29 Aug 2017 --- Concord grapes are a great way for manufacturers to “go purple,” according to supplier Welch's Global Ingredients Group. Purple has been earmarked as one of this year’s major food and beverage trends and colored purple foods are popping up everywhere. The power of purple goes beyond color alone and often indicates nutrient density and antioxidants.
The Concord grape is a distinctive dark purple variety that’s singularly delicious and naturally sweet. It is different from other grapes with its thick skin and crunchy seeds and contains high levels of polyphenols. Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Zachary Longhini, Global Business Development Manager for Welch’s Ingredients says: “At Welch’s we live and breathe purple. The darker the color of purple, the more polyphenols you’ll likely find.”
Welch’s has conducted some consumer research in the area of purple Concord grapes in a bid to raise awareness of the “power of purple,” however, according to Longhini, there is still a bit of a disconnect between people wanting to consume purple and their ability to find it in ways that they enjoy eating.
“Some of the purple things that have been trendy lately are purple sweet potatoes and purple asparagus, but these might be difficult for some consumers to utilize in a way that offers them the flavor experience they are looking for,” says Longhini. “There are different types of nutrients in purple fruit and veg, and broadening the color pallet on your plate will ensure you are getting a more robust selection of polyphenols which can help contribute to overall health and wellness,” he notes.
“The scientific research we have conducted has been more focused on our particular product offering, and so regarding Concord grapes, one of the biggest areas of research that we have been looking at for almost twenty years now is heart health, cardiovascular health and how Concord grape products can help support those aspects of health and wellness.”
“Concord grapes have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health and we found that generally speaking, they offer many of the same benefits as you would find in something like a red wine,” he explains. “That is probably the most established research we have so far, but we are also looking into the new areas which indicate that Concord grape juice may deliver some positive cognitive benefits as well.”
“We are always exploring what the next frontier will be from a research standpoint but we do have well-documented evidence so far on the cardiovascular health front and then cognitive health as well,” he adds.
Welch’s is now looking at ways to innovate further with the grape, the Concord grape has been relegated to a bottle and to a certain extent for jam and jelly purposes, for its entire history. “Our goal is to create ways in which we can expand our current range beyond that to bring Concord grapes into other applications, outside of the traditional ones – a lot of our innovation has been focused on that end so far,” says Longhini.
Welch’s FruitWorx are real fruit bites made using a technology that captures the goodness of Concord grapes. These pieces are versatile and can be used in a variety of applications, bringing the taste and nutrition of Welch’s special grapes to products like snack bars, bakery products and confectionery.
“Our FruitWorx fruit pieces are those that we manufacturer along with our partner Taura. They have a process that allows us to very quickly remove water from the product itself, so we are able to make fruit pieces with real fruit ingredients that have only natural sugars from the fruit itself. We can make wholesome products that allow us to get into a lot of new applications where we couldn’t go before,” he notes.
“One of the primary issues that we have with Concord grapes is that fact that it contains seeds, so it’s not an ideal grape to make raisins from, which blocked us from a lot of food applications prior to the development of our FrutiWorx line. Now we are trying to explore ways to get that ingredient into bakery items, snack bars, trail mixes and a variety of other applications that could use us as a dehydrated fruit product.”
Because of Taura’s technology, FruitWorx provides benefits relative to dried fruits.
According to Longhini, this process is extremely customizable so it gives the option to create FruitWorx pieces made with different fruits and if desired, other elements, such as supplements, vegetables and grains. “The water activity can also be manipulated to make it more suitable for a variety of applications,” he adds.
“We can’t make a raisin but arguably we can make something better. If you look at polyphenol levels in our products relative to raisins, Concord FruitWorx has three times the typical amount found in the leading brand of raisin,” claims Longhini.
“Our grape juice powder further broadens the potential applications that we can get into, especially those that are looking for a dry format product. Things like bakery mixes, dry drink powders, and supplements are possible when looking at our grape powder, which brings the natural taste and polyphenols that are found in grapes themselves,” he states.
“Concord grapes have a distinct and deep purple color, it’s one of the attributes it brings to the table,” continues Longhini, “It’s a natural colorant in that regard, which is important in the push towards clean label products. Generally, we have not sold it as a color but it is one of those attributes that companies are continuing to look for.”
Having been fairly well-developed in the juice and jelly/jam space, Longhini believes that anything outside of that is fair game for Welch’s Global Ingredients. “We do hope to grow in the dairy segment, which is a white space for us that we are looking to develop further into. Bakery items are something we also could work towards, as are frozen foods and we do have some presence in confectionery but there is still space to grow,” he claims.
“In terms of polyphenol content, I do think there is a lot of opportunity in nutrition type items, such as snack bars and sports nutrition. We recently did some work looking at trends in snacking for millennials,” he continues, “And one of the key findings is that snacking is on the rise as meal replacement options. One of the biggest issues is finding products that they actually like and that are healthy for them. There isn’t a lot currently out there so we want to develop our ingredients for manufacturers focused on this space, in particular. The aim is to offer consumers something they like the taste of but also something that has nutritional value, this is especially important when you are looking at snacks becoming meal replacements.”
He adds: “We are always looking for the next development, to get the grapes into new applications that we haven’t been before.”
“For Welch’s, we believe almost anything and everything can be achieved through grape innovations, that sole focus gives us a unique opportunity within the grape space to be thought and innovation leaders in the industry. Our nearly 150 years of grape knowledge allows us to understand the nature of grapes and where can go with them next,” Longhini finalizes.
By Elizabeth Green
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