Seeking to go “all natural” with ingredients, formulators face difficult choices when trying to protect baked foods and snacks against the oxidation and rancidity that can occur over moderate to long shelf life periods. The herb rosemary offers naturally high antioxidant activity, but its strong flavor has limited its use in such applications.

The advent of high-tech separation methods enabled fractionation and isolation of rosemary’s active components, creating oil-soluble and water-soluble forms and eliminating strong odor and flavor properties. The Vitiva Inolens line of rosemary extracts, available from P.L. Thomas Co., Morristown, NJ, offers natural, organic and kosher solutions to these vexing formulation problems.

Three specific functional uses for Inolens rosemary extracts were identified by Rodger Jonas, director of national sales for P.L. Thomas: as an antioxidant, an antimicrobial and, most recently, an acrylamide reducer. This newest function, he explained, has helped customers cut acrylamides 30% in fried and baked snacks.

When the oil-soluble extract is mixed into frying oils, it helps break the auto-oxidation reaction that forms free radicals and degrades the fat. By protecting frying oils, it protects products that fry in these oils. Also available as a dry powder, it can be mixed into doughs and used in bakery mixes. As an antioxidant, the extract can protect seeds rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as flax, sunflower and poppy, when used as bakery toppings.

“The rosemary extract is inhibitory by nature, effective against mold and listeria, yet does not affect yeast,” Mr. Jonas said. Together the antioxidant and antimicrobial functions can lengthen the shelf life of finished products 1½ times. He noted synergistic effects when the extract is used with other natural materials.

The plant source is Rosmarinus offi cinalis, a woody, perennial herb with fragrant evergreen needle-like leaves, native to the Mediterranean region and a member of the mint family Lamiaceae. Its active phytochemicals include rosmarinic and carnosic acids, and the carnosic content is what characterizes the deodorized rosemary extract used in bakery applications.

A very rich shortbread provided an interesting application for the extract. A bakery in Northern California sought to increase its market reach through the Internet and direct sales. The product is made with high levels of butter and a very simple formula, using no preservatives. The company was advised that modified atmospheric packaging — a costly choice for a small business — would be the only way to prevent its products from spoiling during shipping. By adding Inolens rosemary extract to the dough, however, the shortbread can now be shipped in a decorative metal tin, lined with a simple polyethylene bag.

Applications include not only bakery mixes, bars, biscuits, breads, cookies, pretzels, snack chips, tortillas and similar products but also toppings, chocolate fillings and dairy and cheese fillings, as well as frying oils. Inolens rosemary extract is available in concentrations of 4 to 40% carnosic acid or higher and is added at levels of 300 ppm to bakery mixes and 1,000 ppm to frying oils.

For labeling purposes, the rosemary extract can be described in the ingredient listing on the package label as rosemary extract, natural rosemary extract, natural extract, natural flavor or, simply, flavoring.