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Clean-label, cheap fat replacers developed by TNO

By Stephen Daniells , 27-Nov-2008
Last updated on 27-Nov-2008 at 14:23 GMT

Spreadable gels made from superheating starch and then cooling it may lead to inexpensive fat replacers, scientists from TNO Quality of Life tell FoodNavigator.

The Dutch research institute has developed and patented technology to produce the fat replacers from various types of starch, with no chemical or enzymatic modification, which would allow manufacturers to have clean-label products.

“We think this could be a very good replacer of maltodextrin [as a fat mimetic]. It is cheaper and gives less energy to the final product,” Ronald Korstanje, business development manager at TNO Quality of Life, told FoodNavigator.

A paper will be published in the March 2009 issue of Food Hydrocolloids (it is already available online), by TNO scientists Peter Steeneken and Albert Woortman which reports: “Superheated starch (SHS) exhibits more effective gelling properties than maltodextrin, which is currently applied as a fat mimetic.”

Reduction of fat in products is a growing area of interest to food manufacturers as consumers continue to seek out low-fat and low-calorie versions of their favourite foods.

The obvious applications for the product would be low fat spreads, but reportedly tests have also produced positive results when formulated into ice creams and puddings.

The product could also replace carrageenan, said Korstanje, which is obviously of interest since seaweed supplies have tightened in recent times, leading some suppliers to publicly communicate price increases.

“There is interest for both maltodextrin and carrageenan replacement,” he said. “But the biggest interest is replacing maltodextrin.”

Development timeline

Peter Steeneken told this publication that the work was started in 1998. “That was a long time ago, but it took a long time to work the product out,” he said.

The early tests produced only 20 milligram samples, and this was then scaled up to 20 gram batches. Currently production of 10-15 kilogram batches of dried powder has been achieved.

The fat replacer is not yet commercially available, they said, but interest from the food industry is there, and negotiations are underway with two unnamed starch companies, said Korstanje.

Once a final decision is reached in terms of the licensing of the patent, the material “can be available very quickly for the market”, said Korstanje.

Patented technology

Steeneken and Woortman heated aqueous potato starch suspensions until they formed solutions and then cooled them. This resulted in the formation of “spreadable particle gels” that had a cream-like texture. Most of the work has been done with potato starch, said Steeneken, but the technique will also work with other starches, such as high-amylose corn starch.

“It is immediately apparent that superheated starch (SHS)-gel is a much more effective gelling agent than maltodextrin, especially at 20 degrees Celsius,” wrote Steeneken and Woortman in Food Hydrocolloids.

“A most interesting finding is that SHS-gel also displays an immediate gelling functionality when it is dispersed as a powder in water at 20 or 4 degrees C (cold suspended). This property is not shared by maltodextrin and opens the way to instant applications,” they added.

Cost aspect

Korstanje said that, while the cost of the product is slightly more than that of maltodextrin, it will be cheaper overall since only half the equivalent quantity of maltodextrin is needed to achieve a similar effect.

“Another advantage is that this not only lowers the level of fat in a product, but it also lowers the starch content,” he said.

Whoever gets their hands on the patents will also have room for improvement and innovation, said Steeneken.

“Maybe a benefit of this technology is that we have delivered one type of sample. In our patent and also in the literature we showed that by varying the temperature and residence times we can arrive at a range of different ingredients,” he said.

“What we have delivered is not an optimum product.”

To read FoodNavigator.com’s report on the Food Hydrocolloids article, please click here .

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