As consumers scour the shelves for clean label products such as dressings or sauces chock full of natural, recognizable ingredients, food manufacturers have often struggled to develop some of these products.
Starting this month, Ingredion is rolling out a broth emulsifier called Evanesse derived from cooked chickpeas — the same ingredient that serves as the centerpiece of hummus dips — that addresses many of these pitfalls.
Reformulating products to clean up and simplify labels is beset with several commercial and technical challenges. Ingredion said these include maintaining functionality and eating quality, determining which ingredients consumers trust to support the claims, keeping costs down and sourcing ingredients.
Ingredion, however, has been working aggressively to find more emulsification options for its portfolio that address the clean label trend and provides a functional benefit for CPG companies that use its ingredients.
"Emulsification has been a challenge within clean label. There weren't many solutions on the market that would allow for clean label and emulsification," said Pat O'Brien, Ingredion’s regional platform lead for clean and simple Ingredients in the U.S. and Canada. "I think the functionality, as well as kind of that consumer appeal on the label, is a perfect combination as to how this ingredient will help address the challenge in the market."
On the surface, emulsifiers may sound like jargon, but the word has a very real meaning to food companies when it comes to product development. The job of an emulsifier is to combine two liquids that usually would not mix well together, such as oil and vinegar. Without emulsifiers, the liquids would keep separating.
Ingredion is initially targeting the emulsifier for use as an egg replacement in vegan foods or to make dressings and spreads like mayonnaise and aioli or sauces such as alfredo. O'Brien said the company tested how the emulsifier would work and interact with other ingredients that go into making these types of applications. It's also exploring other uses for Evanesse, such as in bakery, dairy and alternative dairy.
The application not only delivers emulsification properties but has a host of other attributes that are in tune with consumer trends. ln addition to adaptability in vegan offerings, Evanesse can replace OSA modified starches and other artificial emulsifiers. It can help food manufacturers looking to tout front-of-package claims on their products, such as natural or no artificial ingredients.
According to Ingredion, it also delivers mouthfeel and texture comparable to traditional emulsifiers, has good stability when frozen or thawed and provide a long shelf life in a range of applications.
O'Brien said Ingredion found current users of chickpea broth or aquafaba were creating their own from canned or cooked chickpeas. This often resulted in consistency challenges, causing products to differ from batch to batch — a problem Ingredion is aiming to prevent.
"One of the things ... Ingredion is looking to do is bring an established" product to the ingredients supply chain market, he said. "And yes, so I would say the way I see it, [the chickpea broth] is an emerging ingredient for sure."
O'Brien said the idea for Evanesse came from market research gathered at Atlas, the company's consumer insights program that was created in 2011. The program helped it confirm consumers prefer ingredients that are recognizable over artificial ones. Ingredion found chickpea broth has high acceptability and awareness with consumers. This contributed toward the launch of the emulsifier.
"I think that the growth of hummus has probably contributed to it quite a bit. So I think people are connecting chickpea with hummus and it's become more recognizable," O'Brien said. Another factor is the rising popularity of pulses like lentils, fava beans, peas and chickpeas that has created growing "consumer awareness around the ingredients."
According to a 2018 L.E.K. survey cited in the report, more than 60% of consumers look for products with labels reading "no artificial ingredients," "no preservatives" and "all natural." Innova market research from 2018 goes a step further, reporting 91% of U.S. consumers believe food and beverage options with recognizable ingredients are healthier.
A recent Ingredion study found more than 80% of consumers are more likely to buy a product if they recognize all of the listed ingredients and more than 60% of consumers are willing to pay more for a simple label. This price premium provides an added incentive for food manufacturers to include more of these products in their offerings, and for companies like Ingredion to provide the tools they need to do it.
Evanesse helps expand Ingredion's clean and simple ingredient offerings, a platform the company has targeted as "being a key area of growth."
Ingredion initially planned to launch the product at Natural Products Expo West, which was postponed last week because of the spread of COVID-19. Ingredion plans to pitch the product directly to its customers and may do advertising in the coming weeks and months.