Food First Blog | Tip of the Week: The Absolute Best Way to Achie

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Tip of the Week: The Absolute Best Way to Achieve Clean Label Is Through Research
Tip of the Week: The Absolute Best Way to Achieve Clean Label Is Through Research

Many food companies are responding to consumer concerns over ingredients. This move away from eating foods containing synthetic additives and preservatives is known as clean label.

To illustrate the process and challenges of formulating a product to be “clean label”, we recently embarked on some test baking in AIB’s pilot plant. We chose to start with a typical multigrain bread. We took a standard formula for a sponge and dough multigrain bread and identified the “un-clean” ingredients that we wanted to replace. Next, we sourced alternative “cleaner” ingredients. To keep this simple, we looked at how can we approach the issue of alternative ingredients in a concise, reportable manner without spending 5 years to work through every possible scenario. For each of these ingredients we found 1 to 4 alternatives and baked 12 different variations. To pick the amount of replacement to use we went from the suggested usage level on the specification sheets.

Wherever possible we tried to document differences through the process on key attributes like proofing height, proofing time, product volume, external and internal appearance, eating quality, texture, pH/TTA, and moisture. Because several of the “unclean” ingredients impact the shelf-life of the bread, we conducted shelf-life studies of the bread with the goal of going at least 21 days. The goal with all the replacements was to make comparable product to our control.

Ingredients that we identified that were “un-clean” included:

  • high fructose corn syrup
  • mono and di glyceride
  • calcium iodate
  • calcium propionate

We used unacceptable ingredient lists from multiple retailers and food service outlets to guide our identification of un-clean. We were not really going for the shortest ingredient list, but rather removing the artificial preservatives and dough additives.

Each ingredient specification of our standard ingredients was scrutinized to determine if it had anything unacceptable. We had some surprises along the way. We found that our standard salt which is usually considered fairly innocuous had a processing aid/flow agent called Yellow Prussiate of Soda. While this would be an incidental ingredient, in some cases, companies are even looking at those as well.

During our testing we encountered a few unexpected results. Several variables key-holed, the side walls pulled in to the center, and had a gummy texture. Some of this was from ingredient interactions that we did not anticipate. Based on those results, we had to make some adjustments on other variables.

The process really showed us that for any producer to switch to “cleaner” label ingredients they need to do their due diligence and check everything. It also confirmed that testing is important because there are few, if any, one for one replacement options.

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