeled as “barley fiber” and “protein”
  • EverVita Fibra: offers higher fiber (60 percent) in addition to the protein (20 percent), and can be added to any flour blend using a “barley fiber” label
  • Both EverVita Pro and EverVita Fibra are low in starches, sugar, sodium, are vegan and non-GMO, and can work well in popular diets like the keto diet

These barley-based protein and fiber ingredients not only provide nutritional benefits to much needed categories but also deliver functional properties. Cattaneo shares some of the areas the company is focused on:

  • Bars and snacks: has a clean taste with desired texture and chew and minimal moisture transfer; promotes a crisp and crunchy texture for extruded snacks, while enabling higher protein and fiber fortified positioning
  • Cakes and muffins: higher specific volume than cakes fortified with wheat bran or whole meal flour; water-binding properties to retain moisture during baking; lower in carbohydrates

In addition to these benefits, “what makes EverVita a true rock star in plant proteins is the circularity and sustainability story of barley itself. Reduction of waste of food, water, land, and greenhouse emissions—especially in comparison to other fiber and protein sources such as dairy and other plant-based proteins—is where barley ingredients from EverGrain shine,” shares Cattaneo.

ADM, Chicago, shares that the top two functional ingredients U.S. consumers are looking to add to their diets are fiber and protein. Both of these nutrients can be found in whole food ingredients such as whole grains, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds. According to June Lin, vice president, global marketing, health and wellness: “Plant protein blends are gaining traction with customers and consumers alike. According to ADM research, brands tend to use a blend of plant-based ingredients in snack bars, and their sweet flavor profiles might make consumers more open to trying niche protein sources. Our MaxFlex synergistic plant protein blends pair pea with wheat or rice proteins to maximize nutrition and functionality of consumer preferred plant-forward products like energy bars, thin-crisp cookies and puffed snacks.” More information on the product line is below:

  • MaxFlex PW: is a pea and wheat protein blend that delivers added nutrition and functionality to a variety of snack and bakery applications such as brownies, pizza dough and muffins
  • MaxFlex PR: is a pea and rice protein blend, boosts nutrition and functionality in snack bars, pancakes, and cookies.
  • Both of these blends are non-GMO, vegan and suitable for the school lunch program as alternate protein products (APP), which require a PDCAAS of 0.8 or higher

The company has also added resistant tapioca starch to their growing starch ingredient portfolio. This ingredient contains 90 percent dietary fiber and is ideal for low net carb formulations, especially for customers seeking non-GMO and gluten-free clean label claims, shares Lin.

ADM takes sustainability seriously: the company reached a milestone and is proud to share it has achieved net carbon neutral status for its U.S. milling operations—a first step toward creating carbon neutral flour. The company also offers HarvestEdge Gold certified sustainable flours that are traceable to the farm and verified by the Food Alliance.

Cargill, Minneapolis, offers a variety of different plant proteins including pea protein. “Pea protein is sourced from non-GMO yellow pea seed varieties specially selected to minimize off-notes and processed without the use of hexanes to bring out the best flavor possible. Nutritionally, pea protein also has a very good protein content. Our products from PURIS (joint venture partner) have a minimum 80 percent protein. While not a complete protein, pea protein has a high PDCAAS (protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score) of 0.78, well above most plant proteins. However to make a complete protein claim, formulators will need to blend pea protein with a complementary protein source such as rice, wheat gluten or soy. In bakery applications we typically rely on protein blends—not only to achieve nutritional goals, but to manage formulation challenges around flavor and water absorption,” explains McKenna Mills, senior technical services specialist.

There are several different types of pea proteins available based on the different product application needs. For example, some pea proteins are better suited for crackers where it’s important to prevent staling and moisture migration versus other formats that work better in bread where controlling the dough viscosity is important.

The superfood power of almonds provides delicious and nutritious benefits to snack and bakery products. Almonds are rich in fiber, protein, calcium, and vitamin E and are available in multiple formats including: whole, diced, slivered, or flour form. “In any form, almonds can assist in the formulation of many better-for-you versions of cakes, breads, muffins, cookies, and bars. Gluten-free macarons, made with extra-fine almond flour, deliver a light and airy touch to a classic treat. The extra fine granulation allows the almond flour to be distributed evenly during formulation, producing a smooth exterior and delightful, delicate texture. On the indulgent side, almond flour and almond inclusions can be combined within a chocolate almond brownie, for example, using both the fine flour texture to structure the treat, while still providing a crunch factor from the almond inclusion,” shares Laura Gerhard, vice president, Blue Diamond Global Ingredients Division, Sacramento, CA.

