The best thing since sliced bread still awaits discovery. Such a mindset is crucial for innovation in an industry that has historically relied on commodity ingredients.

Yet bakers are not ones who readily push the envelope with their suppliers, according to Theresa Cogswell, a baking industry consultant based at Olathe, KS. “If a baker can mentally conceive an idea, he or she should seek out a physical solution,” she said. “It may not be economically viable, but a baker should not assume that there is not a solution to an opportunity. Somebody has to be first.”

UNIQUE APPROACH REQUIRED. True innovations often require unique solutions. “I get many calls from bakers looking for an ingredient that really does not exist yet,” said Steven Feinberg, president, Mid America Food Sales Ltd., Northbrook, IL. “Requests are so unpredictable and very random, but I make it my goal to find them something that will do the job.”

Ms. Cogswell reflected on a project from a few years ago. She was challenged with creating a chocolate peanut butter cake without the peanut butter. Mr. Feinberg provided assistance.

“Besides the obvious issue of limiting potential customers by formulating with peanut butter, one of the most common allergens, there were also significant expenses associated with bringing peanut butter into a manufacturing facility because barriers would need to be put in place to prevent any cross contamination. So the company investigated the use of a peanut butter substitute,” Ms. Cogswell said. “I asked my suppliers, and Steve went above and beyond to find a peanut butter substitute that performed and tasted just like peanut butter when added to a chocolate cake formula. In fact, no difference was found in sensory testing of the cake with real peanut butter and the peanut butter substitute prototype.”

Although the product never made it to market because of unrelated reasons, persistence by these two industry veterans proved that the product was a viable concept. “Anything is possible,” Ms. Cogswell said.

Mr. Feinberg noted that the peanut butter replacement came with added benefits. “It is made from whole grains and is gluten free,” he said. “It is also organic and a source of the omega-3 alpha linoleic acid (ALA). With a year-long ambient shelf life, and a texture and flavor profile similar to naturally ground peanut butter, it can be used to replace peanut butter in all types of baked cookies and confections.”

NATURAL PRESERVATION. Allergens are just one of many ingredient groups that today’s formulators are trying to eliminate. Artificial antioxidants are another.

A growing number of bakers are requesting natural antioxidants to replace artificial ingredients such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), which have historically been used to slow oxidative rancidity, explained Scott Backman, business development manager, Cognis Nutrition & Health, LaGrange, IL. “Our complete line of natural mixed tocopherols isolated from vegetable oils, guards against oxidation and extends the shelf life of all baked foods,” he said. “They can be added directly to the fat, oil or dry ingredients to help protect against rancidity.

“Besides providing for natural labeling, mixed tocopherols possess low volatility at high temperatures and can be conveniently incorporated directly into the product before high-temperature processing to protect the product against oxidation both during and after production,” Mr. Backman explained. “Packaging can sport statements such as ‘natural vitamin E added to preserve freshness’ and ‘natural vitamin E added to protect flavor.’”

Rodger Jonas, director of national sales, P.L. Thomas, Morristown, NJ, agreed that a growing number of bakers are seeking out effective natural alternatives to slow oxidative rancidity. “A shortbread manufacturer had asked us for such a specialty ingredient, and we turned them onto rosemary extract,” Mr. Jonas said. “They were able to naturally extend shelf life simply by adding this one ingredient to the formula. And they were pleasantly surprised that this was accomplished without the use of modified atmosphere packaging.”

A SWEET SOLUTION. It doesn’t matter whether the media reports surrounding high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are true or not. Consumers don’t have favorable perception of glucose corn syrup. As a result, formulators have been trying aggressively to remove HFCS from product formulations, but finding an effective and economical substitute is not always easy.

Bakers have been using HFCS 42 (approximately 42% fructose, 50% glucose and 8% other carbohydrate, on a dry basis) for many years. Not only does HFCS 42 provide a desirable fructose-glucose balance in terms of sweetness (similar to sucrose) and solids (the syrup is 71% solids), it is hygroscopic, meaning it attracts water from its surroundings. Thus, HFCS functions as a humectant by maintaining a moist consistency in baked foods and helping extend shelf life.

