The demand for health and wellness foods by consumers continues as baking and snack companies introduce and reinvent products to keep up with this trend. As a superfood, natural dye and flavorful spice, turmeric has become a key ingredient, especially within the snacking category. Companies such as Larabar and Health Warrior have incorporated it into snack bars successfully in the past few years.
Commonly found in Indian foods, turmeric is a spice that comes from a plant by the same name, which is a part of the ginger family. Curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties in various studies, noted Jill Houk, corporate research and development chief, Olam Spices.
In the past, tumeric was used to add a natural yellow tint to foods, said Destanie Schneider, RD&A manager — Snack Taste Systems, CCS, Kerry. Color remains a big influence for snack companies.
“Masking the flavor is key if you are using turmeric for color,” Ms. Schneider said. “The developer needs to balance between color and flavor.”
The bright hue can also fade in the light, so packaging that does not allow light penetration is necessary.
Turmeric has a bold flavor that consumers are drawn to.
“We are seeing culinary-inspired and regional curries, like massaman, madras, masala, korma and berbere, being turned into delicious snacks,” Ms. Schneider said.
When using a highly concentrated turmeric, the spice can create bitter notes within a snack.
“In savory applications, onion, garlic, ginger, capsicums, cumin, and coriander pair well with turmeric,” Ms. Houk said. “In sweeter foods, cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon are great spices to blend with turmeric.”
Black pepper also pairs well with turmeric. Ms. Houk called it a “natural match” because the bitter notes in turmeric can be mistaken for black pepper sometimes. Black pepper also has been shown to increase the anti-inflammatory benefits from turmeric when they are put together.
In November, Wolo WanderSnacks released its Proten WanderBar at Sprouts Market. Designed for travelers, the bar includes turmeric to improve circulation in the body. RW Garcia expanded its Artisan Crackers with Organic Lentil with Turmeric Crackers. The company’s goal was to create a product that combined superfoods, and the crackers included lentils, chia, flaxseed, sesame, along with turmeric.
“It now appears on snacks with a health halo and is highlighted as an ingredient in the snack’s name,” Ms. Houk said. “For example, you can buy Recover Turmeric Mango Protein Bars, Blueberry Turmeric Tiger Nut Granola, and an RTD beverage called Organic Turmeric Drink Original.”
According to Nielsen, products with turmeric had $11 billion in sales in the year ended July 7, 2018. These products also had a 97% consumer penetration rate.
To keep up with turmeric in the snacking category, Olam Spice began traditional plant breeding to decrease crop cycle time and increase crop yields. The company’s plants can also reach high levels of curcumin with a range of 1% to 8.5%, Ms. Houk said.
“Turmeric is having its (literally) golden moment for a confluence of factors,” Ms. Houk said. “First, the color is gorgeous and looks great on social media sites. Second, the health benefits of turmeric are widely-reported on the web, with health-focused communities embracing its anti-inflammatory properties. And, finally, bolder tastes pave the way for turmeric.”
Called “a product of the moment” by Mintel and named “superfood of 2017” by USA Today, turmeric is an ingredient and watch word that snack producers can incorporate to send the message of health and flavor to consumers.