Selection of plant-based foods and eggs

Ingredient functionality: unlock power and control through detailed understanding

15 February 2023 | Jo Baker Perrett, Food and Drink Microstructure Team Lead

Having in-depth knowledge of ingredient functionality specific to your product can be a valuable asset in a competitive market with changing consumer needs. Manufacturers can use this knowledge to overcome challenges with existing products and to develop new and reformulated products with success. Campden BRI has provided expert advice to food and drink companies for many years to help them address these needs.

Ingredient functionality can be described as the reason why an ingredient is included in a product

Ingredient functionality can be described as the reason why an ingredient is included in a product – for example, to help the product achieve a particular structure, texture or flavour characteristic or to provide certain nutrients. These are just some of the functions that an ingredient can provide and many ingredients deliver multiple ‘functions’ within the product that they are used. Here we explore how studying the physical properties, structure and texture of ingredients can help us to understand how they fulfil these purposes / functions.

Whether standard test methodologies already exist for your ingredients or not, we can support you to fully understand your ingredients’ properties and associated functionalities in your product, so that you can save money and time, prevent product losses and waste, challenge ingredient variation, resolve supply issues and select ingredients that are right for your product and process.

Where clients have narrowed down their issue to a particular step of their manufacturing process or particular ingredient – or even where they haven’t – we can help them to understand the underlying cause of the issue. And, most importantly, provide insights to help overcome the challenge.

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Not all wheat flour is the same – the benefits of characterising this variation

A key challenge for many users of wheat flour is that not all wheat flour is the same. Depending on where the wheat is grown, how it is harvested and other variables in the onward processes, the flour will have different properties. This variation can result in differences in its behaviour and functionality as an ingredient and in the associated finished product outcomes. This is an important challenge to overcome to ensure product quality and consistency for consumers, as well as to prevent ingredient and finished product write-offs.

We support clients by applying standardised, UKAS accredited methods to test the different characteristics and functionality elements of wheat flour ingredients. With this information, clients can look to standardise the flour that they use (with respect to specifications for the results of these tests). What’s more, by fully understanding the flour’s properties and associated functionality, we can help clients to successfully use flour that they are currently having challenges with.

Eggs and egg-based ingredients – understanding functionality to overcome ingredient variability and cost / availability pressures

Egg characteristics will vary depending on the diet, environment and genetics of the hens, as well as the production practices, age of the eggs and their storage and distribution conditions.

When purchasing eggs or egg powder ingredients, specifications rarely include parameters that directly measure functionality. Those that do will be specific to the method that has been used. Unlike for wheat flour, there are no standardised methods for testing the functionalities of these ingredients. So, even when measures of functionality are shared, you will be unable to use these measures to compare or standardise between suppliers, sources and seasons. This is not necessarily an issue when things are going well, but what about when your formulation is no longer giving you the same finished product outcomes?

We can help to determine what it is about egg that makes your product behave the way that you want it to and at which steps of the manufacturing process this comes into effect. Where you are no longer getting the same functionality / outcomes from your eggs, we can help to characterise and overcome the problem.

Similarly, we can help you to select the right ingredients when you are developing a new product. For example, some egg powders (in bakery applications, for example) will start to form a gel earlier in the baking step than others – meaning that the difference between two egg powders, even if they meet the same specification on paper, could equate to an unacceptable versus acceptable end product.

Egg cost and availability pressure may be a driver for your business to reduce the amount of egg in your product or even to swap out egg for another ingredient. Whether you are reformulating an existing product, struggling with a supply issue or working on product development to keep up with plant-based consumer demand, we can provide you with ingredient functionality information and support you in leveraging this for the success of your products.

Plant-based proteins – understanding functionality is key to overcoming the challenges of developing and reformulating with these ingredients

Plant-based proteins bring their own challenges, especially where they are attempting to fulfil the functionalities of animal-based ingredients, such as eggs, butter or milk, or their powders / derivatives, or are being used to create a plant-based substitute for a meat product.

In these types of reformulation, it is important to ensure that ingredient functionalities are fully understood for your specific product – what is each of your existing ingredients delivering and at what stage of the production process? This information can then be used to find the right combination of plant-based protein ingredients needed to achieve the required end result. The route to these desired finished product outcomes is much smoother and more efficient where the mechanisms of how your ingredients achieve them is fully understood and can guide the reformulation.

Plant-derived protein ingredients are typically a concentrate or isolate of a protein that is found within the plant. Examples include soy protein and pea protein, among many others. These protein ingredients can vary based on all of the variables that were mentioned for wheat flour, as well as also being affected by differences in the extraction method used to isolate the protein from the plant. As such, users of these ingredients can face challenges of differences between the ‘same’ ingredient from different suppliers, as well as challenges of batch-to-batch variation.

Just as with egg variation challenges, we can develop standard tests for ingredient quality and link the results to specific outcomes in your product. In this way, we can help you and your suppliers to standardise the ingredients that you receive and ensure consistent, quality end product. Where you have ingredients that are not within this standard / ideal ‘window’, we can help you to make the necessary adjustments for this ingredient to work for you.

Understanding ingredient functionality gives you the power

How Campden BRI can help you to leverage ingredient functionality information

Understanding ingredient functionality gives you the power to improve your products and processes, save money and time, prevent product losses and waste, challenge ingredient variation, resolve supply issues and select ingredients that are right for you.

Whether standard test methodologies already exist for your ingredients or not, we can support you to fully understand your ingredients’ properties and associated functionalities in your product. We have a vast range of microstructure and other functionality tests that we can apply to any ingredient and can match these to finished product outcomes through kitchen and pilot plant trials.

Where clients have narrowed down their issue to a particular step of their manufacturing process or particular ingredient – or even where they haven’t – we can help them to understand the underlying cause of the issue. And, most importantly, provide *insights to help overcome the challenge.

About Jo Baker-Perrett

After graduating from his master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Sheffield in 2014, Jo worked in education before joining us in 2016. Since then, Jo has worked in the bakery department, and then in Food and Drink Microstructure, after which he started managing this section, which is mainly focused on physical characterisation and ingredient functionality.

Jo has published various Campden BRI research reports and trade press articles, as well as producing regular food industry blogs for our website.

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How can we help you?

If you’d like to find out more about characterising ingredient functionality in your products, contact our support team to find out how we can help.

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