AIMING for great taste when your development brief calls for reduced sugar or the use of artificial sweeteners might seem difficult. The taste of products containing stevia or monk fruit can be unappealing to many consumers, but certain innovative ingredients can overcome the bitterness of sugar substitutes. FoodPacific Manufacturing Journal asked Wouter Stomph, Head of North America Cocoa Ingredient Development & Innovation at Olam Food Ingredients (ofi), how their cocoa brands elevate the taste of products like ice cream, confectionery and baked goods with reduced sugar or other flavourings. ofi is known for value-added products and ingredients designed for the creation of healthy indulgent food and beverages.
Wouter Stomph, Head of North America Cocoa Ingredient Development & Innovation at Olam Food Ingredients (ofi)
In formulating with less sugar, it is not just about decreasing the amount of sugar from the product recipe, is this correct? Please explain the ideal approach to sugar reduction that aims to preserve the good/original taste of products.
No, there’s quite a lot more to it. When you reduce sugar in a recipe, the first challenge is replacing the lost volume. Secondly, you need to ensure the balance remains intact after the sugar has been taken out or replaced by a sweetener.
With products containing cocoa powder, we’ve found that revaluating the type and dosage is critical. ofi’s natural cocoa powders are typically fruitier and can be used at higher levels to take on some bulking properties. The red alkalised cocoa powders, from our premium brand deZaan, have less bitterness and thus require less sweetening. We’ve also had great success with red cocoa in masking bitterness and off-flavous from plant-based proteins and high intensity sweeteners.
Please tell us more about Olam’s cocoa ingredients. From which part of the cacao do they come from and how are they generally produced?
All cocoa ingredients start with cocoa beans. The cocoa bean used therefore has a big impact on the ultimate characteristics of the end products. That means it’s really important that we only select the highest quality cocoa beans to produce our cocoa ingredients.
Our global network of teams based in the countries where cocoa is grown, combined with our expert quality assessors, means that we’re able to source the very best beans from around the world. In order to ensure that our processing facilities receive a consistent quality and quantity, cocoa beans from different countries and regions are often blended together before they reach the facility.
Once they arrive, they undergo a number of measures to transform them into different cocoa ingredients. Those ingredients include cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa powder.
Are Olam’s cocoa ingredients natural and clean label?
We offer a wide range of cocoa powders, which help our customers to achieve a wide range of flavous and colors in their final product. That includes natural and clean label ingredients, such as deZaan TrueDark, the first ever natural, non-alkalised dark cocoa powder. One of TrueDark’s key benefits is that it can be listed simply as ‘cocoa’ on product labels, rather than ‘cocoa powder processed with alkali’, which allows manufacturers to have simpler, more straightforward ingredient labels that are far more appealing to consumers. With notes of nuts and fruits, TrueDark is perfect in biscuits, cakes and breads, confectionery and ice cream.
Another stand-out natural cocoa powder is our deZaan SN which is whole bean roasted. This preserves more of the flavou of the beans and gives the powder an intense fudgy taste.
The taste of cocoa is associated with bitterness. Does bitterness play a role in how Olam’s cocoa ingredients contribute to an effective sugar reduction strategy?
It’s true that cocoa is often thought of as bitter. However, not all cocoa is created equal. Some cocoa has more fruitiness than bitterness. Others, like our deZaan premium red cocoa powders, have a well-rounded flavour. Overall, cocoa can be a great way of adding rich flavour and a sense of indulgence to products, alongside some sweetness, without the need to add as much sugar.
How do cocoa ingredients function to remove off notes in products that use artificial sweeteners?
Sweeteners like stevia and monkfruit are popular in clean label applications, however they have stronger off flavours compared to some other artificial sweeteners. Working with our customers, we have found that highly alkalised cocoa powders, like deZaan D11R, work well in masking and reducing those stronger off flavous to create a tastier product.
Southeast Asia is struggling with its sugar intake (obesity is high), and although sugar reduction plans are in place in some countries, the region is far from its goal of becoming healthier. Many F&B companies still produce high-calorie products. As an ingredient solutions provider, does Olam see itself as becoming more proactive in promoting healthy food and beverage production.
Health and wellness is a growing trend in the APAC region and consumers are increasingly looking for value added benefits in confectionery and chocolate, like mood or energy boosting snacks, though a great taste remains important. We’re expecting to see this continue, with a growing interest in the health benefits of cocoa over the coming year as a way of adding flavour and a sense of indulgence, without the need for excess sugar, flavourings or colourants.
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