Natural antioxidants: Unlocking the power of plants to preserve food

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19 Jun 2018 --- Since modern-day consumers understand the role that natural antioxidants can have on their personal nutrition as well as how they can function to preserve food for longer, they want more of them. And so antioxidants are finding new potential amid modern life’s demands. As the fast-paced, high-stress and the time-precious contemporary consumer doesn’t have much time for sourcing and cooking from scratch, that often translates into a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables and an increase in processed and convenience food.

Aside from promoting health and well-being, antioxidants have an essential role to play in preserving food, but also must come with a clean label to get maximum impact. 

The natural trend in the food industry is still driving growth and particularly the need for transparency and easy-to-understand ingredients, according to Naturex, a French company specializing in the production and marketing of plant-based ingredients (fruits, vegetables, plants) for the agri-food, nutraceutical and cosmetic industries.

Consumers are no longer very accepting of foods that contain artificial ingredients and simple, kitchen-cupboard ingredients are not only a trend but a real must-have.

Click to Enlarge
Catherine Bayard, Food Preservation
Category Director at Naturex

Speaking with FoodIngredientsFirst, Food Preservation Category Director, Catherine Bayard, explains how the food industry has begun a deep transformation towards more straightforward and more natural ingredients while addressing the need for extended shelf life, preserving freshness and taste.

“The antioxidant market is still growing at about 4 percent per year and is set to reach US$915 million in 2017 largely due to increased production of processed food in emerging countries, and these products require an extended shelf-life. The market share for natural antioxidants is growing faster, supported by the use of rosemary extract (+6.5 percent per year),” Bayard says.

“Consumers are increasingly conscious that they are what they eat and are assessing the healthfulness of their food choices.” 

“Based on our deep knowledge and research on plants and plant extracts, Naturex ingredients are the perfect answer for these needs, especially when it comes to preserving product quality throughout shelf-life.”

Bayard explains how Naturex uses plant science to unlock the “power of plants” through a full team of scientists that can then transfer these plant properties to the food matrix while taking into account all the technical challenges of each application. 

“Clear, simple and understandable ingredient lists are now possible for the food industry,” she says. 

“Rosemary extract is the most famous of these natural preservatives because of its effectiveness and ability to be used in most applications. Our blends of botanical extracts with different properties can enhance protection for color, taste and offer the perfect alternative to synthetic antioxidants and preservatives.”

“With our recent launch of a new line of preservatives based on patented blends of botanicals for limiting pathogen growth in meat products, we now offer a comprehensive toolbox for food processors in their shift to natural.”

The sauces and dressings category is also one of the most dynamic in this space, offering opportunities for manufacturers to launch products with “no additives” and “no preservatives” claims. 

These products typically offer a long shelf-life, so the need for natural solutions to re-place Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid EDTA and other artificial antioxidants is a must. (EDTA is added to some food as a preservative or stabilizer to prevent catalytic oxidative decoloration). 

“Until now, no real solution has been found to meet the need for performance without compromising on taste or color,” continues Bayard. 

Click to EnlargeMaintaining shelf life in mayonnaise 
Maintaining shelf-life in products such as mayonnaise and high lipid emulsions presents a significant challenge for food manufacturers. In high-fat emulsions, where both oil and water phases are present, there is an increased risk of oxidative degeneration and particularly lipid oxidation. 

Iron ions typically catalyze this process and the interaction of the product with packaging and exposure to light in the store can give rise to very unpleasant flavors.

Naturex tells FoodIngredientsFirst how it will be unveiling a new botanical blend alternative to EDTA at the forthcoming Institute of Food Technologists event next month. 

“In light of the clean label trend, it appears clear that the use of EDTA needs to be reconsidered. Naturex scientists have undertaken an ambitious research program and developed a new botanical blend to offer a powerful clean label alternative to EDTA,” continues Bayard. 

“Based on the synergistic action of certain active compounds contained in two simple plant extracts, XtraBlend RN has demonstrated its ability to delay oxidation in mayonnaise.”

“Easy to use and with no impact on the organoleptic properties of the end product, this breakthrough innovation will be presented for the first time at IFT 2018 in Chicago.”

A more significant role for natural antioxidants 
Antioxidants play a much greater role in supporting health than simply quenching free radicals. Another good example of this is recent research coming from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where researchers have come up with a novel use for leftover grape waste that gets discarded when making wine – turning the seeds, stalks and skins into commercial applications like prolonging the shelf life of fatty foods.

The global wine industry produces about 14 million tons of pomace every year. This is the pulpy matter remaining after grapes have been processed for wine and winemakers struggle with what to do with it, mainly because grape waste left in landfills can contribute to the spread of diseases because it can attract flies and pests.

But the US university team is looking to rebrand grape waste as a renewable resource, using it to produce antioxidants, grape oils and dietary fibers for health products.

Regarding applications in food, the team poses the question “could grape waste contribute to clean label?”Click to Enlarge

“We are also developing some applications in food, aiming to substitute artificial antioxidants with natural antioxidants from grapes for a 'clean label' food with only natural ingredients,” says Changmou Xu, Ph.D. from the university.

The researchers separated the phenolic compounds from the other components of the pomace, including any pesticides that were used on the grapes and added them to popular foods high in fat, like mayonnaise and ranch dressing.

Before adding the phenolic compounds, they were also tested for safety requirements. The researchers found that these compounds significantly inhibited lipid oxidation, extending the fatty foods' shelf-life, especially when the samples were exposed to a warm temperature.

Another company innovating in the area of natural antioxidants is Kalsec where R&D is working on a concept heavily based on using rosemary as an antioxidant to help with oxidation management. 

“We are continually putting rosemary in the marketplace, as a standalone product or with other blends of natural antioxidants to help consumers eliminate some of the synthetic antioxidants as well as finding the right formulations for those tough oxidation issues,” Kalsec CEO Dr. Scott Nykaza tells FoodIngredientsFirst

“It’s not just about putting rosemary in a formulation, but about the dosage levels where you put it.”

“In the case of rosemary, we can strip a lot of the flavor impact of the herb so we can use it as a beneficial antioxidant without getting an overwhelming flavor or scent. This can sometimes be preferred for oils and cooking, so you just get the antioxidant activity of the plant,” he concludes.

By Gaynor Selby

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