This article is full of beans. Okay, I admit this right from the start. But that’s only because this month’s Ingredients section will be looking at a variety of bean developments and the potential opportunities that they are creating for food formulators.
Not really knowing beans about beans, I first consulted a few reference sources. According to the Oxford Companion to Food, bean is a term loosely applied to any legume whose seeds or pods are eaten, and which is not classed separately as a pea or lentil. Another reference, The Concise Encyclopedia of Foods and Nutrition, notes that the name bean denotes several related plants of the legume family, Leguminosae. Both the edible pods and the seeds of these plants are called beans, and they are among the most nourishing vegetables eaten by man. Some 100 or more species of beans are cultivated throughout the world.
Many of the beans referred to in this article belong to the genus Phaseolus, such as Phaseolus vulgaris, which includes many common varieties such as black beans, white beans, green beans, navy beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans. Glycine maximus (the soybean), Vicia faba (fava bean), Phaseolus lunatus (the lima bean), and Vigna angularis (azuki bean) are a few other examples that consumers are probably familiar with even if they don’t know the classifications. And beans certainly have a "colorful" history, demonstrating a wide range of colors and color combinations. This is especially true for "heirloom" beans.
This Ingredients section includes two other notable beans, which, in fact, are not really beans at all: vanilla and cacao. But because they are usually referred to as beans in everyday language and because they are so familiar—both playing very important roles in food formulating—I thought I might bend the rules a bit. Hopefully, I won’t upset too many botanical experts out there. And don’t worry—I won’t go so far as to include jelly beans in our discussions.
Beans offer a variety of functionality and nutritional benefits. This article will focus more on functionality, but beans offer a source of protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates, as well as important vitamins and minerals. Beans have even formed the basis of a functional ingredient that will be discussed later.
Regarding their versatility, I thought it would be interesting to ask IFT staff what kinds of bean dishes they would be consuming while watching the recent Super Bowl game. I got a variety of innovative answers.
For example, Baghali Polo is an Iranian/Persian dish consisting of basmati rice cooked with lima beans and dill. An array of chili recipes included buffalo chicken chili (using black beans) with crumbled blue cheese topping; chicken and white bean chili with no tomatoes; a spicy turkey chili combining cannelloni, butter, and kidney beans; and a venison chili made with red beans, black beans, and dark pinto beans and seasoned with a Tibetan spice/herb blend. Refried beans (made from black or red whole beans that are put in a blender and then refried with garlic, salt, pepper, and a dash of cumin) are used as a dip or for quesadillas. Crudités, a French appetizer, was served with raw trimmed green beans. A chili soup (kind of a cross between soup and chili) contains hambone and 15 different beans.
Other recipes courtesy of IFT staff included toasted and spiced garbanzo beans; black beans with rice, Cuban-style; panzanella (bread) salad with cannellini beans; chunky salsa with black or red whole beans; a guacamole made with lima beans and green beans as an alternative to avocados; and a black bean soup.
It seems appropriate to do a bean article now, as Bush Beans celebrates its 100th anniversary. I’m sure you’ve seen the entertaining commercials with Jay, Duke, and the other members of the family. (And yes, for the record, those are not actors, but real members of the family.) Most recently, Bush launched a new line of Grillin’ Beans—Steakhouse Recipe, Smokehouse Tradition, Bourbon and Brown Sugar, and Southern Pit Barbecue.
You’ve heard of the iPod Generation? Well, scratch out the first letter. Beans’ benefits may help sprout a new generation of pod consumers. The following developments may reinforce that. So sit back in your favorite bean bag chair, relax, and become more acquainted with these ingredients.
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Right on the Bean
As I noted in Food Technology’s post-show issue (August 2008), when it comes to food formulating, ADM, Decatur, Ill. (phone 217-451- 5200, www.admworld.com), can be described as being "right on the bean." This is said literally as several prototype foods and beverages demonstrate the many benefits of ingredients derived from beans, soybeans, and cocoa beans, all part of the company’s portfolio.
Let’s begin with unlocking the potential of the bean. Formulations ranging from bread to blueberry-almond cookies can be made with a recently launched line of ready-to-use bean ingredients that includes natural bean powders and ground cooked beans. Designed to put ADM’s bean ingredients under one line of convenient products, VegeFull™ can help food manufacturers take advantage of the many nutritional and functionality benefits that beans offer, especially when developing better-for-you options.
