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IFT Q&A with Shelly McKee

American Egg Board (AEB) booth was a main stop for Eggs at Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting & Expo July 17-19 in Chicago. A steady stream of attendees was interested in the independent research confirming the functionality and flavor REAL Egg ingredients supply to baked goods, compared to the overall performance of a variety of egg replacers.

Dr. Shelly McKee, Technical Advisor for American Egg Board, was at AEB’s booth and answered many questions about the research. Below is a compilation of often-asked questions by IFT Expo attendees and Dr. McKee’s responses.

Can you give us an overview of the research project? What’s it all about?
The research project, led by CuliNex, LLC, Seattle, compared the use of real egg ingredients to a representative sample of replacers. Research protocol followed standard industry practices for objectivity and sound scientific method. To date, the team of culinologists/researchers compiled reports for eight application studies analyzing the behavior of egg ingredients compared to egg replacers in yellow-batter cake, sponge cake, cheese cake, sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, sweet dough, muffins and brownies. Throughout the project, no single replacer performed as well or better than egg ingredients within tests completed to date. Overall, quality is negatively affected when eggs are removed or replaced.

What egg replacers were used?
Egg replacers were selected based upon their usage within the industry for common application scenarios. Varieties selected represent the majority of ingredient types or blends most frequently recommended for egg replacement purposes. Study results should give formulators a reasonable portrait of their common behaviors and results within standard application scenarios.

How does using real eggs improve the quality of baked goods compared to egg replacers?
Eggs contribute a host of functional qualities to baked goods that are quite difficult to replicate with egg replacers, such as batter aeration, structure, texture, browning, emulsification, mouthfeel, and most noticeably, characterizing “sweet baked good” flavors and aromas. No two egg replacers perform the same, and as such, all must be tested in application. Without eggs, baked goods made with egg replacers can be overly pale, muted in flavor, weak in structure. Conversely, they can also be overly dark or excessively yellow, have strong off flavors and aromas, and be tough or dense.

How does using egg products help maintain a clean label for baked goods like cakes?
Egg products are listed on the ingredient statement simply as eggs, egg yolks, and/or egg whites. When eggs are removed, in most cases egg replacer(s) need to be used to provide some of the functionality eggs provided. Many egg replacer products are blends of ingredients, making for long, complex ingredient statements. They may also contain allergens, such as soy, wheat, and milk. Furthermore, because the source materials and usage rates vary considerably between egg replacers, there can be noticeable impact to the order of ingredients and nutritionals.

What are the multifunctional qualities that egg ingredients bring to cake products?
Egg ingredients provide beneficial qualities in baked goods, especially cakes. One of the most important qualities egg ingredients contribute is batter emulsification, which comes from the natural lecithin in egg yolk, an extremely effective emulsifier. Lecithin helps to promote the formation of small air bubbles in the batter, which expand in the heat of the oven and increase cake volume. Without proper emulsification, cakes can be greasy, coarse, and dense. Another important function eggs provide is the creation of structure, due to egg proteins which form a cross-linked network that traps gases and helps to form the crumb structure in the baked cake. Additionally, eggs contain more than 100 volatile flavor compounds and contribute a characteristic eggy, “sweet baked good” aroma and flavor that consumers expect from freshly baked cakes, and is noticeably lacking in cakes without real eggs.

Could substitution of some egg in a baking formula affect processes or the end product?
This can depend on the amount of egg used in a particular formulation. If the formulation is altered and it relies more extensively on eggs, the baker will be missing several functions if eggs are reduced or removed. The product structure might miss the air trapping capability of eggs in emulsion, which can also affect product volume. The structure will be weaker, and it will not have the same level of sponginess. Products will have a denser crumb and most will experience a shorter shelf life with more rapid staling.

Is there a single substitute that can replace egg functionality?
In order to achieve full functionality and an appearance, taste and texture similar to the original formulation with eggs, an egg substitute may also require the addition of emulsifiers, oils, gums, polysaccharides, acids, enzymes, colorants or flavoring agents. This can create a lengthy label statement and result in a product that falls short of expectations for taste, texture or appearance.

