Margaret Malochleb

Margaret Malochleb

The appeal of low-sodium snacks such as potato chips can be improved with the use of flavor enhancers. © batuhan toker/iStock/Getty Images Plus

The appeal of low-sodium snacks such as potato chips can be improved with the use of flavor enhancers. © batuhan toker/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Enhancing the appeal of reduced-sodium snacks

Reduced-sodium snacks, which comprise a significant percentage of salty snack sales, represent one way consumers can help to control hypertension and reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes. In a recent study in the Journal of Food Science, sodium reduction in potato chips and puffed rice was explored, with the aim of identifying new ways to enhance flavor and increase consumer acceptance of low-sodium snacks.

During the study, potato chip and puffed rice samples were seasoned with a variety of flavor enhancer concentrations and evaluated by 11 trained panelists, who identified eight significantly different attributes for potato chips and seven significantly different attributes for puffed rice. The descriptive analysis data were then correlated with data from a consumer test through preference mapping.

For potato chips, consumers liked samples characterized by meaty aftertaste, aroma, aroma-by-mouth, and umami aftertaste. Samples with a strong raw potato aroma were disliked. For puffed rice, consumers liked samples with attributes of crunchy texture, garlic aftertaste, and savory aftertaste, and disliked bitter aftertaste and chili powder aroma-by-mouth.

The researchers suggest that flavor enhancers can help maintain or improve the palatability of reduced-sodium potato chips and puffed rice products. By focusing on the identified drivers of liking during product development, reduced-sodium snacks may enjoy greater acceptance among consumers and help promote decreased sodium consumption.

The effects of food globalization

The globalization of food systems is having a profound effect on diets around the world, resulting in implications for human health and environmental sustainability. Among the conclusions drawn by a study carried out by researchers from the University of Kent are that shifting food supply patterns are causing underweight and obesity in some parts of the world and giving rise to healthier diets elsewhere.

The study looked at the availability of 18 food groups in 171 countries, tracking food supply patterns from 1961 to 2013. Among the countries that experienced the biggest changes are South Korea, China, and Taiwan, where animal source foods and sugar, vegetables, seafood, and oil crops all became more abundant. Western countries, on the other hand, saw animal source foods and sugar decline, while little change was seen in the food supply in sub-Saharan African countries.

The researchers noted that parts of the world that are seeing declines in animal source foods and sugar, along with increases in vegetables, may be embracing healthier and more balanced diets, while countries that are experiencing the reverse are seeing a rise in obesity as well as negative environmental repercussions.

In a press release, lead author James Bentham, lecturer in Kent’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science, reflected, “There are clear shifts in global food supply, and these trends may be responsible for strong improvements in nutrition in some parts of the world. However, obesity remains a long-term concern, and we hope that our research will open doors to analysis of the health impacts of global diet patterns. Equally, we must also consider carefully the environmental impacts of these trends.”

Healthy food is in the eye of the beholder

Food companies know how packaging and labeling can influence consumers’ perceptions of food, but recent research has shown that texture and appearance also play a role, particularly when it comes to evaluating the healthiness of a food product.

Scientists from Anglia Ruskin University conducted a study in which 88 participants were asked to rate six oat biscuits on a variety of attributes, including healthiness, tastiness, and likelihood of purchase based on surface qualities that are seen but not touched. Three of the biscuits were implicitly textured and three were explicitly textured, with surfaces that were smooth, medium, or rough. Based on appearance alone, biscuits with an explicit, pronounced texture were perceived as healthier. However, when evaluated on perceived taste and crunch, biscuits with less textured surfaces won out and were also more likely to be purchased.

The fact that an increase in perceived tastiness is associated with a decrease in healthiness has implications for food producers and can help guide the design of food products to overcome the perception that a healthy food is not tasty, concluded the researchers.

“At a time when the World Health Organization has declared that there is an obesity epidemic, it is essential to think of ways to encourage improved eating patterns,” said study lead author Cathrine Jansson-Boyd, reader in psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, in a press release. “Our research provides a good starting point in how to promote healthier food products.”

USDA, EPA recruit new champions

Six U.S. businesses and organizations—Browns Superstores, Compass Group, Giant Eagle, Hello Fresh, Las Vegas Sands, and The Wendy’s Company—are the newest U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions. The organizations, which have promised to achieve a 50% reduction in food loss and waste in their operations by 2030, were named by Sonny Perdue, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champion program grew out of a formal agreement among the EPA, the USDA, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to align efforts across the federal government to educate consumers, engage stakeholders, and develop and evaluate solutions to food loss and waste, which stress energy resources, affect landfill space, and consume 21% of all fresh water globally.

The new champions join existing program members, which include Ahold Delhaize, Aramark, Blue Apron, Bon Appetit, Campbell’s, Conagra, Farmstead, General Mills, Hilton, Kellogg’s, Kroger, Marley Spoon, MGM Resorts, Mom’s Organic Market, PepsiCo, Sodexo, Sprouts, Unilever, Walmart, Wegmans, Weis, Whitsons, and Yum! Brands.

“Businesses across the country are stepping up to reduce food loss and waste,” said Perdue, in a press release. “We applaud the manufacturers, grocers, restaurants, and other businesses that have made a commitment to reduce food loss and waste in their operations, and we call on more businesses to become U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions.”

To learn more about the U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champion program, visit usda.gov/foodlossandwaste/champions.

U.S. wine demand to increase slightly

U.S. wine demand will be supported by increases in disposable income and consumers’ desire for premium products. © IL21/iStock/Getty Images Plus

U.S. wine demand will be supported by increases in disposable income and consumers’ desire for premium products. © IL21/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Consumers’ love of premium products like wine will propel U.S. demand for the beverage to increase at a rate of 1.0% yearly in volume through 2024, according to a report by Freedonia Focus Reports. In addition to increases in disposable income, the report points to demographics as a driver of sales, with Millennials imbibing on a casual basis more than older generations, as witnessed by the popularity of wine clubs and bars, as well as “sip and paint” art classes.

Although affluent Baby Boomers are the primary driver of premium wine demand, their exit from the market will eventually result in a slowing of consumption due to less disposable income on the part of Millennials as well as competition from distilled spirits and cocktails. However, sales of single-serving canned wine are expected to spur casual consumption, as will the growing practice of wineries holding tasting events in rustic settings and offering activities such as yoga classes that appeal to Millennials.

About the Author

Margaret Malochleb, Associate Editor, produces content for the News, New Products, Books, and IFT World departments and researches and writes feature articles on a variety of topics.
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Margaret Malochleb