Authenticity key to ethnic foods sales
Staying true to culinary roots is the most important factor when buying or eating ethnic foods for two-thirds of consumers, reported market research firm Mintel.

These consumers believe that if they are going to spend money and time visiting ethnic restaurants or purchasing ethnic food to prepare at home, it should be authentic, said David Browne, Senior Analyst at Mintel.

In addition to placing importance on authenticity of ethnic food, respondents to the Mintel research also said that all-natural (49%), premium/gourmet or artisanal (49%), and reduced-fat (48%) claims on ethnic food products were also important in affecting purchasing decisions.

Mintel’s research noted several other consumer trends regarding ethnic food such as 70% of respondents saying that they made Italian food in the past 30 days, 63% have made Mexican food, and 46% have made Chinese food. Mixing elements from various ethnic cuisines is popular among 29% of the respondents. Mintel expects Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines to continue their growth in popularity. Eating ethnic food away from home is favored among consumers with 81% of the respondents doing so in the month leading up to the survey, a six percentage point increase from 2010.

Nestlé removes artificial ingredients
Nestlé has replaced all artificial ingredients with naturally derived alternatives in its confectionery products sold in the UK, the first major confectionery manufacturer to take this action.

In all, the company has replaced the artificial ingredients in 79 confectionery products sold in the region. Consumer demand in the UK for foods made with fewer artificial ingredients drove the company to invest in a seven-year research and development program to replace more than 80 artificial ingredients with naturally derived alternatives. The company, which has removed all artificial ingredients from its beverage products sold in the UK, has similar initiatives under way in other European markets and Canada.

Keeping lactic acid bacteria viable
Probiotics have beneficial health benefits but they need to survive in the hostile environment of the digestive tract to impart those benefits to consumers. A newly developed “model gastric system” evaluates the survival of bacteria strains in the human digestive tract and helped researchers determine that some bacteria strains survive better when consumed as fermented milks.

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The researchers from Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway, tested five Lactococcus strains, three Lactobacillus strains, and one Enterococcus hirae strain to see whether the strains could survive exposure to acidic conditions and bile salts as well as in the model human digestive system by incubating the bacteria in human gastric and duodenal juices at body temperatures. They also tested the bacterial strains as pure cells from cultured media and in the form of fermented milk. The results of in vitro testing in acid and bile salts showed that Lactobacillus strains have a significantly higher acid tolerance than the lactococci strains and E. hirae. The lactobacilli strains showed the highest survival rate in the model digestive system. None of the lactococcal strains and the E. hirae strain survived in significant numbers after exposure to the gastric juices, but the numbers increased in the subsequent duodenal phase, which could mean that they can revive their viability when they are exposed to more suitable environments like in the small intestine, according to Siv Skeie, lead investigator and a professor at the university. Finally, fermented milk protected six of the nine strains tested, with two Lactococcus strains and the E. hirae strain having the highest numbers of viable cells.

The study, “Survival of Lactic Acid Bacteria from Fermented Milks in an In Vitro Digestion Model Exploring Sequential Incubation in Human Gastric and Duodenum Juice,” appeared in the February 2012 issue of Journal of Dairy Science.

Cheery news for cherry juice
The varying sour and tart flavors of cherries as well as research that suggests health benefits like high antioxidant content and reducing inflammation make the fruit increasingly popular in juices and juice drink blends, according to Innova Market Insights. About 7% of the juice and juice drink blends launched globally in 2011 feature cherry, an increase from 4% since 2006, noted the company.

North America accounted for 16% of juice drink launches containing cherry, and Europe accounted for more than 50% of the 2011 global total with the UK and Germany in the lead. While a significant number of the launches are cherry blended with other fruit juices like apple, berries, and other red fruits, there is an increase in the number of pure cherry juice product launches, reported Innova.

Inulin’s effects on cake structure
Replacing fat with different levels of inulin up to 70% in sponge cake formulations yielded cakes with “acceptable” sensory attributes, according to a study published in Journal of Food Science.

Inulin has been used to replace fat in other foods like meat products and dairy products. For this study, the researchers sought to examine the microstructure of the batter and cakes formulated with inulin and their resulting physicochemical properties. The fat replacement levels were 0%, 35%, 50%, 70%, and 100%. Analysis of the sample cake crumbs showed a continuous matrix with embedded starch granules coated with oil. As the fat replacement levels increased, the starch granules appeared as detached structures. Even though the microstructure of the batter and cakes changed with differing fat
replacement levels, affecting apparent viscosity, cake height, and texture, the overall sensory acceptance scores for appearance, color, texture, and taste for the control cake and cakes with 35%, 50%, and 70% fat replacement did not differ significantly.

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The study, “Optimization of a Sponge Cake Formulation with Inulin as Fat Replacer: Structure, Physicochemical, and Sensory Properties,” appeared in the February 2012 issue of Journal of Food Science.

IIT IFSH launches sprout safety alliance
The Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute for Food Safety and Health (IIT IFSH) has established a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-funded Sprout Safety Alliance to help sprout growers and producers use best practices in the safe production of sprouts.

The FDA funded the one-year, $100,000 partnership grant through the IIT IFSH-FDA collaborative agreement. Members of the alliance, which will develop core curriculum, training, and outreach programs, include representatives from IIT IFSH, federal and state government agencies, academia, and trade associations.

Probiotic and protein reduce Listeria
Modified probiotics may help prevent foodborne illness caused by Listeria, according to Purdue researchers.Probiotics alone did not reduce Listeria monocytogenes numbers, so the researchers added the Listeria adhesion protein to the probiotic Lactobacillus paracasei. The protein allows the bacteria to pass through intestinal cells and into the bloodstream but when combined with L. paracasei it blocks the pathways, according to the researchers. The results showed that the addition of the protein allowed the modified L. paracasei to interact with host cell receptor, thereby blocking the adhesion and translocation of the number of L. monocytogenes cells by 46%. The researchers stressed the importance of this, saying it represents a significant decrease in the amount of the bacteria that could infect someone with a compromised immune system.

Arun Bhunia, a professor of food science and one of the researchers, said that the research may one day lead to the development of a pill or a probiotic drink that could minimize the risk of Listeria infection.

The study, “Recombinant Probiotic Expressing Listeria Adhesion Protein Attenuates Listeria monocytogenes Virulence In Vitro,” appeared in the online publication PLoS One, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029277.

 What’s new with food companies
• The European Commission has authorized Cargill’s arachidonic acid-rich oil as a novel food for use in infant formula and follow-on formula for older children. The company’s Barliv™ barley betafiber has received approval for use as a novel dietary fiber in Canada.

Covance Inc. has received International Organization for Standardization 17025 accreditation for its microbiology lab in Madison, Wis.

Frutarom Industries Ltd. has acquired 56% of the share capital of flavor company Etol and has acquired flavor company Mylner.

Kalsec has appointed Orkila as its exclusive distributor in the South African, North African, and Middle East markets.

SaltWorks Inc. has opened a 100,000-sq-ft salt production factory and headquarters in Woodinville, Wash.

SunRidge Farms has installed 2,500 solar panels on the roofs of its candy-making facility and warehouse.


Karen Nachay,
Associate Editor
[email protected]