No disguises

When my kids were little I tried to disguise certain foods at mealtime to try to get them to eat healthier. If you’re a parent, you know there is a certain age when children would be delighted to have cookies three times a day. For a while disguises worked, but then they started asking, “What’s really on my plate?”

Today’s consumer examines the dinner plate as well, or more specifically examines labels to find out what’s in their food before putting it on the plate. Thankfully their goal is to eat healthier, although an occasional cookie won’t go amiss.

And while the concept of “clean label” appeared on the horizon years ago, this is a trend with staying power that continues to refine and redefine the meaning of “clean.”

A recent article in Food Processing magazine quotes one expert as saying that for a growing population of consumers, these new clean label drivers are “must-haves, not nice-to-haves.” Definitions such as “natural” and “fresh” have been joined by “transparent,” “preservative-free” and in fact an entire list of free-from desires or demands. NPD Group predicts this movement will continue to grow in 2016. And this clean label movement is all-inclusive, extending to cookies equally as much as a main meal. For the consumer it doesn’t matter if they’re having a healthy breakfast or an indulgent snack, the ingredients within should be as familiar as those common to their kitchen cupboards or refrigerator.

A retrospective look at the last seven years of new product introduction on the Global New Products Database hosted by Mintel reveals that clean label claims are a hot item. Among the top ten claims for new food introductions in the U.S., the second on the list is for “No Additives/Preservatives,” with “All Natural” coming in fifth.

Formulators who choose to use egg ingredients for new or existing products will find that eggs fit easily into this consumer desire for clean label. Within the top ten claims for new product introductions containing eggs, for the same time period, “No Additives/Preservatives” and “All Natural” also appear in the top ten.

And while one article after another discusses the challenges formulators face when trying to clean up a label yet find the functionality required for proper flavor, form and texture. Once again, egg ingredients come to the rescue, as formulators can leverage the more than 20 functional properties eggs supply.

In addition to center-of-the-plate main meals, clean label rules apply to treats like cookies or cakes that bring a smile to anyone’s face, regardless of age. The nice thing to know is that when eggs are on the label, no disguises are necessary.

2016-03-14 13:57:25

Enjoying food at any age

Last month, we highlighted an article in the Harvard Business Review focusing on clean label and sustainability practices, most particularly as it related to the worldview held by Millennials. Those issues don’t pertain exclusively to Millennials, although that group is more ardently attached to the principals behind clean labels and corporate transparency than other demographic groups.

Amidst all the discussion about clean label, there are other qualities consumers look for in their foods and beverages and this can change according to lifestyle, eating occasion or age.

For example, Dutch scientists from Wageningen University recently conducted an extensive literature study and found that the older adult population constitutes an area ripe for further research. Relatively few studies have been performed to examine the food perception of older adults.

Taste and textural perceptions change as we age, in addition to sense of smell—which has a direct impact on flavor perception. Yet, researchers say, research on product improvements has focused mainly on flavor and ignored the other sensory aspects.

They urge a more holistic approach that takes into account the food’s flavor, but also a broad spectrum of sensory aspects in addition to packaging design, and even the social context in which the food might be eaten.

Other research confirms the facts that “the majority of new products that are introduced are positioned to a younger demographic, or shoppers aged 21 to 49 years.” Whereas the world population from 2000 to 2050 is projected to grow by 54%, the global population of those aged 65 or older will grow at more than four times this rate, according to a study published by the International Union of Food Science and Technology.

What this points out is that amidst the industry’s overall objectives, to make foods healthier, to keep ingredients simple and more natural, there are always going to be market segments that demand specialized attention and depending on their needs and the market potential, are well worth investigating. Giving consumers what they want as well as what they need—whether they’ve identified the need themselves or not—is a tricky balancing act. However what makes it easier is the drawing from the right portfolio of functional, flavorful ingredients like REAL eggs.

For more information about the nutritional requirements of older adults and the relationship to eggs, The Australian Egg Nutrition Council contains a comprehensive position statement for healthcare professionals on this topic. Read the statement here.

2016-02-29 08:33:08

Egg supply rebounding

The U.S. egg supply is rebounding well after a tough six months for the egg industry brought on by an unprecedented outbreak of avian influenza. A number of factors are at play in the supply rebound beyond affected farms beginning to repopulate. Egg imports, fewer exports and unaffected farms increasing production have all contributed to help with the supply gap.