Egg ingredients supply more than twenty functional properties to foods, including aeration, binding, coagulation, emulsification, foaming and whipping, to name just a few. Egg ingredients can offer formulators better taste and broader range of effective functional attributes from a single ingredient that does not need to be combined with other ingredients for efficacy.

Research summaries are available online at RealEggs.org.

2016-08-15 14:02:27
 

No augmented reality necessary — Our booth remained the main stop for eggs at IFT 2016

I could not have predicted the extent to which a brand new, augmented reality game would grip the country the week before IFT.  “Pokémon Go” added an extra dimension of fun for convention goers while visiting the city of Chicago.

What I will predict is the resurgence of egg ingredient usage in manufacturing, based the results of new, independent research studies released at IFT and the buzz at the show about clean labels.

First, the research results. A set of new studies conducted by CuliNex, LLC, Seattle, compared the performance of egg replacers compared to real egg ingredients within gold standard formulas typically used in baking applications.  Study results confirmed the superior functionality and flavor that egg ingredients supply to baked goods and food products, compared to the overall performance of the wide variety of egg replacers tested.

In sum, no single replacer performed as well or better than egg ingredients within tests completed to date. Overall, batter specific gravity, product height and color are negatively affected when eggs are removed or replaced.

Initial tests were conducted on yellow batter cake, cheesecake and sponge cake.  Details about research protocol, methods, and the quantitative analytical and subjective sensory results can be found at RealEggs.org.

These research studies are significant because of their comprehensive nature. Researchers tested a broad variety of replacement ingredients for each application type, based on manufacturer recommendations.  Each individual study incorporated standard industry protocol to evaluate product quality from mixing, through baking and the final product, for texture, taste, appearance and much more.

Taste ranks highest in each annual Food & Health survey1 conducted by the IFIC Foundation. However, the triad of taste, texture and appearance forms the basis for repeat consumer purchases. In other words, someone might try a new food or beverage out of curiosity but repeat purchases spell success for a new product launch or line extension. And brand loyalty is built upon certain customer expectations and familiarity with past product experiences.

Finally, the clean label trend continues to gain momentum, according to all indicators at the show, from speakers and presentations to daily conversations we had with customers at the booth.

Egg ingredients can be listed simply as “eggs” in some cases to help create clean labels. And formulators can tap into the potential provided by more than twenty different functional properties. A single ingredient that supplies multiple functional properties can help keep labels shorter too. So in the quest to build a cleaner, simpler label, no augmented reality can match the properties and potential of real egg ingredients.  

1The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2016 Food and Health Survey, “Food Decision 2016: The Impact of a Growing National Food Dialogue

 

2016-08-01 13:16:38
 

Protein Ingredients: Flavor Matters

Not all proteins are created equal; in fact, even within the same protein ingredient category there can be flavor differences. Experts shared this fact and more valuable information at the Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar held in May courtesy of Global Food Forums.

MaryAnn Drake, Ph.D., of the Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center at North Carolina State University, presented findings from the body of sensory research in a presentation titled, “Formulating with proteins: Processing and flavor challenges.”

An extensive body of research1 about protein’s off-flavors shows that all protein ingredients do not taste the same. Furthermore, dried protein ingredient flavor can carry through to the finished product.2

As companies experiment with ingredient substitution the flavor factor cannot get lost in the shuffle. Despite the fact that product trends change, taste is still a primary motivating factor behind consumer purchases. A consumer might try a product because of the label claims but the flavor or taste of the product is what prompts repeat purchases. In one bit of research Drake presented, when testing label claims against product taste, the protein label influenced the consumers’ “liking” of a product but NOT as much as the product’s actual flavor.

In the International Food Information Council (IFIC) annual survey, taste consistently rises to the top as a key factor in consumer purchases and this is corroborated by other research results from companies like Packaged Facts.