Made from such bean varieties as black, red, navy, and pinto, the ingredient increases protein and fiber content in formulations, while providing up to a full serving of vegetables. Using beans in foods can, in fact, make them eligible for nutrient content claims such as "excellent source of fiber" or "rich in fiber." Other nutritional components offered by beans include folate, pantothenic acid, niacin, thiamin, magnesium, iron, and polyphenolic antioxidants, as well as low cholesterol, fat, and sodium.
In addition to nutrition, these ingredients can add texture, bulk, color, and, of course, versatility to the formulation. Bean powders can be incorporated in such foods as baked goods, snacks, soups, gravies, dips, cereals, and dry mixes without affecting taste or texture (unless so desired).
"By using VegeFull in foods, manufacturers can offer consumers interesting ways to incorporate more vegetables into their diets," said Gordon Gregory, Vice President and General Manager, ADM Edible Bean Specialties. "For example, with VegeFull, kids who don’t like to eat their vegetables can get up to a full serving of vegetables in unexpected ways, like in the bread on their sandwich."
A little stealth health never hurts, I guess.
According to Gregory, bean powders can be used to replace 7–30% of the flour in breads, cakes, cookies, pizza crust, tortillas, doughs, and other applications not typically associated with beans. Furthermore, beans can be used in soup bases and gravies for thickening and flavor enhancement.
Whether we’re talking about traditional applications such as a refried bean dip or more stealthy ones, the potential opportunities for beans seem very broad, indeed. Imagine a yogurt made with a bean powder that contributes to its viscosity. Or an extruded snack that pairs bean with rice or corn flour. Raspberry-flavored fruit dips, veggie crackers, and Salsa Verde black bean chips are just a few examples of prototypes made by ADM using its bean powders.
And let’s not forget the ins and outs of a portable food such as sausage and cheese Panini, which was highlighted at the 2008 IFT Food Expo. From the inside, some of the flour has been replaced with bean powder, while from the outside, the dish was served with red beans and rice, a perfect complement to the meal. Furthermore, the andouille in the Panini was made with pork and Arcon soy protein concentrate.
The line of bean powders are made from whole beans that have been cleaned, cooked, dehydrated, and ground using water-minimal processing. Consequently, food manufacturers avoid the time-consuming effort of soaking and cooking the beans for hours before they can be used. The product can be reconstituted in five minutes with a product yield comparable to other bean powders. Specification sheets are available from ADM describing the properties of different bean varieties in the VegeFull line.
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ADM also offers a whole-bean powder made from soy. It can be used in many food and beverage applications such as soymilks, ready-to-drink beverages, ice cream–type products, puddings, liquid coffee creamers, and other products. It adds an excellent nutritional profile to the formulation while not affecting taste or texture. The company created a prototype Vanilla Chai Soymilk combining whole-bean powder with CardioAid plant sterols.
Several other soy-based ingredient developments were recently launched by the company. For example, NutriSoy protein crisps are available at three levels of protein—60%, 80%, and 85%. While the 60% and 80% versions are made with soy, the 85% product is made from soy and wheat and offers one of the highest protein contents on the market. The product line provides customers with several options for incorporating a range of protein levels into products. The crisps can be used in such applications as nutrition bars, granola bars, cereals, confectionery items, and as inclusions for baked goods and ice cream toppings. One prototype developed by ADM featuring the crisps was a cranberry-apple crisp bar.
Also part of the soy protein family, Pro-Fam® isolated soy proteins are suitable for meat and functional food applications. When added to meat, the soy ingredient helps retain moisture, enhance texture, improve stability, maintain excellent taste, and reduce shrinkage. Its clean flavor and low viscosity makes it suitable for use in nutrition bars, beverages, and other functional foods. A prototype Peaches & Cream Women’s Meal Replacement Beverage uses the ingredient with NovaSoy soy isoflavones.
Which bring us to the cocoa bean, the third type of bean in ADM’s extensive portfolio. A global supplier of cocoa and chocolate ingredients, the company is best known for its De Zaan®, Ambrosia®, and Merckens® brands. Recently, ADM announced that it is acquiring the German company Schokinag-Schokolade Industrie Herrmann GmbH & Co. KG, a leading producer of chocolate and cocoa powder in Europe. "ADM’s acquisition of Schokinag will strengthen our position in Europe, the world’s largest chocolate market," said Scott Walker, Managing Director of ADM Cocoa International. "By integrating Schokinag into our cocoa business, we will better serve this steadily growing chocolate market and realize significant efficiencies in sourcing, operations, and transportation.
