Taste tops healthfulness, restaurant diners say
One in five American diners ranked the healthfulness of food as an important factor when ordering meals at restaurants, according to Mintel Menu Insights, produced by the market research firm Mintel. Survey participants reported this despite nutrition labeling on menus and offerings such as smaller portions and healthier meal choices being available to them.

The factors that were ranked as important by the survey participants were taste (77%) and hunger satisfaction (44%). And while more than three-quarters of those surveyed said that they would like to see more healthy items on menus, 51% reported that they usually order these items. Since many of the respondents are looking for good-tasting foods from menu offerings, healthy menu items must be formulated to achieve a balance of nutrition and flavor, according to Maria Caranfa, Director of Mintel Menu Insights. “Healthy dining should be as satisfying as ordering from the regular menu,” she said.

Banana flour affects pasta texture
Banana contains resistant starch and nonstarch polysaccharides like dietary fiber, which offer health benefits such as increased satiety, reduced blood glucose levels, and delayed absorption of dietary fat and cholesterol. Pasta is a popular food, and formulating it with banana flour is a way to bring these health benefits to consumers.

Different flours function in varying ways and may affect sensory qualities of the finished product. The addition of banana flour to spaghetti (semolina:banana flour ratios of 85:15, 70:30, and 55:45) did not affect preference levels when compared with pasta made with 100% durum wheat semolina, according to researchers at the Centro de Desarrollo de Productos Bióticos and the Inst. Tecnológico de Veracruz in Mexico. In fact, they said that the addition of tomato sauce increased the acceptability of the pasta and that pasta made with 30% and 45% banana flour has higher acceptability than the control. But the banana flour did decrease the lightness and diameter of cooked spaghetti and increase the water absorption of the pasta. The researchers also learned that the addition of banana flour did not affect hardness and elasticity of the spaghetti. As the banana flour levels rose, adhesiveness and chewiness increased.

The study, “Pasta with Unripe Banana Flour: Physical, Texture, and Preference Study,” was published online early in the Journal of Food Science, doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01215.x.

Sugar rush
Despite economic uncertainty that has slowed development in some industries, confectionery makers are thinking outside the box of chocolates to develop products that will drive consumer purchasing throughout the next five years, according to the National Confectioners Association’s Confectionery Industry Trend Report 2009.

The reports draws on insights from 40 industry experts (manufacturers, market researchers, chocolatiers, nutritionists, and confectionery makers) who discuss the confectionery trends and influences that are expected to contribute to growth. Some of these include chocolate, health benefits, flavor fusions, and international influences.

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The next big trend will be healthier confectionery options, specifically ones formulated with “better for you” ingredients, report 88% of the experts. They cite the popularity of portion-control-sized products and chocolate with high cacao content as examples of how consumers are interested in healthy lifestyles and health benefits.

Speaking of chocolate, the experts report that this ingredient will be one of the largest growth drivers for the industry and that consumers will see chocolate used as an ingredient in main courses alongside meat and seafood, as well as in appetizers.

For more information, visit www.candyusa.com.

Ejeta wins World Food Prize
Gebisa Ejeta, Distinguished Professor of Agronomy at Purdue University, is the recipient of the 2009 World Food Prize for research leading to the increased production and availability of sorghum in his native Africa.

Ejeta, a plant breeder and geneticist, developed sorghum varieties resistant to drought and striga, a parasitic weed that attacks sorghum and removes nutrients through the plant’s root system. Sorghum is a major food crop for more than 500 million people in Africa.

In the early 1980s, Ejeta developed the drought-tolerant cultivar Haggeen Dura-1, the first commercial sorghum hybrid in Africa. This cultivar produced yields of up to 150% higher than traditional sorghum cultivars. He then focused his research efforts on developing a sorghum variety that could withstand the striga weed. Working with late Purdue colleague Larry Butler, Ejeta identified the signal from sorghum that is picked up by striga rootlets. From there, he developed a biological mechanism for interrupting the exudation process.

Ejeta plans to continue his work in plant genetics. “The need out there is great, so there is more to do,” he said. “We need to extend the results of our work to more programs and more nations. We need to build stronger human and institutional capacity in African nations to help people feed themselves. We need to encourage the development of similar advances in maize, millets, and other crops of Africa.”

The $250,000 World Food Prize is awarded each year by the World Food Prize Foundation to individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food worldwide. Norman E. Borlaug, winner of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, established the World Food Prize in 1986. Ejeta will receive the award on Oct. 15, 2009, at the Iowa State Capitol.

Examining health benefits
We are hearing a great deal about the potential health benefits of vitamin D and marine omega-3 fatty acids, but there is no definitive evidence available on the health benefits and risks of these nutrients. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital hope to clarify the benefits and risks with a soon-to-be launched, large-scale randomized trial of vitamin D and omega-3s in the primary prevention of chronic disease.

This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial will enroll 20,000 participants throughout the United States to determine whether moderate-to-high doses of these supplements can prevent colorectal, breast, prostate, and other cancers, as well as heart disease and stroke. Additional studies will look at whether these nutrients have a role in preventing a wide range of other health conditions.

The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health through the National Cancer Institute and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, with other institutes and agencies co-funding the trial.

For more information, visit www.vitalstudy.org or www.brighamandwomens.org.

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Soy sauce aids sodium reduction
Doctors and nutritionists have warned people that consuming high-sodium foods may lead to health problems like high blood pressure. To help consumers chose healthier foods, product developers have introduced a variety of low-sodium products such as low-sodium soups. While the products help consumers to decrease their sodium intake, they often have less-than-favorable consumer acceptance due to off flavors attributed to sodium replacers like potassium chloride.

Researchers at Wageningen University and Kikkoman Europe R&D Laboratory in Wageningen, the Netherlands, said that sodium content can be decreased without affecting consumer acceptance in foods containing a large amount of naturally occurring umami substances. Naturally brewed soy sauce contains high amounts of these substances. The researchers used it to replace sodium in salad dressing, soup, and stir-fried pork. The results of sensory tests showed that a sodium reduction in the tested foods of, respectively, 50%, 17%, and 29% was achieved without significant losses in either overall taste intensity or product acceptance.

The study, “Salt Reduction in Foods Using Naturally Brewed Soy Sauce,” was published online early in the Journal of Food Science, doi:10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01232.x.

Food firms report achievements

Here is an update on food companies’ continued innovation efforts.

AkzoNobel has partnered with Viachem to distribute Dissolvine® food-grade chelates in the United States.

BindMax Proteins has redesigned its Web site, www.bindmax.com, to include enhanced features like online ordering, archived articles, news updates, and more.

Cargill Salt recently launched a redesigned Web site, www.cargillsalt.com, which features information about commercial and retail salt products, product news, and market trends.

Gadot Biochemical Ind. Ltd. ranked third place in the annual Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) report for its environmental transparency.

Glanbia recently opened a new product development center in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Nestlé has opened an R&D center in West Africa to improve local agricultural crops.

Pharmline has achieved Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point certification.

Tate & Lyle has obtained exclusive distribution rights for a new green tea extract, Teawell 95, from A. Holliday & Co. Inc.