To many consumers, the fewer the ingredients, the better, and the more natural they are, the even better. It’s good, then, that formulators can now rely on a growing number of natural solutions that prevent rancidity and mold problems. Bill McKeown, vice-president of technology, AB Mauri, Chesterfield, MO, reviews such ingredients in this exclusive Q&A.

Baking & Snack: Does AB Mauri offer natural-source antioxidants and/or antimicrobials (preservatives)? What are they and the sources from which they are derived? When were they introduced?

Mr. McKeown: AB Mauri globally produces and distributes a wide series of antimicrobials for the food and feed markets. We presently produce and distribute traditional mold inhibitors such as vinegar, calcium propionate, sodium propionate, sorbic acid, potassium sorbate, fumaric acid, and also a clean label line of mold inhibitors under the Nabitor brand of products. 

Our clean label products result from bacterial fermentation of corn syrup solids (Nabitor, citric acid), wheat starch (Nabitor WS), potato starch (citric acid), whey (whey based mold inhibitor), and corn ethanol (vinegar, Nabitor LCPF). 

The bacterial fermentation products rely on the production of organic acids (propionic, acetic, lactic, etc.) which synergistically act as the functional antimicrobial components. 

Traditional antimicrobials have been utilized in the food industry for many years while clean label antimicrobials have been introduced over the past decade. Clean label mold inhibitors are gaining traction as consumers seek cleaner ingredient legends in their food products. Vinegar is one of the earliest clean label products, and a great example of an ingredient that has been used as an antimicrobial for many years. This well-received antimicrobial is not only used in products but is often used as a sanitizer in many food processing facilities.

What benefits do these ingredients bring to baked foods and/or snacks? Why? What are typical usage levels? What advice do you give about using these ingredients in such formulations?

For more than 20 years, our customers have been focused on improving shelf life extension. Through the advent of enzyme technology, extended shelf life was quickly exploited by many commercial bakeries in North America. As the use of extended shelf life enzymes increased, mold inhibitor usage in food products also increased. Mold inhibitors are only part of the solution as bakery formulators need to consider the attributes that contribute to mold growth throughout the shelf life of their product lines, including product pH, product water activity, type of mold inhibitor used and sanitation within their facility. Proper sanitation is necessary to assure consistent extended shelf life characteristics. Only after these standards are implemented, can product formulators then optimize the product and processing steps needed to obtain shelf life goals.

Typical use levels of traditional antimicrobials — such as calcium propionate in bakery products — is 0.25 to 0.75% (flour basis) while clean label product levels are typically three to five times the amount of traditional mold inhibitor.

Additionally, pH plays a key role in the functionality of mold inhibitors such as calcium propionate and clean label varieties. For example, acidulants are often added to dough to improve dissociation of acid salts, which inhibits mold and bacterial growth. Water activity also impacts shelf life of finished bakery products because higher absorption levels increases water activity, which improves the eating qualities. However, higher water activity can also accelerate microbial spoilage over the shelf life. Care must be taken during the formulation process to properly balance the pH, water activity and mold inhibition system to achieve proper eating qualities and mold inhibition characteristics.    

Do these ingredients fit the demands of “clean label” formulating? If so, how?

Yes, AB Mauri’s Nabitor line of mold inhibitors utilizes clean label raw materials. We avoid the use of any petroleum-based products or synthetic products. Our bakery scientists use common, household ingredients that can be used in our clean label product lines.

What adjustments must be made in processing conditions (pH, time, temperature, mixing procedures, etc.) to ensure optimum performance from these natural ingredients?

Plant sanitation, pH, water activity, and mold inhibitors all contribute to the final shelf life expectations of our customers’ products. Proper sanitation within their facilities is necessary for proper formulation to take place, leading to optimized pH and water activity, which results in extended shelf life. Care must be taken to properly balance the pH so that mold inhibitor functionality is fully developed without impacting flavors. Water absorption must be carefully considered to optimize processing and shelf life.  

How are these ingredients to be labeled on packages?

Our customers are looking for cleaner ingredient legends. Traditional antimicrobials typically meet Food Chemical Codex (FCC) standards and labeling is fairly straight forward. When adding these ingredients, the traditional ingredient name is included on the ingredient legend.

However, clean label products that are a result of fermentation are more difficult to classify. These products are typically labeled “cultured” to define the fermentation matrix utilized. For example, our Nabitor product includes “cultured corn syrup solids” to define the media utilized during the fermentation — or culture — stage.

* Nabitor Cultured corn syrup solids, citric acid

* Nabitor WS Cultured wheat starch, wheat flour, citric acid

* Nabitor LCPF (Vinegar, sodium bicarbonate)

What products now on the market use these ingredients?

Our traditional antimicrobials are used in many yeast and chemically leavened products. Our clean label products are more conducive to yeast leavened products based on their pH levels, but they are presently being utilized in many chemically leavened products, including tortillas.