With consumers requiring healthier food products, the food industry is seeking alternative ingredients for sugar, salt and fat. At the same time, as consumers also associate ‘healthier’ with as little processing and artificial additives as possible, these alternative ingredients must also be natural and recognisable to people (the clean-label concept). Scientists from Wageningen Food & Biobased Research help companies solve this issue by combining technologically driven formulation and reformulation with knowledge of consumer behaviour.
Sugar, salt and fat are not easy to replace. These ingredients are often crucial to taste, volume and shelf life – all characteristics on which consumers do not like to compromise. This makes finding alternative ingredients a challenge. They must be natural and recognisable to consumers, but also guarantee a high-quality food product. Moreover, ensuring consumer acceptance also means being very careful about the information on the label and the design of the packaging. This requires knowledge of consumer behaviour. With their broad understanding of all these areas, Wageningen scientists are well placed to support food companies with their clean-label challenges.
From science to product
We work closely with companies on the systematic reformulation of food products and the correct labelling of ingredients. Quantitative methods are used based on insights into the underlying mechanisms of the interactions between ingredients in a food matrix. This enables us to quickly predict the quality of an end product. By combining these results with research into consumer acceptance, we apply what can rightly be called a holistic approach. Instead of proceeding by trial and error, we work purposefully towards a specific goal and speed up innovations that lead to healthier foods. This results in reformulated products whose main characteristics are comparable to those of the original products, but with a clean label.
Sugar-free ontbijtkoek cake with a clean label
Can ontbijtkoek (traditional Dutch spiced cake) taste good without sugar? The proof is on the supermarket shelves thanks to an effective translation of scientific insights into practical formulations. Food producers often reduce the sugar and salt content of their products gradually. Ontbijtkoek manufacturers Koninklijke Peijnenburg opted for a different approach, having Wageningen scientists develop a quantitative model mapping the molecular properties of sugar and various sugar substitutes. The mechanistic insights from this model were then used to come up with a new formulation for the famous ontbijtkoek.
Want to know more?
Like to reformulate your product to give it less sugar, salt or fat content and a clean label? Get in touch with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research for an informal discussion about fundamental science, product development, labelling and packaging.