Fortification: Furthering Fortification

by Donna Berry
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To win the battle against pellagra in the early 1900s scientists encouraged niacin enrichment of bread and other grain products. By 1940, fortification of flour and bread with niacin and three other nutrients — iron, riboflavin and thiamin — was mandatory in the US.

“Baked foods have and will continue to play a huge role in overall nutrition,” said Bill Gambel, director of sales, Caravan Ingredients, Lenexa, KS. “Baked foods are an excellent vehicle for fortification. They are well received by the consumer, and it is fairly simple and inexpensive to provide additional healthy benefits that come along with the fortification of these types of products.

“Being involved when the mandate for folic acid was instituted, and shortly thereafter seeing the clinical data touting the reduction of spina bifida in newborn children by approximately half, makes the good case for fortifying foods, particularly baked foods,” Mr. Gambel continued. “Assuming the ingredient is acceptable by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and does not denature in the baking process, there is an opportunity for almost any fortificant with a quantifiable health benefit to be included in baked foods.”


Vitamin- and mineralfortified products are highly desired by the 21st century consumer, as are products fortified with ingredients that support health and wellness. Such foods appeal to adults trying to prevent the onset of age-related disease.

“Consumers are increasingly trying to manage their health through their eating patterns, increasingly turning to everyday foodstuffs that already contain or can be fortified with the nutrients and ingredients that they believe that they need,” according to The Market for Anti-Aging, a recent report from UK-based Leatherhead Food Research.

“Over the past decade, consumer demand for healthier products emerged as one of the key drivers of the food industry,” said Ram Chaudhari, PhD, chief scientific offi , Fortitech, Inc., Schenectady, NY. “What started as manufacturers’ response to the baby boomer generation’s growing need to preserve good health and longer quality of life, thrust the market potential of ‘health food’ out of the health food store niche into the mainstream. This fueled the growth of product development with functional ingredients and is largely responsible for birthing new product categories, especially in beverages and bars.”

For example, Italy’s Barilla s.P.a., one of Europe’s leading bakery and cereal companies, markets a line of fortified foods under the Alixir brand. Alixir Luvenis Barrette di Cereali e Frutta (cereal and fruit bars) contain a combination of antioxidants that claim to prevent the dangerous action of excess free radicals that are responsible for cellular aging. Alixir Immunitas Snack-Biscotto Con Cacao (chocolate biscuits) is fortified with a proprietary combination of probiotic bacteria that is said to help strengthen immune defenses.

The Alixir Regularis sub-brand includes a cracker and a biscotti offering. Both contain a combination of prebiotic fibers to help the growth and development of the positive intestinal bacteria flora and contribute to regularity. The Alixir Cor sub-brand also contains two baked items: Pan di Brioche (sweet bread rolls) and Pane ai Cereali (bread with cereals). Both contain beta-glucans.

Beta-glucans are large soluble fiber molecules that form the cell walls of certain cereal grain. Barley beta-glucan, which is what Barilla uses, has a bland, neutral taste and can be invisibly added to many applications.

“In the small intestine, beta-glucans form a highly viscous solution that slows down the absorption of cholesterol, fatty acids, bile acids and glucose, resulting in lower levels in the blood; thus, beta-glucan consumption is associated with heart health,” said Yi Wu, PhD, chief innovation offi cer, The Wright Group, Crowley, LA. “In the large intestine, beta-glucan acts as prebiotic, naturally boosting good bacteria to keep the digestive system healthy and enhance natural immunity.”


“Historically, manufacturers differentiated healthier products with the addition of one or two ingredients that allowed them to promote a simple consumer message such as ‘now with folic acid,’” Dr. Chaudhari said. “They worked with ingredients that could be relatively easy to incorporate in their product line and shied away from ingredients that offered benefit but were difficult to process or were known for bad taste and aroma.

“Consumer interest in promoting health has forced manufacturers to revisit challenging ingredients and figure out how to make them work,” he added. “Moreover, consumers today are not simply looking for one or two added beneficial ingredients; they are looking for more complex products that are formulated to deliver a health benefit to their demographic or to address specific health conditions. This means not just overcoming the challenges of single ingredients, but overcoming the issues of combining and processing multiple ingredients.

“Adding in-demand nutrients together may affect taste, appearance, texture or all three of these important parameters that together constitute perceived product quality,” Dr. Chaudhari concluded.

According to Dr. Wu, “If an ingredient needs to be protected from harsh processing environments, we employ microencapsulation technologies to allow fortification with the desired delivery of nutrients.”

Indeed, preventing ingredient interaction is imperative to fortification. Edible barriers and coatings are used to prevent migration of macro and micronutrients along with moisture and oxygen transfers, according to Dr. Chaudhari. “Preventing migration will virtually guarantee a high-quality, acceptable product with extended shelf life and sensory properties,” he said.


One of the most popular “extras” being added to foods is the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which serves as a primary building block for the brain and the eyes and supports brain, eye and cardiovascular health. Leading experts around the world have noted DHA as an important nutrient for health throughout the life cycle. Yet despite its importance, Americans have among the lowest dietary intakes of DHA in the world.

In the report Omega Fatty Acids: Trends in the Worldwide Food and Beverage Markets, 2nd Edition, market research publisher Packaged Facts, Rockville, MD, estimated the global market for omega-3 fortified foods grew from around $3 billion in 2006 to almost $5 billion in 2007. Packaged Facts projected that the retail market for omega-3 enhanced foods will approach $8 billion by 2012.

More than 1,300 enhanced food and beverage products were introduced globally in 2008, compared with 739 in 2006. “The upsurge of products enriched with omega fatty acids began in earnest in 2006, and the market is believed to be many years away from saturation. Marketers didn’t really start touting the omega-3 content of enhanced foods until late 2004, and even once products entered the retail scene it wasn’t until early 2006 that such products appeared in mainstream US supermarkets,” said Don Montuori, vicepresident of publishing at Packaged Facts.

