With consumers giving ever greater scrutiny to the ingredients listed on food packages, natural-source materials have a big advantage in the marketplace. In this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A, Barbara Bufe Heidolph, principal, food phosphates, at ICL Food Specialties, describes the company’s newest solution to this persistent problem. Hint: it has special advantages for whole grain foods.

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

Barbara Bufe Heidolph: Licresse natural food ingredient is a new ingredient that ICL Food Specialties launched at the 2012 Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and Food Expo in Las Vegas. Licresse is a licorice plant extract that is naturally high in phenolic compounds, which are known to have antioxidant properties. This makes it a versatile ingredient for most types of bakery mixes and baked goods, as well as other food and beverage products susceptible to oxidation.

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?

Functional benefits associated with Licresse include:

            Effectively reduces rancidity and development of off-flavors.

            Delays oxidation and prolongs shelf life.

            Stabilizes colors.

Shelf life issues for baked goods are often driven by the inclusion of whole grains or fat sources in the formulation (for tenderization, flavor, shelf life and leavening). Based upon the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the recommendations of health experts globally, whole grain is being included in bakery products to create nutrient-dense foods. Whole grains promote disease prevention and overall good health. Whole grains include the entire grain seed, or “kernel.” The kernel consists of three components — the bran, germ and endosperm. The germ contains high levels of the naturally occurring fat, which may increase the formation of off flavors during shelf life. Moderate evidence indicates that whole grain intake may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and is associated with a lower body weight. Limited evidence also shows that consuming whole grains is associated with a reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes. Consuming whole grains helps meet nutrient needs. Choosing whole grains that are higher in dietary fiber has additional health benefits.

In addition to naturally-occurring fat, additional fat sources are added to many baked goods to improve tenderization, flavor, shelf life and leavening. Both naturally-occurring and added fat are susceptible to oxidation associated with reduction in shelf life and unacceptable sensory characteristics.

For some baked goods, added nutritional enhanced free fatty acids such as omega-3 varieties may also contribute to shelf life issues.

Licresse has been shown to scavenge free radicals in three free radical scavenging screening tests:       

ABTS+ (2,2′-azinobis-(3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid))

            •DPPH (2, 2-diphenyl-1-picryl-hydrazyl-hydrate)

            •OH- (hydroxyl)

When compared with synthetic and other natural antioxidants, Licresse is capable of effectively binding free radicals that are known to catalyze oxidation.

Studies have been conducted in food products, including some high-fat products like pie crust, which have shown that Licresse provides longer shelf life as measured by oxidative stability index (OSI). Pie crust treated with Licresse had an OSI of 15 hours compared with an untreated control of 9 hours.

One of the key features of Licresse is that, unlike some other natural antioxidants, it has a flavor profile compatible with baked goods. While other natural antioxidants may contribute a savory or herbal flavor to the final product, Licresse has been shown in sensory studies to provide a compatible flavor with even simple or plain-flavored baked goods.

Licresse has also been examined to verify that it does not change the functionality of the primary ingredient of baked goods — the flour. A Mixolab study demonstrated that Licresse did not interfere with flour functionality, including starch pasting properties.

Typical usage level for Licresse in baked goods would be 100 to 1,000 ppm, depending on the formulation, amount of oxidation sensitive components and desired shelf life. (In many applications, 250 to 500 ppm treatment will work sufficiently.) The Licresse can be added to the other dry components in the formulation.

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

Licresse may be labeled as licorice, licorice extract, or as a natural flavor.

Licorice root extract meets the definition for natural flavor as specified in regulation 21 CFR 101.22(a)(3), since it is the extract of the root of a plant which is listed in 21 CFR 184.

Licresse is a natural food ingredient that is a minimally processed extract from the roots of the licorice plant. Licorice and its derivatives (e.g., the root extract) are affirmed as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) substances for use in human foods, according to the regulation 21 CFR 184.1408.

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

Licresse can be used in standard formulations following standard processing conditions. For baked goods, it is generally easiest to add the Licresse to the other dry components such as the flour. Since Licresse is slightly soluble in oil, it maybe easiest to have the Licresse in the flour-based system, dough or batter for applications where oil is added either through physical addition during make up or by absorption during frying. Licresse will disperse in water but settles out over time. If adding as part of a solution, either agitation or the addition of gums can be used to maintain dispersion. In application testing, solubility has not been a problem for bakery, meat or dairy applications.

How are these ingredients to be labeled on packages?

Licresse may be labeled as licorice, licorice extract, or as a natural flavor.

What products now on the market use these ingredients?

Licresse is currently being evaluated in a variety of bakery and grain-based products including ready-to-eat cereal, batter/breading-coated products, whole grain bakery mixes and products, tortillas and pasta and noodles.