Inclusions leave lasting impressions

by Laurie Gorton
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Consumers seek meal-replacement bars made with protein inclusions.
 
We ask a lot of the ingredients that give character to baked foods, snacks, bars, breakfast cereals and bakery mixes. Their color, flavor and nutritional benefits need to survive the manufacturing process to deliver what the consumer wants. Yet such raw materials can be temperamental, fading in impact after baking and raising concerns about water activity and allergens.

Prepared as bake-stable bits, however, inclusions ­answer such worries and raise the appeal of finished products. Recently, inclusion choices have increased to include ancient grains and pulses that push the envelope with savory flavors and protein enhancement.

“These pieces help sell your products, and they can be tailored to the application,” said Scott Cowger, vice-president, Cereal Ingredients, Inc. (CII).

The company is best known for its cold-extruded inclusions. When Bob Hatch, formerly a top executive at a number of publicly held food companies, sought a new business opportunity, he settled on extruded particulates. At the time, the market was mostly limited to confectionery sprinkles made from a mixture of sugar and fat. Fine as toppings, such materials dissolved into the background when put into doughs and batters.

“The original idea was colorful, flavored, bake-­stable inclusions, something that the baking and breakfast cereal industries would find useful,” Mr. Hatch said.

Cold extrusion answered the question of stability. “When you heat a mixture containing flavors and colors above a certain temperature, those characteristics go up the chimney, but lower temperatures retain them,” Mr. Hatch explained.

The CII team invested seven years into developing the method and patenting it. Cold-extrusion is unique to the company, according to Mr. Hatch.

Applications quickly spread. Flav-R-Bites, when added to doughs and batters, bake to soft, fruit-like texture in bagels, breads, frozen doughs, English muffins, cookies, cakes, donuts, muffins, pancakes and waffles. Flav-R-Bursts are firmer for good shelf life in ready-to-eat cereals. In bakery mixes, they hydrate during processing to give a tender bite. These technologies also yield Flav-R-Swirl, a blended mix for creating a swirl effect in bread, and Cinn-A-Quick, a mix for making water-based fillings for low- or reduced-fat sweet goods.

Later, CII added twin-screw extrusion cooking methods for working with whole grains, ancient grains and pulses. “Nutri-Bites are not crisps but grain- and pulse-based crunches,” Mr. Cowger said. “The initial entry was soy, but now the focus is on the specialty grains. That also led us to pulses.

“The biggest challenge with plant proteins is that they taste like plants,” he continued. “Soy has known flavor issues, but pea has a different taste profile; it is more benign.” It is also non-allergenic.

When inclusions are ground at CII to meet customer specifications, the company does so with technology that eliminates any dust.

CII operates a nut-free food facility certified by BRC with a AA rating. It produces inclusions certified as kosher parve, vegan, halal and USDA organic, and it now has products verified by the Non-GMO Project.

While inclusions provide an easy way to deliver flavor, color and protein content, their main job is to boost product appeal. “After all, first, you eat with your eyes,” Mr. Hatch said. “If a food looks good, you expect it to also taste good.”

For more about CII inclusions and their uses, visit www.cerealingredients.com.
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