In 2006, ADM acquired Classic Couverture Ltd., a United Kingdom-based chocolate manufacturer. More recently, the company opened a new cocoa and chocolate manufacturing plant in Hazelton, Pa., and is completing a new cocoa processing facility in Kumasi, Ghana.
Since the economy is currently not at its best, one would have to think that this latest acquisition, along with the other business developments, demonstrates ADM’s confidence in the benefits that the cocoa bean provides.
Back to the Bean
Although beans did not make the 2009 McCormick Flavor Forecast released by McCormick & Co., Hunt Valley, Md. (phone 410-527-8753. www.mccormick.com), that was certainly not the case the previous year where three bean developments were predicted among the top 10 flavor pairings for 2008.
One development paired oregano with heirloom beans. (To qualify as heirloom, a bean must have a heritage that goes back at least 50 years and be open-pollinated, a breeding process that yields consistent plants annually.) Today, interest in heirloom beans has grown because of farmers markets, multi-generational gardeners, and, of course, chefs who showcase them on restaurant menus. These beans are available in hundreds of dried varieties and are characterized by eye-catching shapes, colors, and names.
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For example, Calypso beans, which are medium-sized and round, are sometimes called the yin yang bean because they are part black and part white. Tongues of Fire beans have ivory white pods with red streaks that look like flames; unlike the sound of their name, these beans are not hot but rather have a nutty flavor that makes them suitable for use in stews and soups. And Black Valentine Beans, which start out black but turn purplish after cooking, have a meaty texture and rich, nutty flavor. Other examples (which I leave to your imagination) might include the Appaloosa bean, Brown Speckled Cow bean, Eye of the Goat bean, and Trout bean.
According to the forecast, the robust intensity of oregano can be combined with the nutty, earthy flavor and creamy mouthfeel of these beans in soups, salads, appetizers, seafood products, and many others. Chefs have developed such formulations as Fava Bean and Spring Pea Soup, Sweet Shrimp and White Bean Salad, and Cornmeal Crusted Scallops with Heirloom Bean and Oregano Succotash.
Heirloom beans may find potential in the development of new bean dips and hummus products. Imagine bean-derived spreads in sandwiches or wraps, as condiments for hamburgers, as toppings for baked potatoes, or as an accompaniment to whole-grain bagels. Heirlooms (beans) could prove priceless in creating new opportunities.
A second bean development in the forecast was the pairing of the vanilla bean and cardamom. According to the forecast, vanilla is one of the world’s most beloved and unmistakable flavors—sweet and alluring. This treasured, slender, dark brown bean is cultivated today, as it was centuries ago, entirely by hand. Few realize the care involved in creating its complex, full-bodied taste and captivating aroma.
Vanilla is a key ingredient in a wide range of dishes, both sweet and savory. It adds richness and body to any flavor it is paired with, along with a fragrant note. These qualities, when combined with the perfume-like spice cardamom, can create dishes that exude indulgence. Some examples include Cardamom Dusted Lamb Chops with Rich Vanilla Sauce, Vanilla-Spiked Mini Doughnuts Stuffed with Chocolate Cardamom Cream, and Vanilla Cardamom Whoopie Pies and Milk Shake Shooter.
The third bean development in the forecast was the pairing of cocoa and chili. Cocoa in such forms as nibs, powder, liquor, and butter offers distinct levels of flavor—from mild to bittersweet. A growing interest in authentic regional Mexican cuisine has fueled a culinary resurgence that couples cocoa and chili. According to the forecast, a dynamic match happens when the heat and tobacco notes of dried chili meet strong, yet lightly acidic notes of cocoa powder. The complex heat, depth, and richness that results adds a dimension reminiscent of Mayan and Aztec times. Recipes using the combination include Braise Mole Beef Tacos, Venison with Cranberry Cocoa and Ancho Chili Sauce, and Cocoa Marinated Squab with Chili and Dried Fruit Chutney.
Beans Hit the Road
At its 2008 Innovation Roadshow, David Michael, Philadelphia, Pa. (phone 215-632-3100, www.dmflavors.com), featured several developments highlighting the value of the bean.
Ba Bao Fan, or The Eight-Treasure Rice Pudding, is a well-known traditional Chinese-style pastry made of sticky rice, stuffed with red bean paste, and seasoned with eight nuts and fruits. David Michael Beijing took this product concept and developed a convenient snack bar. Although the makeup of the bar has been slightly Westernized, it is still made with many of the "treasures" found in the traditional version.