HFCS is also fermentable. In other words, it functions as a food source for yeast in certain baked foods.

Because HFCS is relatively inexpensive and extremely functional, replacement can be challenging, depending on the application. Bakers are seeking out non-traditional ingredients to assist them with this task.

“At this year’s IFT Food Expo, we are launching a new chicory root fiber ingredient. It is a 75%-solids syrup that behaves very similarly to HFCS,” said Scott Turowski, technical manager, Sensus America, Inc., Lawrenceville, NJ. “And it comes with extra benefits because it is 75% soluble fiber, on a dry basis.

“So not only can a baker use it as a direct replacement for all of the HFCS in a formulation, with minimal, if any, other formula adjustments required, the new allnatural inulin syrup boosts fiber content while reducing calorie content because it is delivers only 2.1 Cal per g,” Mr. Turowski noted. “With approximately 65% the sweetness of sucrose, the ingredient provides solids, functions as a humectant and is fermentable, just like HFCS.”

Doug Allen, regional sales manager at Sensus added, “It appears on ingredient statements as ‘chicory root fiber,’ thus, it also provides a consumer-friendly way to replace less desirable ingredients.” Like other inulin ingredients, it is on the National List of Approved Substances for organic foods in the National Organic Program administered by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Mr. Allen explained the inulin syrup helped an oatmeal cookie manufacturer reduce calorie content by 16%, fat content by 22% and total sugars by 33%, while adding 5 g of fiber to a 30-g cookie that was previously void of dietary fiber. “Appropriate content claims can be made on package labels,” he said.

REPLACING GLUTEN. Many bakers want to offer a gluten-free option for the growing number of consumers who are eliminating gluten from their diet. Creating highquality, gluten-free baked foods is not easy because gluten has many important properties and finding a suitable replacement has been a significant challenge.

An innovative option is now available from Dow Wolff Cellulosics, a business unit of The Dow Chemical, Co., Midland, MI. The product can actually enhance food, providing moistness throughout shelf life, preventing collapse during baking and avoiding the gas or bloating effects associated with many other sources of fiber, according to the company.

American Key Food Products, Closter, NJ, is rolling out a natural cassava flour as a substitute for wheat flour, which enables the production of a number of gluten-free baked foods with virtually the same taste, texture, crumb and baking characteristics as those made with wheat. Made from cassava root, the cassava flour is produced through a proprietary manufacturing process that yields an ingredient with superior baking properties, the company states. Unlike most formulations for gluten-free baked foods, which are composed of several types of flours and starches, a wide range of high-quality baked foods can be made using only this cassava flour in place of wheat flour. This simplifies formulation and production, reduces the need for inventorying ingredients and simplifies label declaration. In tests with various types of baked foods, the new cassava flour also exhibited enhanced moisture retention characteristics, reducing the amount of flour needed in some cases versus wheat flour.

“Our product is unique because it behaves like flour,” said Carter Foss, technical sales director at American Key Food Products. “Being cassava-based also means it has significant starch content and acquires some of the important attributes of a starch. Unlike other similar flours and starches on the market, the product is made through a unique manufacturing process, which we have invested over a year in developing and testing. Our process enables this flour to manifest a taste profile, as well as other organoleptic properties and functionalities that closely approximate the qualities of wheat flour. This has resulted in a cassava flour that will deliver to consumers excellent quality gluten-free cakes, cookies, muffins and pancakes. We are also currently developing a version for use in bread that could yield outstanding results as well.”

And here’s a gluten-free formulating solution that comes with the extra perk of being a concentrated source of antioxidants. Suntava, based at Afton, MN, markets whole-grain purple corn flour, which is non-GMO and gluten-free, and snacks and cereals produced from this flour demonstrate four times the antioxidant power of blueberries, according to the company. The flour contains cyanidin-3-glucosides, natural organic compounds, which are believed to minimize the effects of aging, while reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Suntava recently entered into an alliance with Zumbro River Brand, Inc., Alberta Lea, MN, a contract processor, to manufacture extruded snacks, cereals and crispy pieces in a variety of shapes, using this specialty flour. The pieces can be flavored or seasoned with fruit or savory flavors. Further, the extruded purple corn pieces exhibit a natural purple/ blue color, which changes to raspberry red with surface application of food-grade acidulants.