Furthermore, the Egg Industry Center in Ames, Iowa, reports half of the layers lost in 2015 are already replaced, and if recovery continues at the current rate, by late 2016 the flocks should be at or near 100 percent pre-outbreak levels. With egg supply returning to more normal levels, egg prices have responded by dropping during this first quarter of the year.

As the supply of egg products continues to recover, there will be ample availability for use in the food industry. And barring any further incidents, we expect supply and pricing to regain their previous consistency.

And just a note, egg ingredients continue an unbroken record of food safety for the past 45 years. All further processed egg ingredients are pasteurized, and there have been no incidences of foodborne illness attributed to egg ingredients since this safety step was implemented.

We look forward to fielding your inquires about formulating with one incredible ingredient that supplies so many different, beneficial functional properties to so many different types of applications. We offer a number of sample formulations here for appetizers, breakfast sandwiches and main dishes through desserts that might help spark some ideas.

2016-02-15 14:50:47

Good News for an Incredible Ingredient

By now you’ve probably heard the federal government published the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Good news for eggs is good news for consumers and formulators alike. The guidelines removed a daily limit on dietary cholesterol and include eggs in all three of its recommended healthy eating patterns, which have been shown to reduce the risk of major chronic health conditions facing Americans.

The three healthy eating patterns include: the Healthy U.S.-style, the Healthy Mediterranean-style and the Healthy Vegetarian-style.

These healthy eating patterns are part of the Guidelines’ encouragement for Americans to adopt a series of science-based recommendations to improve eating patterns in order to help reduce obesity and help prevent chronic diseases, such as type-2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. 

The federal government updates the Dietary Guidelines every five years. With this latest update, the United States now joins other nations in a consensus opinion on dietary cholesterol by removing this limit, while still emphasizing the fact that a diverse assortment of nutrient-dense foods helps increase the chances of better health.

The Guidelines urge Americans to follow a healthy eating pattern across their lifespan; to focus on variety, nutrient density and amount; to limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake; and to shift to healthier food and beverage choices.

Eggs supply varying amounts of 13 essential vitamins and minerals, high-quality protein and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. Eggs are also one of the few natural foods that are a good source of vitamin D, which was identified by the 2015 DGA as a nutrient of concern for under-consumption and necessary for helping to build strong bones

The removal of a daily dietary cholesterol limit and inclusion of eggs within all recommended healthy eating patterns supports regular consumption of eggs along with other nutrient-rich whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

And egg ingredients supply the same functional benefits today as they did 10, 15 and 20 years ago. In fact, egg ingredients supply 20-plus functional properties, with one or more benefits per use, depending on the application. Formulators seeking to create foods that fit within the three recommended healthy eating patterns, whether U.S.-style, Mediterranean, or Vegetarian, can rely on egg ingredients for form, function and flavor. 

2016-02-01 14:18:48

Harvard Business Review talks clean label

Calling it a “relentless shift to transparency,” an article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) in the fourth quarter of last year made it clear that clean label is here to stay. Industry trade publications identified this growing trend years ago but it continues to gain momentum in the mainstream and social media.

As slippery and elusive as the term might seem sometimes, the HBR article does a pretty good job of simplifying clean label as:

Having fewer ingredients that are:

—  Clear about their origins and
—  Recognizable

In terms of population segment, 10,000 people are turning 30 every day and that’s roughly the age they start amassing assets as well as deciding how to spend them and spend their time. They look for jobs with companies that have an impressive stance on social and environmental issues, invest in funds that target sustainability outcomes and check product packaging very carefully.

The article spends more time discussing the investment and financial impacts of this shift towards transparency. However at the end the author includes a series of pointed questioned that he says businesses must be ready to answer for the sake of both employees and increasingly inquisitive customers. The first is one every food manufacturer needs to keep top of mind:

—  “What is every ingredient in your product, why is it there and what does it do, exactly?”

There’s no denying that some manufacturers looked at replacement products last year when avian influenza caused a temporary disruption in the supply of eggs. However it is important to remember that REAL egg ingredients are made from…eggs. And appear as “eggs” on the label.