The paste of red bean (also called Adzuki bean in Japan) is a key ingredient in the formulation. The red beans provide protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and reportedly can help lower cholesterol. In traditional Chinese medicine, red beans are believed to benefit the bladder, kidneys, and reproductive functions. The bar also contains Mung bean which is rich in lysine, an essential amino acid, and offers potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron, as well as thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. In this application, mung bean flour is used, rather than the bean itself.
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The Eight-Treasure bar represents the Chinese belief in Yin Yang—the principle that each person is governed by the opposing, but complementary forces of yin and yang. It can then be inferred that beans, along with the other healthy ingredients in the formulation, can help bring out balance and good health to the body and mind. The application also demonstrates that beans can work well with a wide range of ingredients, such as dried Chinese red dates, dried longan pulp, goji berry, coix seed, black sesame seeds, and crisp rice.
According to David Michael, other beans could also be used, including sweet beans. Alternative ingredients—peanuts, watermelon seeds, sunflower seeds, and apricot kernels—could be used with the different beans, as well. The Eight-Treasure Concept can be translated into beverages, baked goods, confections, frozen desserts, and prepared meals.
Another bean—vanilla—was also featured. Vanilla is often used as a background flavor to enhance other flavors. And not just in sweet or fruity applications either. Some newer uses are in the savory area. Vanilla can modify the heat of many peppery products, while enhancing the flavor of the particular pepper. It can also offset the earthy and "weed-like" character of many herbs to allow a more palatable experience. Furthermore, vanilla can be used to create a divergent sensation in vanilla-smoke combinations or when used with meaty or brothy notes. This is because vanilla stands out at a different time during the eating experience from the item with which it is paired.
A Savory Vanilla Dip and Spread demonstrated novel vanilla profiles. It incorporated a flavoring system that starts with a beany, sweet vanilla and then subtly transitions into a mouth-watering savory character. Not only does it work well as a dip for vegetables and chips, but it also functions as a special spread for bread and canapés.
The Sprouting of Soybeans
The rapid growth of the soybean industry is presenting many new opportunities. In an effort to prepare the industry to take advantage of these opportunities and meet the challenges ahead, Soy 2020 was launched as an industry-wide effort to ensure continued competitiveness of U.S. soy in the global marketplace. By undergoing this examination of the industry through the year 2020, this process can create a vision for the future and identify trends that can be leveraged or, in some cases, avoided by all industry members. (More information on Soy 2020 can be found at www.soy2020vision.com.)
"Over the past several months, a wide range of experts from across the industry provided input on anticipated changes in 74 measurements affecting the soybean industry," said Ike Boudreaux, Chairman of the United Soybean Board. "Experts were carefully chosen by the Soy 2020’s Steering Committee and include industry association leaders, university researchers, specialized consultants, industry stakeholders, and more. Channeling their expertise through the indicator tracking method provides an overall assessment of the direction the industry will take."
One of the members on the Steering Committee, Kim Magin, Monsanto’s Director of Global Oilseeds and Industry Affairs, noted, "The knowledge provided by the indicator tracking is not a crystal ball, but it is a road map that the soybean industry should include in their long-range planning."
Sustainable technology is key to unlocking success for soy into 2020, and soybean farmers and industry need to work even closer together to adopt new technologies that will drive success for the soybean industry. For industry, this might require an evolution in soy processing by moving toward segregated processing, transportation, and storage procedures that can handle multiple trait-specific soybean crops. For farmers, this means adopting new soybean traits, such as low-linolenic and increased-oleic soybeans.
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Vistive low-linolenic-acid soybean oil from Monsanto does not require hydrogenation. The soybeans were developed using traditional breeding to be lower in alpha linolenic acid than typical soybeans. Alpha linolenic acid is a saturated fatty acid that is oxidized in many food processing conditions such as frying. Partial hydrogenation has been used to reduce the amount of unsaturated fatty acids, such as alpha linolenic acid in soybean oil, but this process generates trans fatty acids. Using Vistive reduces or eliminates the need for hydrogenation of soybean oil in many foods. Also, the oil is said to be more flavorful and stable than previously introduced low-linolenic oils.
