Margaret Malochleb

Margaret Malochleb


Apples cut with an ultrasonic knife showed improved quality attributes compared with those cut with a static stainless steel blade. © eli_asenova/E+/Getty Images


Apples cut with an ultrasonic knife showed improved quality attributes compared with those cut with a static stainless steel blade. © eli_asenova/E+/Getty Images

Ultrasonic cutting of apples

The fresh-cut or sliced apple market has grown rapidly due to the demand for fresh, convenient, and nutritious foods. In a recent study published in the Journal of Food Science, ultrasound was explored as a method of cutting two apple varieties—Red Delicious and Golden Delicious.

Both apple types were cut without ultrasound (control) and with an ultrasonic knife at four amplitudes (0%, 30%, 40%, and 50%). Quality attributes, including color, pH, polyphenol oxidase (PPO) activity, surface morphology, and sensory characteristics (color, odor, overall acceptability, and off-odor) were compared, directly after cutting and during two-week storage at refrigeration temperature.

Apples cut with ultrasound exhibited a relatively dense and smooth surface morphology, with less cell damage compared with the relatively rough surface and greater cell damage in the control apples. An improvement in quality attributes was observed when the ultrasound amplitude was increased from 30% to 50%. The apples cut with ultrasound also exhibited a lower PPO activity compared with the control, indicating less browning. In visual quality evaluation, panelists showed higher liking of the apples cut with ultrasound.

The researchers concluded that the ultrasound-assisted cutting shows promise for producing fresh-cut apples with improved quality and may be used as an alternative to traditional cutting.

Dairy alternatives market expected to surge

A recent report from Allied Market Research forecasts the global dairy alternatives market to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6% from 2019 to 2026 to reach a valuation of $35.8 billion by 2026.

An increase in the demand for plantbased milk, a rise in disposable income, and growing awareness about the benefits of dairy alternative products have boosted growth, as has an increase in the vegan population. However, the prominence of low-cholesterol and low-fat conventional milk and the high cost of dairy alternative milk could impede growth to a certain extent. With respect to future growth, a rise in dairy-allergic consumers and innovation in the taste and flavor of dairy alternative beverages are expected to create lucrative opportunities.

Based on application, the beverages segment held the largest share in 2018, accounting for nearly three-fourths of the market, and is expected to maintain its dominance throughout the study period. Additionally, the segment is forecast to show the fastest CAGR, at 14.0%, due to a rising demand for plant-based, chemical- free milk by the lactose intolerant population and the growing popularity of dairy-free probiotic drinks.

Diners making healthier food choices

When OpenTable, a provider of online restaurant reservations, took a look back at 2019’s most popular dining trends, it found that diners were moving toward more health-conscious preferences. The company’s findings were based on more than 13 million reviews, which “uncovered a treasure trove of food trends and shifts in behavior,” according to COO Andrea Johnston.

Compared with 2017, alternative diets have been on the rise, with keto mentioned a whopping 683% more in reviews. Plant-based mentions also increased, by 136%. In addition, diners vegged out on low-calorie alternatives, with cauliflower crust mentions skyrocketing by 487% and jackfruit mentions increasing by 148% since 2017.

OpenTable found diners still choosing to indulge when it comes to global cuisines. Mexican-inspired dishes continued to grow in popularity, with queso mentions increasing by nearly 31% and nachos mentions by 19% over the past three years. Mentions of pot stickers, a staple in Asian cuisine, have increased by 61%. Finally, mentions of the classic Italian delicacy cacio e pepe have increased by 96% since 2017.

Three trends shaping food and beverage

New research from Mintel revealed three key trends that will shape the global food, drink, and foodservice industries over the next 10 years:

Change, Incorporated. “In the next decade, consumers will be hungry for leadership and demonstrable change on environmental issues, ethical business practices, public health, and other important causes,” predicted Alex Beckett, associate director, Mintel Food & Drink. Successful companies will be those that improve the health of the planet and its population. Expect to see consumers further prioritize plants in their diets, with the planet’s health in mind as much as their own. From beer made from rejected cereal pieces to containers made from organic mushroom waste, food waste will lead the way for more sustainable consumption and innovation.

Smart Diets. Technology will enable consumers to construct hyper-individualized approaches to physical and mental health. Consumers will gain a better understanding of what makes them unique using health testing services, artificial intelligence–enabled apps, and increased personal data collection. Meanwhile, with consumers expected to live longer, many will want to learn how their diet can benefit long-term cognitive health.

High-Tech Harvests. Consumer trust in food science and technology will strengthen as these become vital tools to save the food supply. Expect to see brands use science and technology to create new products, shorten production time, and confirm trustworthiness. “Transparency of information is essential to building trust in a future where scientists play as integral a role as farmers,” noted Beckett. “And championing the people behind the food—whether it is grown in a laboratory or a field—will remain a timeless way of building trust with consumers.”

Food impulsivity: It’s all in your head

If the smell of freshly baked donuts or French fries triggers a craving you find impossible to resist, the blame may be due to your brain circuitry. A team of researchers studying food impulsivity recently identified the specific circuit responsible for impulsive eating behavior, opening the door to the possibility that therapeutics could someday be developed to address overeating.

“There’s underlying physiology in your brain that is regulating your capacity to say no to (impulsive eating),” said Emily Noble, assistant professor at the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences and lead author of the paper. “In experimental models, you can activate that circuitry and get a specific behavioral response.”

Using a rat model, researchers focused on a subset of brain cells that produce a type of transmitter in the hypothalamus called melanin concentrating hormone (MCH). “We found that when we activate the cells in the brain that produce MCH, animals become more impulsive in their behavior around food,” observed Noble.


Researchers recently identified a specific brain circuit that activates the impulse to overeat, opening the door to developing therapeutics to address overeating. © stock_colors/E+/Getty Images


Researchers recently identified a specific brain circuit that activates the impulse to overeat, opening the door to developing therapeutics to address overeating. © stock_colors/E+/Getty Images

To test impulsivity, scientists trained rats to press a lever to receive a high-fat, high-sugar pellet. The rat had to wait 20 seconds between lever presses. If the rat pressed the lever too soon, it had to wait an additional 20 seconds.

Using advanced techniques, researchers activated a specific MCH neural pathway from the hypothalamus to the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved with learning and memory. The circuit acted on the animals’ inhibitory control.

“Activating this specific pathway of MCH neurons increased impulsive behavior without affecting normal eating for caloric need or motivation to consume delicious food,” Noble said. “Understanding that this circuit, which selectively affects food impulsivity, exists opens the door to the possibility that one day we might be able to develop therapeutics for overeating that help people stick to a diet without reducing normal appetite or making delicious foods less delicious.

About the Author

Margaret Malochleb, Associate Editor, [email protected]
Margaret Malochleb