Fiberstar’s Citri-Fi, an upcycled, natural functional fiber, “tells its own sustainability story which begins as a byproduct of the citrus juicing industry. This upcycled fiber is produced using a process free from chemical modifications. Because of this, the native pectin content remains intact giving this citrus fiber its high functionality versus other similar ingredients in the marketplace. The high fiber content which contains both soluble and insoluble work synergistically with this pectin content to provide high water holding and emulsification properties,” explains Jennifer Stephens, vice president of marketing, Fiberstar.

Citri-Fi citrus fiber can provide multiple nutritional benefits in a variety of snack and bakery products. “Because of Citri-Fi’s ability to hold moisture and emulsify while having a pleasant mouthfeel, one of the natural ways Citri-Fi can help with the nutritionals of baked goods is to reduce fat contents and / or use more liquid oils. Once hydrated and added to liquid oils, Citri-Fi will help solidify the liquid phase so they function more like solid fats, which can be helpful for saturated fat content reduction projects. Binding up to 10 times its weight in water, Citri-Fi also lends itself to improving the texture, moistness and perception of freshness of gluten-free, keto, paleo, and vegan type baked goods. These type of products tend to suffer from dryness, short shelf life and staling,” details Brock Lundberg, Ph.D., president of applications and R&D, Fiberstar.


Gut health benefits

Based on the data from the 2021 IFIC Food and Health Study, more consumers are trying to consume prebiotics and probiotics in 2021 versus 2020. Consumers are interested in functional ingredients that can support immune health. One of the challenges with utilizing some prebiotics and probiotics in baked goods, is the ingredient microorganisms need to survive the baking process. Fortunately companies like Cargill have options to deliver these immune benefits. “Cargill’s EpiCor is a one-of-a-kind microbiome modulating ingredient clinically shown to support both digestive and immune health. Backed by over 75 years of fermentation expertise, our postbiotic is a whole food fermentate made through a natural, proprietary process that creates a unique fingerprint of metabolites that supports a healthy gut microbiome. This health- supportive ingredient is highly heat stable, can handle varying pH levels and has a three-year shelf life,” explains Cashtyn Lovan, marketing manager, Cargill. The postbiotic brings a rich, brown color and unique savory flavor to formulations and it pairs well with other ingredients like chocolate, vanilla and dark red fruits. It can be used in a variety of baked goods and snack bars and has a recommended dose of 500 mg per day. Most recently the ingredient received non-GMO Project Verification.

Clasado Biosciences, Reading, England, shares data from the research agency Mordor Intelligence, projecting a rock solid 12.2 percent compound annual growth rate, to 2024, for global prebiotic ingredients, further validating the growing interest in gut health. “Alongside digestive health, the trillions of bacteria inside the gut microbiome are understood to influence areas such as immune health, cognitive and mental health and even how we sleep—so it’s no surprise that many are looking towards functional ingredients to promote better gut health,” shares Dr. Frederic Narbel, vice president of B2B sales.

The company has developed Bimuno, a prebiotic galactooligosaccharide, which is scientifically backed, with over 100 scientific publications, validating its efficacy and safety. “What sets prebiotics, such as our own Bimuno, apart from many other ingredients is that it’s extremely stable. As a substrate, it’s resistant to heat and acidities commonly found in food manufacturing and baking, which means it can be added to recipes at any stages,” shares Narbel. Noted below are additional features and benefits of this innovative new ingredient:

  • Targeted to nourish the good bacteria that are already in the gut
  • Is extremely stable and not affected by stomach acid and digestive enzymes
  • Gluten-free, non-GMO, suitable for halal and kosher products
  • Suitable for vegetarians
  • GRAS approved for food, beverage, and infant formula in the U.S.
  • Works in a variety applications including: baked energy snack bars, grab-and-go products such as pastries, cereals, yogurts, confectionary, and smoothies
  • Is available in both powder and syrup formats

Narbel notes seeing the gap between food and nutrition narrowing and in terms of future trends, they are expecting gut health to continue its strong upward momentum and further permeate the baked goods and snack market.