A high-oleic soybean oil trait has been developed by DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred as part of the Bunge DuPont Biotech Alliance. Testing confirms that the oil contains at least 80% oleic acid, significantly increasing the stability of the oil when used in frying and food processing. Like low-linolenic soybean oil, high-oleic soybean oil eliminates the need for hydrogenation, resulting in foods with negligible amounts of trans fats. In addition to delivering at least 80% oleic acid, the high-oleic soybean oil trait has consistently demonstrated a linolenic acid content of less that 3%, and more than 20% less saturated fatty acids than commodity soybean oil.
Qualisoy—a collaboration of soybean growers and processors—announced that other healthier soybean oil developments in the pipeline include a mid-oleic/low-saturated-fat product and soybean oil with 10 times the current level of omega-3 fatty acids.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of enhanced soybean varieties (10% in 2008 compared to nine percent in 2007 and five percent in 2006), according to the United Soybean Board’s 15th annual nationwide survey. The report, "Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition: Insights Into Nutrition, Health & Soyfoods," suggests that this number may grow as more companies switch to enhanced soybean oils for improved product functionality, health, and nutrition. In the coming years, additional varieties of enhanced soybeans and soybean oil, such as increased oleic, low-saturate, and increased omega-3 traits, will be available to food companies for product formulation, potentially influencing this trend of increased consumer awareness.
The whole soyfood market in the United States is projected to reach $4.4 billion by 2010, stated a new report released by Global Industry Analysts Inc. According to "Soy Foods: A Global Strategic Business Report," the global soy market is dominated by Asia-Pacific, with sales estimated at $10.2 billion. Traditionally, soybeans have been used to obtain vegetable oil and animal feed. However, as soy gains popularity and soy products increase in number, the soy market continues to experience changes.
Solae Co., St. Louis, Mo. (phone 314-659-3000; www.solae.com), demonstrated a number of prototypes using soy ingredients. These included Coconut Curry Chicken, Thai Beef Salad, Chicken Jambalaya, Mini Barbecue Beef Sandwiches, Mediterranean Chicken and Vegetable Pasta, and Korean Bulgogi. The company has also done extensive studies that reveal breakfast opportunities for protein-enhanced foods, ranging from breakfast wraps to snack bars and smoothies.
Beans for Breakfast
A breakfast—Texas Ethnic Style—was served up by Wixon Inc., St. Francis, Wis. (phone 800-841-5304; www.wixon.com), at the Research Chefs Assn. 2009 Annual Conference and Culinology Expo in Dallas, March 4-8. One of the items was an empanada made with a black bean mole sauce.
The company’s corporate chef Judson McLester prepared the empanada to reflect the Latin influence in Texas cuisine. It is filled with zesty crumbled chicken chorizo, scrambled eggs made with chimichurri seasoning and cheddar cheese, and held together with a black bean mole sauce. Accompanying the item was a mole sour cream sauce for dipping.
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The hand-held breakfast entrée reflects a number of possible opportunities for beans. These might include their use in convenience or on-the-go foods, their flexibility with other ingredients, their contribution in creating special flavor twists, their popularity in creating different ethnic cuisines, and their use in healthier or better-for-you foods.
The empanada is seasoned with Wixon’s KCLean Salt™, which cuts the sodium content in half, while matching salt’s taste, texture, and functionality.
Beans, of course, have always had health benefits. Pharmachem took one bean and developed a functional ingredient, Phase 2 Starch Neutralizer® dietary ingredient and its food version, StarchLite™.
The standardized extract derived from the common white bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) has been shown to inhibit the activity of the digestive enzyme alpha-amylase. This enzyme, found in plants, animals, and microorganisms, catalyzes the hydrolysis of complex carbohydrates into simpler saccharides such as maltose and glucose that can be absorbed. Inhibition of human alpha-amylase may promote weight loss by hindering the digestion of complex carbohydrates, thereby reducing the absorption of carbohydrate-derived calories.
Clinical studies demonstrated that the ingredient can delay the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, reducing the glycemic index and caloric impact of starchy foods. In 2006, the branded white bean extract received GRAS status. It was also permitted the following structure/function claims: "may reduce the enzymatic digestion of dietary starches" and "may assist in weight control when used in conjunction with a sensible diet and exercise program."
The ingredient can be used in a variety of food and beverage products, including cereal, frozen foods, packaged meals, calorie-control snacks, pasta, pizza crust, soups, and confections. According to Greg Drew, Director of Pharmachem’s Food and Beverage Group, "We are very excited about the potential of Phase 2/StarchLite in the functional food and beverage category because third-party sensory evaluation has shown it does not affect the taste or texture of food."