REAL egg ingredients supply more than twenty functional properties that formulators can use to bind, aerate, whip, gel, emulsify and so on. We have reams of information to help explain how those properties work, when the conversation drills deeper into “why is it there,” or “what does it do?” REAL egg ingredients have a distinct purpose and multiple functional benefits established over years of processing and manufacturing. REAL eggs help keep labels short and simple when examined by a consumer’s probing eye.

For other probing questions posed by the author, read the original article here.

2016-01-18 14:59:05

Make food safety a priority in 2016

We’ve all made New Years’ resolutions only to watch them fall by the wayside after a short period of time. Yet, like moths drawn to a flame, somehow we cannot resist starting the New Year without framing a resolve either to begin a better habit or abandon a bad one.

This year it might be best to start out with a resolution worth keeping, and that is to maintain best practices for food safety by reviewing food safety procedures for your facility.

During last year’s outbreak of avian influenza, some facilities switched to shell eggs while further processed eggs were in limited supply. Production is back to normal now, and food manufacturers can have confidence in further processed egg products. All of further processed and packaged egg products sold in the United States are pasteurized according to strict standards to ensure their safety. And since the Egg Products Inspection Act passed by Congress in 1970, there have been no recorded outbreaks of salmonellosis linked to pasteurized egg products.

Despite the fact further processed egg products are pasteurized, they still require proper temperature and storage treatment to avoid issues. There are four simple steps that comprise the Egg Safety Cycle, with information applicable to bakeries, foodservice and food manufacturing operations.  You will find a series of brief videos on our website that detail the four steps found here:

In review, the four essential steps for egg safety include:

    The INSPECT phase starts whenever you receive eggs or egg products.

  2. CLEAN
    The best way to avoid many food safety problems can be summed up on one word: CLEAN.

  3. TEST
    The TEST phase starts at the point of receiving eggs or egg products into your facility.

  4. TIME
    The final step in the Egg Safety Cycle is TIME, which works hand-in-hand with temperature to affect the safety, quality and taste of every food product made with eggs.

A proper review of ingredient handling can only benefit your manufacturing facility and safeguard consumers. If you have any questions about egg product safety or handling, visit our Egg Safety & Handling guidelines or give us a call at 847-296-7043.

2016-01-04 13:59:55

Pie or cheesecake? Choose your favorite.

Depending on which survey results you believe the most, either apple or pumpkin pie reigns supreme as the favorite encore for Thanksgiving dinner. In my family, both share space with some cheesecake and other desserts as well, so that everyone can select a favorite (or two—the holidays certainly allow for a bit of indulgence).

While many swear by secret family recipes that guarantee a flavorful outcome, others rely on bakeries or the refrigerated and frozen section of their nearby supermarket. According to Mintel the entire category of retail prepared cakes and pies reached $11.2 billion in sales in 2014, representing a 24% increase since 2009. And 61% agree gourmet or premium products are worth paying a bit extra for, including 72% of those ages 25-34. This is an area driven by indulgence.

Egg ingredients help provide structure and rich flavor in many refrigerated desserts, including cheesecake, custards, puddings, certain pie fillings (such as the ubiquitous pumpkin or pecan) and of course, refrigerated cakes.

The coagulative properties of egg yolks and whole eggs help set cheesecake in general, although there are two broad categories of cheesecake: solid/heavy/New York style, and light/French type that contains beaten egg white meringue for greater volume and a lighter texture.

New York style cheesecakes should bake at lower temperatures for a longer amount of time, with low-pressure steam for a moist environment. Overbaking causes the top of the cheesecake to dry out and crack, and can cause the interior to become gritty/grainy rather than smooth. Cracking also can occur when the cake cools too fast; cakes must be cooled thoroughly in a draft-free environment.

Egg ingredients and starch-based thickeners work synergistically to provide viscosity and structure. Fillings with too much starch can become glue-like and have a pasty mouthfeel. And unlike eggs, which enhance most flavors in baked goods, starches can have a tendency to dull flavors, especially in fruit fillings.

Soft-filled pies or pudding and custard creams rely on eggs for thickening properties—as the eggs are heated they aid product structure. Just note that sugar raises the temperature at which eggs coagulate, and acids decrease the temperature required for coagulation. For shelf-stable pumpkin pies, added moisture (such as water and liquid eggs) should not exceed 100% of the pumpkin weight.

