example, a spread provides a better mouth-feel when chewing and swallowing. It improves flavour release and it reduces the migration of water from tomatoes or cucumbers, for example, into the bread. No one enjoys unwrapping a nowsoggy sandwich made just an hour ago! LOWER IS MORE Consumer concerns about fatty food, however, don’t stop at 40% fat, the level at which a vegetableoil-based spread can currently be labelled a “low-fat” product. Although a relatively small quantity of a spread is consumed per serving compared with ice cream, for example, supermarket shelves are bulging with products containing far lower percentages (consider, for example, low-fat milk), and consumers are strongly influenced by this landscape. In fact, studies conducted by the Food and Brand Lab found that putting low–fat labels on snack foods encouraged people to eat up to 50% more than those who saw labels without the low fat claim. While manufacturers are positive toward answering this demand – and even stand to benefit from lower total raw material costs – significant challenges have stood in their way. At least, that is, until Palsgaard’s team of food scientists took up the battle. IDEAL WORLD Reducing fat content – particularly saturated fats – is believed to lower the risk of coronary disease, diabetes and other diseases. And in an ideal world, margarine would be perceived as a healthy, low-fat answer to consumer concerns about the food choices they make. Of course, there’s little doubt that consumers are deeply concerned about fat content. In 2013, for example, 56% of American adults tried to lose weight and 27% aimed to maintain their weight (IFIC 2013a). And reduced-fat foods are considered vital to these efforts. Further incentive for producers considering lowering fat levels comes from another US study, showing that consumers now believe foods labelled as “low-fat” are, in fact, healthier and bettertasting than regular versions of the same food (Ebneter, Latner, Nigg; 2013). would be nothing to hold them back. But parameters like these are crucial to consumer demand for spreads – and producers who compromise on them are likely to encounter falling sales. To make things harder, even if a producer can manage to create the right shelf-life and eating experience, high-quality, low-fat products are notoriously difficult to produce with any stability. WHAT IF? MEETING KEY CONSUMER BUYING ISSUES Undaunted by the production difficulties, our team set an ambitious target: to create a commercially viable, production-quality margarine recipe that delivered on no fewer than seven consumer buying issues. Reformulated into recipe and production goals, these seven issues were: • • • • PRODUCTION CHALLENGES • Why is creating a low-fat spread • such a nightmare for our food-pro- • ducer customers? If mouth-feel, taste, appearance and other aesthetic values didn’t matter, there 10% fat content Regular mouth-feel and flavour experience Regular keeping properties No allergenic ingredients Non-GMO No trans fatty acids (<1 %) Sustainable, RSPO-certified palm oil Without a butter- or other oil/fat-based spread, the experience when eating a sandwich just isn’t the same. For example, a spread provides a better mouth-feel when chewing and swallowing. It improves flavour release and it reduces the migration of water from tomatoes or cucumbers, for example, into the bread. No one enjoys unwrapping a now-soggy sandwich made just an hour ago! Although seldom a consumer priority, the team also insisted that no hydrogenated oils or fats, or hydrogenated emulsifiers should be used. THE SOLUTION Meeting this lofty challenge called for a three-part approach: an emulsifier system that makes it possible to reduce the fat content to as low as 10%; an ingredients list optimised to work in tandem with the emulsifier system; and finally, the correct processing conditions. Moreover, to make a fair comparison with today’s commercially viable products, the team required that the product maintained basic production principles such as, for example, a water-in-oil (W/O) emulsion type as used in other margarine and spread products.
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