Culinary demonstrations have highlighted the effectiveness of this ingredient in a number of applications. Banana muffins, for example, have been prepared with 18 g of the ingredient. Other formulations included shrimp quesadillas, pineapple crepes, and fresh plum tomato sauce.
Spilling the (Vanilla) Beans
One of the world’s favorite flavors, vanilla is a comforting favorite among adults and children alike. We have already seen that vanilla works well in both sweet and savory applications. And that vanilla can pair well with other ingredients such as spices.
Vanilla, of course, comes from the vanilla bean, which is really not a bean at all even though the pod resembles one. Rather, the vanilla bean is the fruit of the orchid vanilla, and it grows in the form of a bean pod. It is the pod that provides the flavor.
To find out how the global production of vanilla beans is doing, I spoke with Rick Brownell, Vice President of Vanilla Products, Virginia Dare, Brooklyn, N.Y. (phone 718-788-1776; www.virginiadare.com).
Traditionally, Madagascar and Indonesia are the major countries for the production of vanilla beans. Madagascar beans, which have a creamy, hay-like sweet profile, are generally considered the most popular vanilla bean. Today, Indonesian beans are much cleaner (less smoky) than they historically have been.
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However, other vanilla-producing countries have emerged, as well, noted Brownell. For example, Uganda produces about 125 to 150 tons of cured vanilla beans each year. Uganda beans tend to have a stronger cocoa note than Madagascar beans, but otherwise they are very similar. Uganda also seems to be more politically stable and less prone to cyclones than Madagascar.
A second emerging country over recent years is Papua New Guinea. Although its production has declined due to lower prices and limited demand for the Tahitian profile, the country still accounts for about 200 tons per year and has helped to expand the market by greatly increasing the total availability of Tahitiensis species beans, said Brownell. Papua New Guinea beans are mostly Tahitian, and they have an entirely different profile than Bourbon beans. They are very floral, with almond, cherry, and anise notes. Tahitian vanilla does very well in products where the strong floral character is complementary, and it is widely used in gourmet applications such as rich pastries, puddings, custards, and flans.
Production in emerging countries such as Costa Rica and China has remained relatively minor because of low vanilla bean prices since 2005. However, India is an exception—it is now producing 50 to 75 tons per year. The quality of the Indian bean has improved greatly, and it generally has a very high vanillin content, which is particularly important in Europe. India has also been the leading producer of Fair Trade–certified beans to date.
"All of these different bean options can be used on their own or in blends to provide a wide variety of flavor profiles," said Brownell. "For instance, ice cream uses 40–50% of the total vanilla crop. Virtually every bean type and origin goes into ice cream, depending on the desired flavor profile and price target of the individual producer."
In addition to ice cream, vanilla is being used in just about every food and beverage these days, including savory applications, observed Brownell. The culinology trend is a driving factor, with chefs becoming a very important part of the development team at many food and beverage companies.
I asked Brownell for his thoughts on the future of vanilla and he gave some insightful pros and cons. Regarding the economy, he feels that its impact on vanilla will be relatively modest since the overall demand for vanilla continues to be very robust. However, as consumers cut back on indulgent products and substitute more-economical ones, there is potential for some impact.
He added that several factors could affect the production of vanilla. Lower prices since 2005 have caused some growers to turn to alternative crops such as rice. Vine disease is another factor that affects production. Weather such as cyclones can have an effect. And political instability is another factor to watch out for.
However, the foreseeable future looks to be bright for vanilla, said Brownell. Demand for Certified Organic and Fair Trade Vanilla is increasing, which will encourage more production, as well. He believes that vanilla is so important to the people and economy of countries such as Madagascar that supply is likely not to be disrupted for any extended period.
What makes vanilla so special? Switzerland-based Givaudan (phone +41 22 780 9111; www.givaudan.com), conducted an exhaustive global study— involving more than 4,000 consumers in nine countries—to find out what makes people love vanilla and why it reaches emotional levels that other flavors cannot.
The global program, VanillaTaste Essentials™, is the result of the consumer-focused and cross-disciplinary research and investment undertaken by the company to help manufacturers achieve more exciting, authentic vanilla flavors in dairy products, desserts, baked goods, confections, beverages, and culinary market sectors.
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According to Scott May, Global Head of the company’s sweet goods and dairy division, the launch of this program "marks a significant breakthrough in unlocking how consumers in different parts of the world think about vanilla." Research showed, for example, that the flavor of vanilla excited a diverse range of feelings and memories—from holidays, escape, and childhood to indulgence, sensuality, and shared moments.