So while more than 50 percent of all consumers today are looking for more protein in their diet, the end product still has to provide the taste, structure and mouthfeel that prompts repeat purchases. As a side note, amidst the clamor over protein, other factors are equally as or more important to consumers. A Packaged Facts National Consumer Survey conducted in April 2016 noted that among ingredient issues “Especially Important” when choosing foods to eat  “natural” factor was the highest ranked ingredient feature amongst Millennials, with 57% of both males and females selecting “natural” compared to 45% for high protein.

Egg ingredients contribute a mild and pleasant taste to food formulations. Particularly within baking applications egg ingredients can supply the taste, texture and appearance that helps create gold standard products. Egg ingredients contribute to clean label declarations. And the list of functional properties includes more than 20 beneficial attributes for formulators from Adhesion to Whipping ability. Replacing the multiple functions of eggs with a single ingredient is not a likely possibility in scaled up manufacturing.

Egg ingredients give formulators a lot to consider. Taste is just one vital factor. For more information about egg ingredient functionality and its performance within formulations, click here.

1 Off-flavors are present in protein (Carunchia Whetstine et al., 2005; Russell et al., 2006; Drake, 2006; Wright et al., 2006; 2008)*

2 Dried protein ingredient flavor can carry through into finished products (Russel et al., 2006, Drake, 2006; Drake et al., 2008; Childs et al., 2007; Wright et al., 2008)*

*References courtesy of MaryAnne Drake, taken from her presentation

2016-07-18 15:28:24
 

Bridging the credibility gap

It’s no secret that consumers continue to ask increasingly probing questions about their food; where it comes from and how it’s made. And perhaps it is no surprise that chief among the questioners are Millennials, the generation that has grown up with sophisticated technology and an expanding universe of both valid information and sometimes misinformation.

Food manufacturers should take note however, that 43 percent of U.S. Millennials (Mintel) do not trust large food companies, compared to 18 percent of non-Millennials. And among all shoppers, 75 percent trust small companies more than large companies when it comes to producing all-natural products.

The big question is how to regain this trust? What should not be secret or should be increasingly transparent are the ingredients on your label. There have been some dramatic examples of reformulated products from major brands to meet this changing consumer environment. Because at least half of consumers of any generation worry about potentially harmful ingredients in the foods they buy. (Mintel)

However, with a definition about the word “natural” under FDA consideration, manufacturers are turning to other terms instead, such as pure, simple or real to promote these reformulated products that incorporate the simple ingredients consumers are seeking.

It doesn’t get more real than eggs. Egg ingredients fit into the traditional drivers for consumer purchases—after all, taste reigns supreme annually in the IFIC Food & Health Survey as the primary motivator for consumer food and beverage purchases. And eggs can fit into many of the evolving drivers as well, contributing to health and wellness factors such as satiety or a food’s protein profile, depending on the form of egg ingredient used and the amount. 

However, whether using a whole egg in a packaged breakfast sandwich or eggs as ingredients in baked goods, their “real” appeal and beneficial functional properties cannot be denied. We offer an extensive library of resources and ideas as thought starters for your product development efforts. Click here to view sample formulations for appetizers, desserts, main dishes, sauces and more.

2016-07-04 08:49:00
 

Grab-and-go profit potential

Summertime and warm weather beckons those who enjoy spending time outdoors. When our frantic schedules ease up a bit and offer the chance for some recreation, the last thing we want to do is spend a lot of time with food preparation. And to fuel summer activities, the perfect grab-and-go snack pack or mini meal will include a protein component like hard-boiled eggs.

The advantages and benefits of hard-boiled eggs are many and varied. For one thing, they can be marketed alongside other refrigerated single-serve protein snacks across all channels. Secondly, for a consumer population grown mostly weary of bars and shakes, hard-boiled eggs hold appeal due to their fresh taste, trusted nutritional credentials and portable format.

We recently completed a marketing study about hard-boiled eggs that focused on their nutritional and snacking benefits, while focusing also on their affordability when compared to other protein-rich foodstuffs. Eggs enjoy the halo effect of being seen as a “real food,” and as not being processed or high in fat, like many other protein-based snacks now in the market. Hard-boiled eggs are naturally portable, allowing for consumption throughout the day and on the run.