Chiffon pie fillings or Bavarian creams are lighter and rely on the aerating properties of the egg white. As air is incorporated into egg whites as they are beaten, the structural framework created by the egg proteins help hold products together. In addition, egg white helps increase volume for lighter foods, lends an airy texture and smooth mouthfeel and allows the other ingredients to achieve better integration.

As a reminder, all liquid, frozen and dried egg products are pasteurized. Not only has there never been a food-borne illness associated with pasteurized egg products, the process also lends the ingredients a more extended shelf life without sacrificing quality, flavor or performance. To locate a supplier of quality egg ingredients, visit our Buyers’ Guide.

2015-12-21 14:51:30

Grocerant challenge to food manufacturers

Meal planning for today’s consumer is more of a sprint than a marathon. According to research presented by Tyson Foods at a recent conference, 70 percent of shoppers decide today what they will eat for dinner tonight.

Convenience is king – and although the industry has been talking for years about this trend, it continues to grow, fueling the rise of restaurant industry sales and giving birth to a new type of outlet – the grocerant.

Time-crunched consumers in search of quick and easy meals pushed monthly restaurant sales ahead of grocery store sales for the first time in December 2014. And that “share of the plate” keeps tilting more towards restaurant-style dining with each passing month. However, consumers also are thrifty and want restaurant quality food they can eat at home for a good price.

In response, grocery stores have upped the ante to tempt hungry shoppers with fresh, convenient meals on display at the front of the store and in the deli. Offerings include salad bars, soups, sushi counters or minimally wrapped, freshly prepared meals ready to eat after a quick whirl in the microwave. Some outlets encourage consumers to dine in, with small café tables in a side section or front of the store. The wide variety of fresh, ready-to-eat (RTE) meals alongside the dine in-store option has been coined “grocerant.”

This increased foodservice activity means food product manufacturers need to rethink some strategies in order to protect or regain market share.

Key factors defining the foods served at grocerants include:

  • Healthy
  • Fresh
  • Quality
  • Single-serve
  • Flavorful

NPD Crest data reveals consumers prefer to eat at home instead of going to a restaurant in order to keep their dining healthier, save money and because they like home-cooked food. Consumers define their grocery store needs as most closely mimicking fast casual experiences, which promote quality, freshness and customization.

Another driver for this focus on fresh, prepared meals, says Steven Johnson from Foodservice Solutions, is that 50 percent of Americans ages 18 and older are single. This makes a prepared meal an easy choice and less costly than dining out.

While fresh is the top mention by consumers looking for in-store meal satisfaction, they also want variety in flavors. A deli obviously has an easier time catering to seasonality than a packaged prepared food, however, limited editions or limited time offers (LTOs) can work for packaged foods, as well as foodservice. This past fall a number of manufacturers introduced limited editions of popular brands that featured fall flavors, most overwhelmingly pumpkin spice.

One key for a manufacturer seeking to create market interest with a LTO is agility. According to an article in Food Business News, quoting Anil Kaul, Ph.D., chief executive officer and co-founder of Absolutdata, “One of the challenges of the food industry is it typically has a relatively longer innovation cycle from product idea to the shelf...Companies that can move products from idea to shelf very fast are the ones that can be successful.” He predicts a continued emphasis on natural foods as well as flavor swings influenced by global cuisine.  

And manufacturers know the key to agile product development is reliance on a trusted stable of quality ingredients that have proven their performance through a variety of processing scenarios over time.

The good news is that retail prepared foods eaten at home are predicted by NPD Group to rise another 10 percent by 2022—double the growth restaurants will see. This places the consumer in the grocery store. The manufacturer that pays attention to the factors driving new meal purchasing decisions can benefit by keeping products as fresh as possible, providing gold standard quality and foods that mimic scratch cooking as closely as possible. 

Achieving this means using high-quality ingredients and avoiding those that might make the meal seem less wholesome and fresh. The nuts and bolts that hold products together and give them proper consumer appeal are those ingredients that supply both flavor and functional properties and are as familiar to the consumer as the contents of their own kitchen cupboard. Versatile egg ingredients are available in refrigerated, frozen, dried and value added forms to help develop products that fit in with the rising grocerant dining trends. To locate a supplier of quality egg ingredients, visit our Buyers’ Guide.