Cassie France-Kelly, senior public relations manager, Martek Biosciences, Columbia, MD, noted, “DHA powders can be added directly to dough or batter in quantities high enough to provide 50 mg of DHA per serving. Another option is to fortify the coating with DHA, as in bar applications, or to use cooking oil that has been fortified with DHA.

“Fortifying baked foods with DHA is an easy way to create a point of differentiation while at the same time provide the extra nutritional value today’s consumer craves,” she added. “With some baked applications, ordinary DHA powders can be challenging to work with, which is why we will very soon be offering a microencapsulated DHA powder.”

Using technology developed by General Mills, Minneapolis, MN, Martek can now manufacture high-quality, cost-effective microencapsulated DHA powders suited for long-shelf life products and applications with sensory and formulation challenges such as some baked foods.

Another in-demand nutrient is plant sterols. These fat-like compounds have chemical structures very similar to cholesterol, which enables them to interfere with and reduce cholesterol absorption in the body.

Last year, George Weston Bakeries, Inc., Bay Shore, NY, introduced Grains & More Double Oat Hearty Oatmeal Bread. A serving contains 0.4 g of plant sterols to promote heart health. When combined with a healthy diet and exercise, Double Oat Bread may help lower cholesterol by 15%, according to scientific studies.

“This launch truly redefines the phrase, ‘the best thing since sliced bread!’” said Jennifer Hartley, business director at George Weston. “In quantitative testing, we found that reducing cholesterol is one of the Top Five health benefits consumers prefer when purchasing bread.” The Heart Choice logo is prominently displayed on the front package so consumers know that the bread contains natural plant sterols supplied by Cognis Nutrition & Health, La Grange, IL.

Chia seeds are an up-and-coming “extra.” PL Thomas, Morristown, NJ, markets a proprietary partially defatted chia seed milled from the Salvia hispanica plant. “This gluten-free whole grain can fortify a wide range of baked foods with fiber, protein and the omega-3 fatty alpha-linoleic acid (ALA),” said Rodger Jonas, director, national sales. “A typical assay of our chia seeds shows that it is 47% fiber, 29% protein and 3% ALA. They have a pleasant, mild nutty flavor that complements most grain-based foods.

“Because the chia seeds are defatted, they do not readily oxidize like other omega-3-rich seeds,” Mr. Jonas added. “In fact, our chia seeds have a 1-year ambient temperature shelf life. Further, when they are added to baked foods, they help the product retain moisture, extending shelf life.”

The defatted ground chia seeds come as a powder for direct addition to dough or batter. The seeds also come in a course-ground cut for topical application.

Australian-based Slim Secrets recently launched Designer Cookies that provide satiety, or a feeling of fullness. This comes from the cookies’ high fiber and protein content, which is provided by chia seeds, as well as added whey protein.


“Whey protein is quickly digested and easily absorbed and has been shown to help consumers stay full longer when consumed as part of a diet higher in protein,” said Sharon Gerdes, senior account manager, Dairy Management, Inc. (DMI), Rosemont, IL. “Fortifying bakery foods with whey protein allows bakers to reach consumers who are trying to eat healthier and want better-for-you snack options.”

High-quality protein fortification appeals to more consumers than just athletes and bodybuilders. In addition to providing satiety, higher-protein diets have been shown to help preserve lean mass during weight loss.

“At moderate usage levels, whey protein contributes to both product structure and permissible indulgence,” Ms. Gerdes said. For example, new Betty Crocker Minis Warm Delights Decadent Dark Chocolate Cake is an example of a convenient 150-Cal dessert that goes beyond satisfying a chocolate craving. It provides 2 g of protein per serving from the addition of dried egg whites, whey protein isolate and nonfat milk.

“With a little formulation finesse, bakers can fortify similar snack and dessert items to a level of 5 g of protein, which will allow them to make the claim ‘good source of protein,’” Ms. Gerdes added. “The Hollywood Cookie Diet plan suggests that consumers skip a meal and eat a cookie. These meal replacement cookies use a protein blend that includes whey protein concentrate and also soy and wheat protein. Each cookie contains 5 g of protein and 140 calories.

“Water absorption is lower for whey ingredients than for flour, with water absorption increasing as protein denaturation levels increase; so some adjustments in water levels may be required,” she said. “A combination of dairy ingredients sometimes works best when bakers develop products with even higher protein levels. For example, Chef Jay’s Tri-O-Plex White Chocolate Mousse Gourmet Brownies contain 9 g of protein per serving and use a combination of whey protein isolate, nonfat milk, sodium caseinate, soy protein isolate and egg protein.”


Of course, fortifying brownies with soy protein is particularly attractive to women who are aware of the relationship between soy isoflavones and reducing the risk of breast cancer.

A fortificant that should appeal to men is lycopene, an antioxidant-rich carotenoid found in tomatoes and other fruits and comes in hues ranging from sunset yellow to a deep orange. “Not only does lycopene naturally color baked foods such as breads, tortillas and cookies, as well as topically applied icings and frostings, there’s a qualified health claim associating lycopene antioxidants with decreasing the risk of prostate cancer,” Mr. Jonas said. French Meadow Bakery, Minneapolis, MN, used lycopene in its Men’s Tortillas, which the company marketed for several years. One tortilla contained 6 mg of lycopene, which is about the same amount as found in 1.5 mediumsized tomatoes.

In conclusion, “We believe consumers are more knowledgeable than ever and recognize the long-term wellness benefits associated with good nutrition,” Mr. Gambel said. “Good-tasting fortified baked foods are an increasingly popular choice."

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