For the benefit of the product developer, we created a set of “Hard-Boiled Egg Fresh Protein Snacking Concepts,” essentially a newly imagined line of products inspired by the survey and rigorous research of the study’s respondents. In addition to our own concepts we invited respondents to create their own ultimate and appealing “Protein Snack Box” for three different occasions (snack, meal replacement and breakfast—the hottest meal segment in the marketplace at the moment).


Profit Potential

For pre-designed concepts, the two-egg protein snack pack with seasoning and a three compartment “protein power snack box” (containing hard-boiled egg, cheese portion and roasted edamame) were by far the favorites of participants in the concept test portion of the study.

Communicating the protein benefits of eggs and adding flavor made the snack pack and three-compartment power snack box winners in terms of the biggest earnings potential. They demonstrated high purchase intent, uniqueness, frequency and draw—with draw meaning a person would go to an outlet just for this item. The increase in both purchase intent and uniqueness was significant because these two measures usually are in inverse relationship to each other. High uniqueness and high purchase intent designates a “sweet spot” for new product concept development.

When we allowed consumers to design their own optimal protein pack, we found that the eating occasion, breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack, drove selection of the contents—the number and types of items paired with a hard-boiled egg.  For snacking, consumers preferred three overall components and for other occasions, three to four.

This means manufacturers can look to expand the varieties of fresh protein snack kits in the marketplace, optimize the number and type of components and offer consumers an innovative entry into the fresh protein snacking arena. For more detailed study results, please feel free to contact me at (847) 296-7043.

2016-06-20 08:26:56
 

“They’re eggs Jim, but not as we know them!”—Or are they?

Anyone else a Star Trek fan? Another new film that will continue the franchise is being released this summer. I know I was first in line to see a new cast of young actors breathe fresh life into a classic TV series. And I’m happy yet another generation can relish the adventures of Spock, Jim, Uhura and the rest of the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

What does this have to do with eggs? Just like movie concepts and story lines, foods and ingredients can experience resurgence as they are discovered by an emerging generation. Such is the case with hard-boiled eggs.

However, just like movies require a good plot, food also has to fit certain requirements in order to retain or regain popularity.

We recently conducted a study about hard-boiled eggs to discover how they fit into the emerging protein snack pack market. We found they align with consumers’ search for appetizing, healthy and convenient snacks. One millennial respondent wrote specifically on their survey, “They’re fast, easy and good for me. What’s not to like?”

I heartily agree. Hard-boiled eggs are an affordable protein option and low in fat compared to other protein types commonly included in snack packs. One large egg contains about 70 calories, along with six grams of protein and a host of additional vitamins and minerals.

The time is ripe for a protein pack revamp that includes hard-boiled eggs, especially considering the fact that survey respondents indicate they are weary of shakes and bars and would welcome innovation in the protein snack pack segment.

Our research revealed marketing insights that might help provide some guidance for product development. Respondents said the following could help improve on-the-go consumption of hard-boiled eggs:

  • Portability-focused packaging
  • The addition of flavor
  • Overt nutritional benefit communication on labels and branding

We’ll leave packaging to the experts, however when it comes to flavor, we have a host of ideas for dips, sauces or spice mixtures that pair up perfectly with hard-boiled eggs. Custom spice mixtures or dips can offer a touch of exotic, ethnic flair or remain traditional. But the fact of the matter is, hard-boiled eggs provide the perfect canvas to introduce almost any flavor concept consumers might find appealing.

For a list of flavor ideas to help spark some creative juices, click this link for spice blends and dip ideas we created for school foodservice programs. The flavor ideas and spice combinations would work just as well within a protein snack pack or meal kit for the grocery or C-store. And tune in to the next blog post to find out which “Protein Snack Box” concept hit the sweet spot for product development. For more detailed results from the study and/or nutritional information concerning each individual egg size, contact me at (847) 296-7043.

2016-06-06 13:02:53
 

In a word—Yum!

