CHICAGO — Achieving a clean label in breads and rolls often comes with a difficult task: finding an alternative to calcium propionate. Discoveries at Corbion may have found such an alternative: a combination of fermented sugar and powdered vinegar.

Calcium propionate works well as a preservation system for yeast-raised products like bread and rolls because it inhibits mold growth and has minimal impact on yeast activity, said Jesse Stinson, director, technology for Corbion, in a Feb. 25 presentation at the American Society of Baking’s BakingTech 2019 in Chicago.

Corbion, through mold inoculation testing of bread loaves, compared the effectiveness of calcium propionate to the effectiveness of natural preservation systems. Cultured wheat flour and the combination of cultured sugar and vinegar powder worked the best when compared to calcium propionate. In a separate sensory study, the combination of cultured sugar and vinegar powder scored the highest, even higher than calcium propionate.

“When you take into account functionality and sensory attributes, the best solution based on this study was a combination of cultured sugar and vinegar powder,” Ms. Stinson said.

Corbion also directly compared calcium propionate and the combination of cultured sugar and vinegar powder in a test finding average days to failure, or how many days bread stayed fresh.

“In this particular test, we did see the highest shelf life from the clean label solution,” Ms. Stinson said. “Before you get too excited, we have to keep in mind that there are a lot of different factors (on shelf life). I wouldn’t necessarily say, ‘Okay, now we can replace all calcium propionate with clean label solutions.’ But I think what we can say is that some of these newer solutions and technologies are really effective at inhibiting mold growth.”

She said vinegar powder is a new technology based on fermentation. The buffered solution does not impact pH. She said Corbion in the tests generally used calcium propionate at an application rate of 0.7% and the combination of cultured sugar and vinegar powder at an application rate of 2.5%.

“Usually when you go to clean label solutions, the usage level is going to be higher,” Ms. Stinson said.

Besides achieving a desired shelf life, natural preservation systems also should not have any negative impact on taste and mouthfeel and work well with other ingredients, said Ashley Robertson, market manager, bread, for Corbion, in the BakingTech 2019 presentation.

While natural preservatives are an example of clean label, the term means different things to different people, Ms. Robertson said. She mentioned a 2017 Nielsen report that looked at all the possible segments of clean label. The free-from segment could mean products free from artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Clean label also could mean leaving out “undesirable” ingredients, which could include propionates and sorbates. Clean label, to some people, could mean simple, recognizable ingredients and a short ingredient list. Some people might think of sustainability issues as clean label, which would favor traits such as non-G.M.O., organic or humane production like free-range chicken.

“I think there is one thing everyone in this room can agree upon,” Ms. Robertson said. “It’s that clean label is here to stay. It’s no longer a passing fad or a trendy diet. It’s the new norm, driving innovation across all food categories.”