A study of 75 of the world’s most popular vanilla ice creams across 20 countries also revealed the many individual flavor notes within the total vanilla flavor spectrum. Givaudan divided the flavor attributes into groups of profiles by degree of distinction from the current market—the "safe zone" includes traditional vanilla attributes such as creamy, beany, and milky; the "challenge zone" includes lower-impact nuances such as caramel, almond, and cinnamon; and the "breakthrough zone" includes high-impact notes such as rum, fruit (orange, apple, and cherry), and pistachio.
Givaudan’s findings provide reference and support information for justifying vanilla flavor profile recommendations by market, offering customers the best flavors to satisfy different consumer targets. "With Givaudan’s new vanilla ingredients and flavor-profiling approach, food manufacturers can now come closer than ever before in achieving truly distinctive, consumer-winning vanilla flavorings," May emphasized.
At the recent Chefs Council event in Barcelona, top restaurant chefs worked with Givaudan chefs to contribute culinary insights into future vanilla taste trends. Signature dishes were created such as Vanilla Fruit Napoleon with Vanilla Passionfruit Sauce, Vanilla Sorbet with Celery, and Vanilla Almond Yogurt with Granola. Many of these creative ideas were used as inspiration in the development of new vanilla flavors.
A pure vanilla extract producer, Nielsen- Massey Vanillas, Waukegan, Ill. (phone 800-525-7873; www.NielsenMassey.com), recently published a vanilla-inspired cookbook, "A Century of Flavor." The cookbook showcases more than 50 recipes using pure vanilla—ranging from the delicately sweet flavorings in pastries and Crème Brulee to the essential savory notes in lobster and spicy shrimp. For example, in Creamy Vanilla Sweet Potatoes, vanilla helps to enhance the inherent flavors of sweet potatoes, rather than concealing their flavor in sweeteners.
According to Nielsen-Massey, Americans consume about 1,200 tons of vanilla beans a year. But not all vanilla is the same, and it pays to know the different kinds before cooking with vanilla as an ingredient.
Bean to Different Places
Like vanilla, the cocoa bean is not a bean. The fruit pods of the cacao tree contains seeds (called "beans"), which are used to make cocoa and chocolate. The most important thing to remember: chocolate owes its taste and indulgent character to the flavors of the cocoa bean.
Cocoa beans do not taste the same, but their flavors and fruity, herbal, spicy, or floral notes reflect the genes of the cocoa species, the habitat, and conditions in which the tree grows. Barry Callebaut makes available a booklet, Origins of the World, which describes different cocoa bean varieties from around the world used to make its chocolate products. For example, Single Origin Chocolates are made with cocoa beans harvested in one specific country or growing area within one country. The soil, the climate, and the habitat leave their signature on the cocoa beans grown there. Regional Origin Chocolates are made from the rarest cocoa bean varieties found in larger regions such as the Amazonian basin or the Pacific region. Complementary varieties that match in taste profile are then mixed in the right proportion, roasted, and conched.
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The company developed a process designed to preserve antioxidants in chocolate. The process, Acticoa™, protects the high concentration of cocoa flavonols that could be lost during processing. More than 30 products made by the process are sold in 10 countries, and the company expects those figures to double in 2009.
A sweet snack using cocoa beans was recently introduced by a California-based company, Navitas Naturals. The product, Sweet Cacao Nibs, combines raw organic cacao nibs with raw organic cacao paste (liquor) and organic sugar cane juice. The cacao beans come from the rainforests of Peru, and are partially fermented to alleviate bitterness. Extracted from the pod-like fruit, the beans are partially ground to form small nibs.
A Growing Hill of Beans
The future for beans seems to be simmering. As we have already seen in McCormick’s flavor forecasts, beans can be paired with a variety of other ingredients. And, in particular, heirloom beans can add vibrant colors to the formulation.
Beans can play a part in many emerging trends. Take, for example, the findings of a FoodCast, a customer-focused trends reporting program from Gilroy Foods & Flavors, a ConAgra Foods company, Omaha, Neb. (phone 402-595-7139; www.gilroyfoodsandflavors.com).
One of the trends it reported on is smaller entrees, which are not only portable but consist of exciting flavors to make them appealing. For example, Arby’s Southwest mini egg rolls are filled with chicken, bell peppers, corn, black beans, and jalapeno pepper, flavored with a spicy Southwestern seasoning. Beans can create many new opportunities for on-the-go foods.