ENRICHMENT OPTIONS. As consumers become increasingly nutrition savvy, they are demanding more from their everyday foods. This includes baked foods, even products as simple as sandwich bread.

“As the base of the Food Pyramid, baked foods are uniquely poised to serve as a vehicle for added nutrition,” Ms. Cogswell said.

Every year in the US, an estimated 1,000 more babies are born healthy since mandatory folic acid fortification of cereal grain products went into effect in January 1998, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA. “Baked foods can do this and so much more,” Ms. Cogswell affi rmed.

She was pleased that an increasing number of baked foods are being enriched with more vitamins and minerals and emphasized that no nutrient should be discounted. “Bakers often have a preconceived notion that heat-labile vitamins such as vitamin C cannot be added to baked foods. This is not true,” Ms. Cogswell stated. “If a baker really wants to add it, vitamin C can be encapsulated, enabling it to survive baking temperatures. This, of course, comes with cost, which may make the option cost prohibitive, but it can be done.”

Vitamin D seems to be the nutrient making headlines these days. “And it is a ‘freebie’ for bakers to readily add,” Ms. Cogswell said. She referred to the fact that Lallemand, Inc., Montreal, QC, developed a patent-pending process to convert the sterols in bakers yeast to vitamin D, all without impacting the yeast’s leavening and flavor contributions. This is possible because yeast reacts to ultraviolet light in a similar way as humans, who are capable of forming vitamin D in skin exposed to sunlight.

All of the company’s bakers yeast sold in the US is now produced with this process, making baked foods leavened with these yeasts naturally richer in vitamin D content. This is at no extra cost for the bakeries.

Lallemand has petitioned the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), on behalf of the American baking industry, to amend food additive regulations to provide for the safe use of vitamin D2 yeast for baked foods at higher levels than 90 international units (IU) of vitamin D per 100 g of food. The petition addressed the fact that many people consume far less than their Adequate Intake (AI) for vitamin D and, thus, requested that the safe limit be increased to 400 IU of vitamin D per 100 g of yeast-raised baked foods.

“Upon approval by FDA, bakers will have the opportunity to achieve the levels of vitamin D necessary to make ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ sources claims, giving them one more tool at their disposal to reinforce the contribution bread can make to a healthy diet,” said Gary Edwards, president of Lallemand.

USDA stated that approximately 69% of the population is not meeting the AI for vitamin D. Wendy Dahl, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition at University of Florida, Gainsville, observed, “Considering the widespread deficiency, even in Florida (the sunshine state) and that vitamin D plays a critical role in bone health, as well as new information indicating that it could potentially play a significant role in strengthening the body’s defenses against chronic and immune diseases, one can realize the importance of improving the vitamin D content of the food supply so that the status of vitamin D improves.”

Another nutrient most Americans do not consume in sufficient quantities is omega-3 fatty acids. Making omega-3s tasty and fun to eat may be the answer. “We have taken a flaxseed nugget, rich in ALA, and have been able to add different flavors to it,” Mr. Feinberg said. “It can be used as an inclusion in cereal, granola bars and even muffins. We have even coated the nugget with yogurt containing probiotics, which speaks to consumers’ increasing interest in digestive health.”

Mr. Jonas explained that bakers have long been asking for a way to add probiotics to baked foods, and now they can. “We market a spore-forming bacterium that survives processing, distribution and the gastrointestinal tract,” he said. “It arrives at the large intestine intact and functions as a probiotic.”

Without a doubt, suppliers are an innovator’s best resource. “It is important to find suppliers who are willing to work with you and can be trusted to keep your project confidential,” Ms. Cogswell concluded. “Don’t tease them with a project in which they invest significant resources and, in the end, give the business to another supplier who offers a lower price. Suppliers need to be paid for their knowledge, technologies, confidence and hard work. If you ask them, and they deliver, they deserve the business. Partnerships with suppliers are a 2-way street.”