Delicious Samples Planned for IFT Booth 2801.

Visitors to the Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting & Expo this July 16-19 in Chicago will want to pay a daily visit to the American Egg Board’s booth 2801, or risk missing out on some delicious samples—samples that coincidentally highlight the functional properties of egg ingredients.

A Key Lime Cookie Cup topped with marshmallow meringue gives the retro dessert trend a bit of zing. It features an individual tartlet that relies on a traditional sugar cookie formulation for the crust, filled with a citrus key lime curd, topped with a light, airy marshmallow meringue. Within the sugar cookie, eggs contribute to aeration and emulsification, structure, flavor, color and anti-staling. The classic citrus curd, flavored with key lime, relies on whole eggs for thickening, emulsification, richness and flavor. Egg white of course is responsible for the meringue’s light and airy texture via its aeration and foaming properties.

Playful miniature push pops, portable and indulgent, feature layers of a rosemary olive oil pound cake and two mousse components; the first, blood orange and the second a dark chocolate. The pound cake uses liquid whole eggs for aeration, emulsification, structure, flavor, color and anti-staling properties. The mousse layers use both egg yolk and egg white, with the yolk contributing richness, some structure and emulsification while the egg white helps aerate the mousse.

Within the push pop the rosemary pound cake introduces a savory note, with the blood orange mousse adding a slight bitter twist while the dark chocolate helps balance and round out the flavors.

Finally, Dulce de Leche Pudding with Pumpkin Seed Crunch features rich custard flavored with caramel and vanilla bean and topped with a sweet, yet spicy cinnamon-glazed pumpkin seed crunch. The pudding incorporates egg yolk for creaminess and flavor and capitalizes on its emulsifying and thickening properties for proper texture. Egg white helps the cinnamon spice mixture adhere to the pumpkin seeds and aids with crisping and browning for the topping overall.

Each sample plays off of the trend for individual or single-serving size indulgent treats, portable and perfect for snacking. Each also can be easily reproduced in an individual bakery or manufacturing environment. Show attendees are welcome to ask about the formulations used for these samples. We look forward to hearing your reviews! See you in July.

2016-05-23 08:28:18
 

Breakfast all day, everywhere…and in the grocery aisles

Americans are not just waking up to breakfast, they’re demanding it morning, noon and night. Every format possible is being explored including handheld, breakfast bowls, breakfast burritos and customizable options that aren’t necessarily portable, but fit into the hearty, filling and better-for-you category. Breakfast share is split among multiple outlets as restaurants and quick serve compete with convenience stores and groceries for the breakfast dining dollar. What this does mean though, is there is a piece of the breakfast market available for the savvy marketer who pays attention to the trends and develops a product that meets consumer need.

An article in Convenience Store Decisions last Fall profiled one chains’ breakfast menu and all aspects of breakfast sales are doing well. Breakfast egg and meat sandwiches are “top sellers” however custom-made breakfast plates are also popular. Breakfast bowls are also big sellers, including one that contains a casserole of scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage, cheese, onions, peppers and gravy are doing well too. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

As an aside, breakfast bowls might achieve popularity simply based on the container. A recent article in BBC speaks to the surprising psychology that drives consumer purchases or enjoyment of a meal served in a bowl versus the same food served on a plate. This perception might extend to a prepared bowl breakfast in the grocery aisle.

Translating breakfast popularity into grocery store sales is not only possible, it’s already happening. The fastest growing category by far, according to Nielsen’s “Tops of 2015: U.S. Grocery” report was shelf-stable convenience breakfast, with dollar sales up an amazing 40.5 percent.

This could be explained in part, by another statistic. While restaurant sales are brisk for all-day breakfast at certain chains, when eating in transit, a full 63 percent of consumers, according to one poll, say they will grab something from home. This means food manufacturers have an excellent opportunity to create convenient and filling breakfast options for those busy consumers.

