Archive for July, 2010

Coo Coo for Coconuts

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Coconut water seems to be the big craze with celebrities these days, and it’s not without merit. It’s a natural isotonic beverage with a comparable level of electrolytes as our blood. In fact, during World War II, coconut water was administered intravenously as a replacement for dextrose on the battlefield. Think of it as nature’s Gatorade, but better: it’s got 2 to 3 times as much potassium as sports drinks while having less than half the amount of sodium and a fraction of the sugar (and these sugars are completely natural no less!).

According to ABC’s Good Morning America:

It’s low in calories, fat-free, natural and serves a purpose: hydration. Some consumers are likely to choose it over sugar-laden sports drinks, so it’s no wonder big name beverage companies are vying for their piece of the coconut pie.

Right now, coconut water represents a perhaps $50 million niche industry. Given the maturity of the sports beverage market and recent controversy surrounding energy drinks, could coconut water be the next big thing? Here’s the segment from GMA:

Cracking the Coconut Water Craze

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Quick Bites for the Week Ending 2010-07-30

Friday, July 30th, 2010

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It All Comes Down To Taste

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Gluten Free

How can a nation be great if it’s bread tastes like Kleenex? – Julia Child

We had a bit of a discussion going with JP over at Healthy Fellow regarding the challenges of incorporating natural, healthy alternative ingredients into mainstream food products. One challenge is economic as some of these more innovative ingredients come at a price. For example, outside of colour, coconut sugar could be used in most places that refined sugar is used today, however it costs more.

JP suggested that consumer demand and taste were the main factors in adoption of healthier ingredients, rather than cost, and we tend to agree. Clearly there is a growing awareness of food quality and functionality with modern consumers and this is leading to a growing demand for healthier ingredients in the foods we eat. Basic economics would tell us that growing demand will also drive supply and lead to lower costs. So it really comes down to taste. As JP pointed out:

For instance, I can buy a large bag of “bakers stevia” such as Stevia in Raw for about the same amount as a comparably-sized Splenda package. On the other hand, I couldn’t get my wife to accept the taste of stevia – regardless of the price. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one that feels this way…The regulatory status of stevia is what it is today because there was sufficient demand for it. But even so, the market is somewhat limited because of tepid consumer acceptance of the current products on the market.

The overall sentiment is that if manufacturers can somehow produce products based on natural, healthy ingredients that taste as good as the current mainstream products, they’ll be adopted by consumers. For food manufacturers, achieving this ideal combination of health and taste may require changes to processes and formulation. According the the recent article Building Better Desserts at FoodProcessing.com:

The dessert items receiving the brunt of healthy treatments certainly would be baked goods, such as cakes and cookies…the incorporation of ingredients such as whole grains can readily make them healthier…But these ingredients do change the baking aspects of products — such as the mixing — so processes and formulas need to be adjusted.

Besides processes and formulation, the taste challenge can also be addressed by innovation with the basic constituents themselves, for example, various suppliers of food ingredients are developing healthier fats and oils as well as unique whole grains, fibers and beta glucans. In fact, we saw a new version of stevia at the IFT Food Expo in Chicago just last week that does not need any masking agents (i.e. flavours) for its lingering sweetness.

Lastly, the push for healthier retail food products is not just driven by consumer demand but by regulation, which provides yet another challenge for food manufacturers when pursuing consumer acceptance. Afterall, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it. It all comes down to taste.

What’s Hot at IFT 2010

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

GNT Booth

It was great to see old and new faces at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo 2010 in Chicago. Even better was the fact that they had added the Process Expo with the IFT Food Expo at McCormick Place – as it provided more interesting things to see all under one venue.

The top themes that seemed to dominate the show floor:

  • trans-fat options
  • fibre in all shapes and forms
  • inclusion of fruits

The “regulars” were omnipresent in several booths: probiotics, natural colours, antioxidants, acai and stevia. Even though stevia is old news, it was interesting to see a new version that does not need any masking agents (i.e. flavours) for its lingering sweetness. For a few of us observers, GNT won hands down for having the most attractive booth.

Other notables included puff snacks with purple corn extract and therefore high in antioxidants. Quinoa is becoming mainstream. The pistachio booth offered a quinoa salad with pistachio slivers and goat cheese which was delicious. The Innova booth is always an interesting one to visit – I hope they remember to send me the information they had promised! Here’s a couple more pictures:

Show Floor

Brenda & Maria

Delicious Smoothies

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Smoothie Ingredients

Supposedly the making of pureed fruit beverages, or smoothies, in North America goes back to the 1930′s and were originally based on recipes from Brazil. A smoothie is a blended, often chilled, beverage made from fresh fruit. Sometimes they contain crushed ice, frozen fruit, yogurt or sweeteners. Some smoothies are just fruit! One thing smoothies shouldn’t contain is milk (otherwise it’s a milkshake!).

Here’s how we make our morning smoothies at Ingredient Hotline. Put the following in a blender:

  • 1 fresh banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup orange juice (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup plain unsweetened yogurt (or to taste)
  • tablespoon chia seeds

This result is nicely chilled because of the frozen berries. Besides pumping up the nutritional value, the chia also acts as a thickener. It’s quick, easy and delicious! Kids love it, and we didn’t need to add sugar.

