The shelf life balancing act

by Donna Berry
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Prune juice concentrate, like other dried plum ingredients, helps baked goods retain moisture and appeal.
 

Foods expire, some sooner than others. When it comes to baked goods gone bad, there are basically three modes of deterioration: staling/moisture migration, microbial growth and fat oxidation. Slowing these processes increases longevity and assists with reducing consumer disappointment and product waste.

“In the baking industry, most product development decisions revolve around satisfying consumers and making their eating experience as enjoyable as possible,” said Catherine Barry, director of marketing, National Honey Board. “That can’t happen if you reach into a loaf of bread and pull out a moldy or stale slice.”

Expiration dates are on packages to ensure a positive eating experience, yet some consumers expect a product to have additional days of shelf life at home. That’s why shelf life extenders are often included in commercially produced baked goods that must travel through lengthy distribution channels. There’s a plethora of traditional and clean-label options to address product deterioration to ensure consumers have a positive experience.

“Shelf life extenders have evolved with consumer preferences,” Ms. Barry said. “Back when white bread still dominated the bread aisle, most consumers didn’t read labels, so bakers could use any ingredient to attain a longer shelf life. Today, consumers pay close attention to the ingredients in the products they purchase and are doing everything they can to avoid artificial ingredients, especially preservatives.”

While freshness and taste are top priorities, bakers must maintain cost and labor efficiencies. This includes stocked shelves with fewer expired returns. Sometimes a simple ingredient addition or change in temperature during distribution can extend or reduce shelf life. Kathy Sargent, market director of the bakery division for Corbion, said every day on the shelf is precious when it comes to baked goods.

“Branded breads, buns and rolls need to taste the same in New York City as they do in Los Angeles,” Ms. Sargent said. “Consistency is a way to ensure quality products and brand protection.”

It’s important to understand the various modes of product deterioration to make smart formulation, production and distribution choices.

There is no one-size-fits-all shelf life extension ingredient solution, according to David Guilfoyle, innovation manager-bakery, fats and oils, DuPont Nutrition & Health. “From a staling point of view, the higher the moisture in a finished product, the more stable it is for eating quality,” he said. “From a microbial spoilage viewpoint, however, the higher the moisture is in a finished bakery product, the higher the incidence of microbial spoilage. So, it is a ­double-edged sword.”

Continue reading to learn how staling and moisture migration affect shelf life.

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