Some eighty professionals from the bakery and confectionary sector took part in the Food Reformulation workshop on Thursday 4 April. “The key to successful reformulation lies in understanding the interaction between ingredients and texture development,” says Martijn Noort, reformulation expert at WUR. “Only then can one develop models and recipes
Wageningen Food & Biobased Research organised the afternoon together with the Dutch Food Industry Federation (FNLI) to round off the ‘Improving Product Composition Action Team’ project, financed by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS).
The FNLI, Dutch Diabetes Research Foundation and Nierstichting (Kidney Foundation) kicked off the event with presentations on the urgent need for healthier products. Suzanna Bekkema (Diabetes Fonds): “Over half of the adult population in the Netherlands is overweight and the number is far higher than the goals set in the National Prevention Agreement for 2040.” All three organisations concluded their presentations with a question for the food industry: will you wait to take action or step in the drivers’ seat now?
Four Wageningen scientists shared their knowledge on reformulation based on fundamental principles and applications. They mainly focused on nutritional fibres, salt, sugar, fat and other healthy components in grain.
“Reformulation goes beyond the one-on-one replacement of sugar,” explains Ruud van der Sman, scientist in the field of applied physics on food materials. “First, we analyse the functionalities of sugar and then we study the physical principles that lie behind these functionalities.”
Van der Sman: “The greatest challenge revolves around texture, which is determined by various physical characteristics. The hydrogen bond density is very important when trying to control texture, for example. Sugar controls it from a dual role as a plasticiser and as a water binder. Physically, this is characterised by two indicators that specify the extent to which the sugars and their replacements impact the stiffening of ingredients like starch and protein.”
This Wageningen developed sugar replacement strategy can also be applied to confectionery and ice-cream.
“By integrating knowledge based on physical models, we are able to make tools that allow us to calculate recipes for reformulated products,” says carbohydrates and protein expert Stefano Renzetti. “And a 100% sugar reduction is possible!”
Renzetti also provided a glimpse of the future. He aims to go a step further with the development of healthy products, for instance by using natural ingredients such as grain and vegetables. This kind of reformulation based on a holistic approach is being further developed in two new public-private projects: ‘Developing a NPD support system for healthy product development’ and ‘Creating reformulated foods & impact on blood glucose and well-being’
Anke Janssen, senior scientist in consumer behaviour and product acceptance, ended the day with a brief introduction to the consumer acceptance of reformulated products. Choices in supermarkets are largely driven by habit, which makes it quite difficult to convince people to buy reformulated products. The best option is to apply a combination of strategies: “Measuring consumer acceptance is best done in a realistic context, like at home, or in a simulated context instead of a lab setting. The inclusion of implicit – more unconscious – responses is also important to obtain a good insight.”