The popularity of Mexican sauces such as salsa is fueling new versions, as well. One of these new introductions is Rosa Mexicano Kitchen Pomegranate, Black Bean, & Chipotle Chile Salsa. This product, along with a variety of new hummus products, suggests the possibility for the use of beans in condiments and dips.
Although beans are a major ingredient in Hispanic cuisines, they can also find use in a wide range of other dishes, as well, especially those from countries lining the Mediterranean’s southern rim. Couscous, beans, and lentils are among the building blocks of North Africa snacks, salads, and tagines or casserole-style dishes.
So have you become a pod person yet?
There’s something in the air as next month’s Ingredients section looks at aromatic ingredients such as floral flavors, spices, herbs, and others, and the scented role they play in food formulating.
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With recipes such as 15-bean soup, we can guess that there are many different bean varieties. How many there really are probably depends on how you define the bean and its scientific classifications. In any case, the size, shape, color, and flavor of beans frequently depend on their variety. Here are a few examples:
• Black beans. These medium-sized, black-skinned, oval-shaped beans are commonly found in Mexican, Caribbean, and Latin American cuisines, where they are used to make side dishes, thick soups, bean dips, and salads. Pairing well with rice, they have an earthy, sweet flavor with a hint of mushrooms.
• Navy beans. Small, white, oval beans have a mild flavor and powdery texture. Although they are commonly used to make baked beans or pork and beans, they are also suitable for use in soups, salads, stews, chili, and purees.
• Pinto beans. The dried beans are beige with brown streaks, but they turn a uniform pinkish brown when cooked. The medium-sized oval beans have an earthy taste and a powdery texture. They are commonly used in Tex-Mex and Hispanic dishes, especially refried beans and chili.
• Green beans. Ah, where would we be without the much-loved green bean casserole dish? Or in lieu of that, green beans with some bread crumbs? The green bean, which can be marketed canned, frozen, or fresh, is available in different types, including the popular string bean in the United States. The bean can be steamed, stir-fried, or baked.
• Dark red kidney beans. Characterized by their large size, kidney shape, and deep reddish-brown color, these beans have a robust, full-bodied flavor and soft texture. They are frequently used in chili, salads, soups, and rice dishes. The kidney bean is also available in a light red version.
• Cannellini beans. Also known as white kidney beans, these large, oblong, white beans have a smooth, creamy texture and a nutty flavor. Probably their best-known application is minestrone soup, but they can be used in salads, spreads, stews, patés, and Italian dishes.
• Pink beans. Small, oval-shaped beans, they are pale pink in color, but they turn reddish-brown when cooked. They have a slightly powdery texture and a rich, meaty flavor. Sometimes referred to as the chili bean, they are used to make chili, refried beans, and Old West recipes. Next time you eat rattlesnake stew, you may find pink beans in the formulation.
• Small red beans. Similar to red kidney beans, they are smaller, rounder, and darker. In the Southwest, they’re often used to make refried beans and chili. In Louisiana, they’re used to create the classic red beans and rice. The bean holds shape and firmness when cooked and has a flavor similar to red kidney beans. Applications include soups, salads, chili, and Creole dishes.
• Great northern beans. The mild, delicate flavor and powdery texture of these medium-sized, white, oval-shaped beans is taken advantage of in stews, soups, and cassoulets. They can be used as a substitute for other white beans in most recipes.
• Lima beans. Characterized by a buttery flavor, these beans are frequently used in soups and stews or on their own. Lima beans and fried onions is one of my favorites, especially served with Polish sausage. Lima beans are available in a smaller size (appropriately called baby lima beans) or a larger version known as Fordhooks. The Christmas lima bean is said to taste a bit like chestnuts when cooked.
• Fava beans. These beans, of course, gained (for better or worse) cinematic history as being one of the foods that Hannibal the Cannibal relished. They were around long before that movie, however—having a rich history in Mediterranean cuisine. These meaty, strongly flavored beans have application in side dishes, soups, or salads.
• Mayocoba beans. A type of yellow bean, they provide a mild flavor for use in soups, salads, and Hispanic dishes. These beans are medium-sized with an oval shape.
• Cranberry beans. Medium-large tan beans, they are streaked with red, black, and magenta colors. They have a nutty flavor and are commonly used in Italian soups and stews. Pinto beans resemble the cranberry but differ in taste.
Donald E. Pszczola,
Senior Associate Editor