When creating a breakfast dish convenience is key, but health and nutrition also are important considerations. Another article in Grocery Headquarters states, “More and more, people are beginning to realize that consuming too much sugar or not enough fiber or protein first thing in the morning can effect how they feel for the rest of the day.”

Breakfast bowls, plates and sandwiches that include REAL eggs can certainly answer the challenge to supply energy and protein in a pleasing yet satiating format for the consumer. Eggs can help create convenient and nutritious meals for breakfast anywhere and anytime.

2016-05-09 13:45:53
 

Gluten-free going gangbusters

Going gluten-free? You’re not alone. New Mintel research shows that one in four consumers reports they consume gluten-free foods—a 67 percent increase from 2013. This growth comes despite the fact that nearly half or 47 percent of consumers agree that gluten-free diets are a fad.

If glutgengluten-free is a fad, what is the consumer motivation for buying them? Some are following a doctor’s advice to avoid gluten, however 27 percent of the rest report they eat gluten-free foods because they believe these products are better for their health. Whatever their reasons, more than a quarter of consumers, or 26 percent agree that gluten-free foods are worth an added cost and are willing to pay a premium to buy them.

The good news is that consumers say they’re satisfied with available gluten-free options, meaning that formulating has taken a step in the right direction in terms of flavor and mouthfeel. This has led to category sales reaching $11.6 billion in 2015, posting growth of 136 percent from 2013 to 2015. With more than a fourth of gluten-free consumers (27 percent) looking for gluten-free labels on food packaging, gluten-free food sales soared from 2.8 percent of total food sales in 2013 to 6.5 percent in 2015.

And here’s a fact—some of that excellent flavor and mouthfeel, particularly in gluten-free baked goods, can be attributed to egg ingredients. Most further processed egg ingredients are gluten-free. Certainly whole eggs in the shell are naturally free from gluten and many egg ingredients such as liquid whole eggs, egg yolks or egg whites are as well. The same functional properties eggs supply to mainstream food products are even more critical in a gluten-free formulation where product developers must swap out traditional ingredients and even modify processing methods because the nature of gluten-free batters quite different.

Eggs can help supply aeration for lighter, less dense baked goods and coagulation and binding for proper texture and crumb, for example. One whole egg by itself contains high-quality protein and added protein can be an asset in gluten-free baking applications with common gluten-free flour options lacking the protein contained in wheat-based flours. As you enter or continue to develop products that meet this market need, look to egg ingredients to help further category growth by creating great-tasting gluten-free foods.

2016-04-24 08:05:00
 

Egg breakfasts better at fueling up kids

New research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, published in the Eating Behaviors journal, compared breakfasts to see which kept children feeling full longer—protein-based eggs or grain-based breakfasts including cereal or oatmeal.

The findings showed that eggs provide a more filling breakfast for children than a breakfast of grain-based foods like cereal or oatmeal.

The study included 40 children, ages 8-10 and asked them to eat one of three 350-calorie breakfasts; eggs, cereal or oatmeal; once a week over a three-week period.

The children were to finish the entire breakfast and afterwards played games with the researchers before eating lunch. The children could eat as much or as little lunch as they wanted.

The researchers asked the children during the course of the morning, “How hungry are you?” or about the amount of food the child thought they could eat at that moment. And the children’s parents recorded their daily food intake in a journal.

At the end of three weeks the researchers found that children who ate the egg breakfast (consisting of scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast, diced peaches and one percent milk) ate less at lunchtime, reducing their energy intake by about 70 calories, roughly equivalent to a small chocolate chip cookie. Eating more than caloric needs regularly, even by a small amount, adds up over time and can cause weight gain and possibly obesity.

This is the latest of several clinical trials that specifically assess the effects of high-quality protein from eggs on satiety.

It’s easy to create healthy, filling breakfast meals with eggs. Egg ingredients are available in multiple forms, including liquid eggs or as premade scrambles or patties, to help create breakfast bowls, sandwiches or breakfast platters that can heat quickly in a microwave or oven. Ask your egg supplier about the different forms for egg products or contact us for more information to fuel up your breakfast offerings.

2016-04-11 21:47:29