2015-12-09 15:21:21

Swooning for macarons

Less than one week after the nation celebrates Pi Day on March 14th, New York City pays homage to a light, airy confection that is slowly edging out cupcakes as a bakery favorite. In 2016 the Big Apple will mark its seventh annual Macaron Day on March 20th, with area bakeries creating and selling their own unique flavor varieties. The annual celebration has its philanthropic side, with part of the proceeds benefiting City Harvest.

The word “macaron” stems from the Italian maccherone or “fine paste,” named for the nut flour that forms the basis of this single-serve cookie. Born in Italy, the macaron made its way to France in the 1530s, according to one source. This European roaming gave birth to at least three distinct methods of preparation with the Italian meringue the most common.

The macaron depends on meringue for its shape and traditional light, airy yet crisp texture. It relies on a very simple list of ingredients—nut flour, eggs, sugar, flavoring and filling of jam, cream or ganache. This elegant, single-serve confection also has the benefit of being gluten-free.

More adventuresome bloggers have experimented with a broad variety of fine-ground nut flours, although the vast majority uses almonds. What differs the macarons flavors, with a pastry chef’s imagination the only limit, ranging from plain (yet upscale) vanilla to Cassis, Red Velvet, Rose or savory types in a rainbow of colors.

While exact sales figures are difficult to tabulate, Whole Foods has been selling macarons for years. An article in 2014 in The Atlantic quotes a representative of the grocery chain claiming a 40 percent increase in macaron sales in just one year.

There are both tabletop and industrial depositors to help automate the process and ramp up production for large or mid-sized bakeries and food manufacturers. The important factor whether dispensing by hand or via machine is the viscosity, so the dough correctly flows out of the depositor. We offer sample formulations for French Macaron Cookies using either dried or liquid egg whites and directions for Orange Curd, Mixed Berry or Dark Chocolate fillings.

At home I find flavor inspiration from influential bloggers or YouTube videos. This year for the holidays I might try “Candy Cane” or “Thin Mint” created by Byron Talbott. Whatever the occasion there is a flavor to match and the egg whites to whip up the perfect macaron meringue.

2015-12-07 14:29:38

Eggs atop salads “tops” for boosting carotenoid absorption

Eggs can help, researchers say, at boosting the carotenoid absorption of salads comprised of colorful, mixed, raw vegetables.

Carotenoids are responsible for the red, orange and yellow color of many fruits and vegetables and credited with helping protect against heart disease and cancer by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.

Purdue University researchers recently released a paper, “Effects of Egg Consumption on Carotenoid Absorption from Co-consumed, Raw Vegetables,” published online in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Carotenoids are fat-soluble nutrients.

A news article on the Purdue University website quoted one of the study coauthors, Wayne Campbell, Ph.D., professor of nutrition science at Purdue. “Eating a salad with a variety of colorful vegetables provides several unique types of carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene,” said Campbell.  “The lipid contained in whole eggs enhances the absorption of all these carotenoids.”

In the study, subjects consumed a salad comprised of tomatoes, shredded carrots, baby spinach, romaine lettuce and Goji berry, either served as vegetables alone, topped with one and a half eggs, or topped with three eggs. Researchers measured a three- to eight-fold increase in carotenoid absorption for salads containing three eggs compared to the salads comprised of vegetables alone. The study used scrambled eggs to ensure participants consumed both the yolk and egg whites.

Carotenoids found in the salads fed to study subjects included beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Egg yolk contains lutein and zeaxanthin and contributed a portion of the carotenoid consumption, while the other three antioxidants are found in vegetables alone.

Researchers stated that most people in the U.S. do not include enough vegetables in their diets and when eating salads often choose fat-free or lower-fat dressings. However, the lipid content of the eggs acted as the agent to enhance carotenoid absorption, increasing the nutritive value of the vegetables.

Tia Rains, Ph.D., senior director, Nutrition Research & Communications at the Egg Nutrition Center commented, “This study shows that eggs can offer consumers one way to include a high-quality, nutrient-rich protein in a plant-based diet.”

The resulting hypothesis is that sustaining a dietary pattern that pairs plant foods with sources of healthy fats at the same meal could lead to greater concentrations of circulating antioxidants. 

2015-11-09 14:48:20