Adding nutrients to kids’ diets, part 1
When the target market is moms worried about their kids’ health, formulators should consider adding specific vitamins and minerals to baked foods. Dave Pfefer, product manager, enrichment/fortification blends, Caravan Ingredients, Lenexa, KS, answers questions about what to consider and how to make sure the added nutrients survive the baking process.
Baking & Snack: Do you see a place for enriched and/or fortified baked foods and snacks in improving kids’ health? What nutrients can such foods supply that are not being provided in sufficient quantity by conventional products? In your opinion, which nutrients are most important to kids’ health?
Dave Pfefer: While I am not a dietician or nutritionist, I have been in the food business for 45 years and throughout that time have seen many examples of empty calories being offered to, and consumed by, kids. I do feel that there is a place for enriched or fortified baked foods. These foods would be designed to balance the nutritional profile of the food to allow it to provide reasonable levels of vitamins, minerals, and perhaps antioxidants. However, I do not think it is wise to fortify kid’s baked foods with all the latest designer nutrients for which a need has not been established.
Studies have shown that kids over the years have moved away from milk to carbonated soft drinks and this has put many of them at a deficit for vitamin D. It would be reasonable to fortify baked goods with vitamin D, as many companies now do, to reverse this inadequacy. Calcium falls in the same situation and some of the more bioavailable forms of that mineral could be added to products targeted to kids. Many teenage girls are deficient in iron, and supplementing this mineral in their baked foods would provide a strong benefit. Vitamin A is important in skin and eye health.
Americans generally get sufficient quantities of this vitamin from normal diets, but there are still some which do not. In lesser developed areas where lower quantities of vitamin A-fortified dairy products and certain types of meats are consumed, children could be on the deficient side, and a little fortification in baked foods could reverse this deficiency.
Omega-3s have been shown to be important in eye development, brain development and memory capacity and are found in most infant formulas. Extension of their use in baked foods for older children could prove beneficial in expanding their learning ability.
What ingredients does Caravan Ingredients supply that address such formulation needs? What do you advise formulators about using these ingredients?
Caravan Ingredients has access to 350 to 400 nutritional raw materials. These include vitamins, minerals, botanical extracts, nutraceuticals, herbs, spices and a few other high value natural ingredients with nutritional properties. As stated earlier, many of these are not appropriate for the basic nutritional foundation of kid’s baked foods and we do not use them for that purpose. But the basic 13 vitamins, approximately 25 minerals and omega-3s, choline and natural fibers are appropriate.
When designing each blend we take into consideration the composition of the baked food and how it influences the type of nutritional ingredient we use and its market form. For instance, bland white bread would suggest the need for microencapsulated mineral forms to avoid bitter or metallic tastes in the baked food.
Generally, staple foods such as bread and rolls which are eaten daily are subject to lower levels of fortification than is a treat like a donut, which may be consumed once or twice a week. The guiding principle should be that at the end of the day when all of the child’s food intakes are added up, the values from the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) table should be met.
Are you working to improve the nutritional quality of any gluten-free foods targeted at children? Does formulating allergen-free present similar nutritional problems? What are you learning about such products?
We currently don’t do a lot of work in gluten-free baked foods. In the few gluten-free products that we do produce, we have incorporated reduced sodium and increased fiber content at the request of customers. Both of these adjustments would be beneficial for kids.
Which baked foods and/or snacks are already on the market made according to such fortification and enrichment strategies? How well accepted are they?
Probably the first baked food of this type was the Iron Kids bread put out by Campbell Taggart/Earthgrains back in the late 1980s. It has been followed by a string of products that are formulated to target kids nutrition ever since. These appear to do fairly well in the market. Most claim to provide as much calcium as an 8-oz ounce glass of milk per serving (two slices) and sometimes two to three times the dietary fiber as whole wheat bread. The nutrition package for most of these brands will also claim a good or an excellent source of several added vitamins and minerals. A few contain omega-3s and one or two contain choline.