As American kids go back to school, bakery formulators should take another look at snacks and baked foods as vehicles to improve the health status of children. In an exclusive Q&A, Sam Wright IV, CEO of The Wright Group, Crowley, LA, details the nutrients involved and formats for successful fortification, including gluten-free foods. He also presents the idea of moving fortified foods into school vending machines.

Baking & Snack: Do you see a place for enriched and/or fortified baked foods and snacks in improving kids’ health? What nutrients can such foods supply that are not being provided in sufficient quantity by conventional products? In your opinion, which nutrients are most important to kids’ health?

Sam Wright IV: We feel that snacks and baked goods are an excellent potential source for improving kids’ nutritional status. They will eat these products, first of all, unlike a lot of what their parents put in front of them. These products also tend to be small, convenient and portable in keeping with the busy lifestyle of young people nowadays. In homes where both parents work, it also provides supplemental, get-it-yourself nutrition on an as-needed basis.

As children grow and mature, a proper daily level of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients such as omega-3 fish oil are needed for optimum nutrition during this period of rapid development. Bakery and snack products definitely have a role to play in addressing these needs. Products like The Wright Group’s Wrise provides a microencapsulated leavening system, which is suitable in fresh, refrigerated and frozen chemically and/or yeast-leavened doughs and dry bakery mixes.

What ingredients does The Wright Group supply that address such formulation needs? What do you advise formulators about using these ingredients?

The Wright Group provides a full range of value-added nutrients and nutrient platforms useful in creating unique market positionings based on health. Many of these products are custom produced to meet the strict requirements of our clients. Our product line includes standard vitamin and mineral enrichments, custom nutrient premixes, microencapsulated active ingredients such as vitamins, amino acids, minerals, omega-3 fish oils, bakery additives and other active ingredients. These products address formulators’ needs in terms of taste and odor masking, ingredient stability, prevention of ingredient interactions, enhanced solubility, controlled release and other technical requirements.

Enhancing heat stability in bakery systems in an important aspect to what we do in that industry. Our bake-stable ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is one such example. In addition to providing a means for a bake stable vitamin C, The Wright Group has pioneered the adaptation of calcium as well as vitamins A and D into a variety of baked breakfast goods. The Wright Group also has a full-time technical and sales staff dedicated to our bakery-related business.

Are you working to improve the nutritional quality of any gluten-free foods targeted at children? Does formulating allergen-free present similar nutritional problems? What are you learning about such products?

The biggest thing we have learned in working with gluten- and allergen-free products is that the biggest share of market, maybe 90% plus, is with consumers who are not necessarily celiac or aware they are allergic to anything. Moms in particular tend to be very cautious about vaccines, the environment and the foods and beverages their children’s bodies interact with.

These products are perceived to be more healthful generally, which accounts for the dramatic market growth of recent years. Within the parameters of our quality systems, we do not encounter any unique problems beyond sourcing in working with hypoallergenic ingredients.

Which baked foods and/or snacks are already on the market made according to such fortification and enrichment strategies? How well accepted are they?

A wide array of nutrition bars, fortified whole grain muffins, cookies and other snack items have become available in recent years, particularly in school vending machines where, in the face of parental and educator pressure, unhealthful foods and beverages are being replaced by more healthful choices. We see a very bright future for more nutritionally functional bakery and snack products going forward.