Do you have a special smoothie recipe of your own? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Canada’s First Wine & Food Mobile App

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Natalie MacLean, the woman behind Nat Decants, has just released Canada’s first wine and food mobile app. Natalie MacLean is a wine writer, speaker and judge. An accredited sommelier, she is a member of the National Capital Sommelier Guild and the Wine Writers Circle. She has also written a book about wine: Red, White and Drunk All Over.

The new, free mobile application for iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Droid and other smartphones was developed by Cerado, and includes:

  • 380,000 professionally tested food and wine pairings not generated by computer algorithm
  • Access thousands of wine reviews by an independent journalist rather than by the wine store or winery that represents the wines
  • Search the reviews by winery, price, score, region, grape, vintage, food match, LCBO product code
  • Check how many bottles of a particular wine are in LCBO stores (you can narrow this by your postal code to see what’s in your closest stores)
  • Track your wines in your virtual cellar and add your own journal notes and scores
  • Search a directory of 10,000+ wineries to buy wine or plan a visit
  • Find thousands of tasty, tested recipes for every wine
  • Get wine savvy with articles, glossary definitions & blog posts
  • Share on Twitter, Facebook and e-mail with friends

If you like food and wine as much as we do, you’ll want to check out this new free mobile app! Let us know what you think about it in the comments. You might also want to take a look at Natalie’s website – a lot of really great content for the wine lover in all of us.

Here’s another thing you’ll want to do today: subscribe to the Ingredient Hotline blog and stay up to date on innovative food ingredients and related topics. You can also follow us on twitter and facebook!

Chia Seeds Improve Hair Growth?

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Chia Head

I suppose we all want to look good. Thick, healthy, beautiful hair is a big part of having an attractive appearance. This is probably one reason why hair care products have the highest sales volume of all non-food items in the United States. It’s estimated that the hair care market in the United States is worth over $6 billion!

Now I’m not so sure chia is the natural Rogaine, however, equestrians have been using chia seeds for some time to naturally provide horses with a healthier skin and coat, and to promote strong hoof growth. So does it have the same effect with human hair? According to a recent article by Alexsis Grovenor:

If you want to ensure you always have healthy hair you should follow a routine. In much the same way you have a skin care regime you should have a hair care regime. In order to have lovely hair you need to use a hair loss product or hair growth product to treat the hair. However, you should go one step further by taking a daily supplement. Chia seeds contain all the goodness your body needs to produce healthy hair.

We’re going to leave this one alone! However, as we’ve noted before, chia is pretty amazing. It’s gaining a lot of attention as a nutritional powerhouse. We think it’s a great candidate for use in food applications, providing a boost in nutritional content. And who knows, maybe it’ll help with that bald spot!

Chia Seeds for Natural Hair Growth

Creative Commons License photo credit: andydr

Quick Bites for the Week Ending 2010-07-23

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

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Replacing Refined Sugar with Coconut Sugar

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

We’ve already been extolling the virtues of coconut sugar: a granulated brown sugar, it’s 100% natural, and the perfect alternative to refined sugars in applications such as confectionery, desserts and savoury products such as sauces. It has a low glycemic index and unlike refined sugar, some actual nutritional value. We see coconut sugar as a great way for food manufacturers to offer “guilt free” indulgent sweets.

We were really pleased to see coconut sugar featured on the San Francisco ABC affiliate’s show the View from the Bay. In a segment called Make over your pantry with healthy foods, they look beyond counting calories and grams of fat, and instead look at the ingredients which make up the food we eat. The very first ingredient to be featured was coconut sugar, where they specifically made mention of it’s amazing characteristics, including the fact that it tastes like (refined) sugar, and can be used in place of refined sugar in most recipes. According to the show:

The average amount of refined sugar we eat on average in the US is over 150 pounds of refined sugar per person. Refined sugar pulls nutrients from our body making us deficient and actually lowers our immune system after eating it for a few hours making us more susceptible to colds. I love coconut sugar because it has a glycemic index of about half that of sugar so it won’t cause blood sugar fluctuations. It’s also high in Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc and Iron and is a natural source of the vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and C.

We encourage you to check out the segment in it’s entirety for other interesting ingredient ideas:

Make over your pantry with healthy foods

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Purple Corn Juice

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Purple Corn

The clamour for foods rich in antioxidants has propelled foods such as mangosteen, acai, pomegranate, goji, blueberries, enocianin, elderberries, red grapes into the spotlight. Not only are these foods antioxidant-rich – they are also mostly in the blue-purple hue. Antioxidants are active compounds that naturally occur in foods. These compounds are believed to benefit health since they can inhibit or slow down oxidation through the neutralization of free radicals hence, delay or prevent ageing as well as prevent certain diseases from happening. Antioxidants can be found in the form of phenols and anthocyanins.

Anthocyanins are water-soluble blue plant pigments that are responsible for the purple-red colour spectrum in nature. Its high phenolic content means it is well equipped to provide safety against degenerative diseases.

One “purple” which is starting to gain attention is purple corn (choclo morado). One potential application of purple corn is for beverages, and a fine example is the traditional Peruvian drink called chicha morada, also known as purple corn juice. It’s made with ears of purple corn boiled with pineapple rind, cinnamon, and clove. The resulting purple coloured liquid is then mixed with sugar and lemon. Besides being refreshing, it is also healthy since purple corn, like other “purples”, is rich in antioxidants. We provide purple corn extracts for food and beverage applications. If you like, you can try making some homemade purple corn juice yourself. Simply pick up some maiz morado and follow the directions in the video below!