Ingredients Come Under Fire

From PHOs to azodicarbonamide, certain ingredients are being singled out by the government and consumers as candidates for replacement.

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

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HFCS is another matter. The workhorse sugar got a black eye based on some sketchy science, but consumers nevertheless called for its removal. However, most processors who trumpeted its removal saw no sales pickup, so many, like Hunt's ketchup, went back to HFCS.

"Replacing HFCS has presented a slight challenge, but we've addressed this with a stevia-infused agave nectar called Nectevia," King continues. Nectevia emulates DE 42 HFCS while delivering a 75-percent sugar reduction and the mouthfeel and the sweet flavor of HFCS.

Matsutani Chemical Industry Co. Ltd.'s ( Astraea allulose-based sweetener, launched last year, is a monosaccharide, the simplest form of sugar and one of approximately 50 varieties that exist in nature in small quantities, observes Tomokazu Okazaki, director of application R&D.

"The most challenging ingredient to replace is sugar," he says. "Astraea has 70 percent of the sweetness found in sucrose. It's a more natural-image, low-calorie sweetener that can replace sugar without changing food's original good taste. We see success combining Astraea with other sweeteners, like stevia. Allulose can act as a masking agent, and aid in bulking and browning. But most important is taste."

Breakfast cereal maker Seven Sundays LLC ( removed conventional honey from its formulas in favor of organic honey, due to the potential impact of GMOs. "We start with is real, unprocessed ingredients," says Hannah Barnstable, president and founder. "The [higher] costs can be challenging, so it's important to stay flexible. As the price of certain dried fruits has gone up, we've replaced them with other dried fruits or even coconut to add sweetness, texture and flavor."

No to PHOs

Used since the 1950s, PHOs increase the shelf life in most bakery products and allow bread dough to rise. The process of partially hydrogenating vegetable oil rids it of many unstable fatty acids and causes it to solidify at room temperature – but PHOs also are the major dietary source of industrially produced trans fat in processed food. And trans fats recently have been proven to be more injurious to the heart and coronary system than the saturated fats they replaced. So in June, the FDA revoked Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status for PHOs, giving the food industry three years to eliminate them from products.


Food processors in certain categories say PHOs are very difficult to replace. The two most common PHOs are partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils.

"When trans-fatty acids issues intensified, many food companies searched to replace PHOs, but the complexities and functionally of PHOs has not made the switch easy," relates Frank Flider, oils expert at Qualisoy (, a collaborative program of the soybean industry that promotes the market development of enhanced soybean oils.

The good news is plenty of PHO alternatives are being developed to provide similar, and in some cases better, functionality at a similar cost. Qualisoy and the United Soybean Board have focused on evaluating enzymatically interesterified (EIE) high-oleic soybean oils as replacements for PHOs. "EIE high-oleic soybean shortenings contain zero grams of trans fat and have proven to be effective replacements in baking, especially for doughnuts and icings," Flider says.

The costs of these ingredients will decrease as supply increases, he notes.

Cargill's Regal PHO-free bakery shortenings, launched at October's IBIE 2016 expo, include non-hydrogenated, reduced-palm and all-purpose shortenings that create brilliant white icings, fresh donuts and cakes and various products that require excellent plasticity and creaming properties.

ADM's ( vast supply of ingredients includes several PHO replacements for baked goods that have challenges maintaining dough handling, shelf life or mouthfeel attributes. Identifying oil and shortening systems with the right solid fat content to overcome dough handling issues, or blending tropical oils with stable oils such as high oleic soybean oil and high oleic canola oil, the company helps formulators improve oxidative stability and shelf-life issues.

For foods needing a certain degree of solids, palm oil-based shortenings or palm/liquid oil blends provide different functional attributes, explains Mark Rainey, vice president of marketing for ADM's Wild Flavors business unit ( "Other replacement options in bakery applications include enzymatic interesterification of soybean oil and fully hydrogenated soybean oil blends." When solid fats aren't needed, commodity oils such as soybean and canola oil are good alternatives, he says. If greater oxidative stability is needed, high oleic soybean, high oleic canola, cottonseed oil and mid oleic sunflower can be used to replace PHOs.

Simpler flavors, colors

What can clearly be called "natural" alternatives to synthetic flavors and colors officially remains subject to clarification. The FDA has not defined the term natural, but it's trying to – the agency in May closed a year-long comment period on a possible definition, which could come next year. Consumers clearly want natural products and recognizable ingredients on labels, so processors, with the help of their ingredient suppliers, are responding.

Simply-processed or less-processed flavors can be derived from herbs, vegetables and botanicals. But these natural flavors can be challenging because their flavor components are vulnerable to fading and can disappear rapidly when exposed to air, light or heat. Bell Flavors & Fragrances ( offers myriad flavors that counteract this, such as its Sweetech line. Sweetech flavors can help reduce sweetness and enhancing texture and mouthfeel, says Aaron Graham, Bell's director of creative services, flavors. "A good flavor replacer addresses flavor, color, texture and mouthfeel, while ensuring functionality, shelf life and processability," he says.

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