Strategies for high quality of novel healthy foods

The daily intake of sodium, sugar, and fats by modern western consumers is too high. This leads to major health issues and the rising costs of healthcare. In many countries, both the food industries and consumers have pledged to make western diets healthier. However, the assortment of processed foods meeting nutrition and health requirements is still small and available products do not often meet expectations. An important reason for this is that ingredients like sodium, sugar, and fats have various functionalities. For example, sugar controls sweetness, but it also plays a very important role in the distribution of water during food manufacturing and, therefore, in food mechanical, structural and sensory properties and thus product liking. Successful reformulation strategies therefore need a detailed knowledge of the functionalities of the ingredients in order to maintain or improve sensory food quality when replacing unhealthy with healthy ingredients.  

In a previous PP-project Healthy Composition a start was made to bridge these knowledge gaps. The project ended in 2017 and addressed the reduction of salt, fat, and sugar, and increase of healthy components like proteins and fibres in various foods like biscuits, bread, chocolate, meat analogues, ice cream, and cheese. The project was very successful and lead to solutions for most of the studied food systems. However, issues remained that need more generic insights and follow up. This includes i) the functionality of stevia-derived glycosides ii) the role of ingredient composition, process and storage in complex hydrophilic matrices to control snack crispness, iii) the role of the dairy-based complexes as fat mimetic in complex hydrophobic matrices like chocolate, iv) the role of molecular interactions and processing on bakery product quality, and v) consumer perception of, acceptance of, and transition to choosing, novel healthy food products that have their ingredients adapted or changed by the above-mentioned processes. The first two topics are addressed in PPP DFI-AF-18006B  How Low Can You Go in collaboration with two industrial partners. This project Strategies for high quality of novel healthy foods concerns the other topics. All five topics are closely related and interlinked and built on the knowledge gained in the previous project Healthy composition with a common goal to achieve breakthrough innovations in

1) understanding the functional role of ingredients and their interactions in the complex food matrix during processing,

2) understanding consumer acceptance of novel (healthy) food products, and

3) the development of rules that link ingredient properties and composition to the mechanical and sensory properties of foods. New sensory methods will be investigated, like the authenticity test to get insights in the optimal way to instruct the consumers so they prove to be more sensitive, whether the technique is appropriate to use for high-involvement or familiar (and liked) food products or also for unfamiliar or new food products and whether there are consumer segments for whom this method works.

Furthermore, generic relations between the properties of ingredients, process, and product, measured using various state of the art experimental techniques and using physical, chemical and statistical multiscale modelling techniques, will be developed. This will give important scientific insights in the behaviour and interaction of ingredients in complex matrices as well as in the behaviour of consumers towards these products.