Food Follows Function
by Cathy Sivak
Contributing Editor

Researchers push the utility of specific ingredients in dairy products.
Health and wellness are in sharp focus for consumers, and dominate the picture for functional and nutritionally fortified dairy-based R&D teams. Dairy’s already stellar reputation as a healthy product category makes it an ideal fit for boosting nutritional profiles with functional ingredients.
Dairy whey is well entrenched as a protein provider in the fitness and functional foods segment. Recent trends have likewise bulked up health-attribute findings for traditional fortification as well as potential for augmented dairy lines that offer consumers more. Dairy-based products with a wellness focus continue to monopolize product development team efforts. Indeed, dairy processors are increasingly streamlining market research, application work and processing technology needs tied to new product development concepts by tapping into supplier expertise.
“Twenty years ago, most ingredient companies would sell the ingredient, and the receiving company would then do all the market and application work themselves,” explains Philip Rijken, Ph.D, director of nutritional science, DSM Food Specialties. “But there has been a shift. Ingredient buyers focus on their core business now, and companies like mine provide those services. Of course, the big companies continue to do their development in house.”
Suppliers including DSM additionally focus on nutritional research such as suspected health benefit links, a research task many companies are not equipped to do independently. “In fact, many depend on us to do it,” Rijken says.
A snapshot of functional ingredient trends, applications and functional future forecasts all part of the following roundtable snapshot of functional dairy ingredient trends. Dairy Field rounded up insights from these functional ingredients suppliers: DSM’s Delft, Netherlands-based Rijken; Bob Loesel, the Atlanta, Ga.-based technical manager of the dairy and frozen desserts category for Cargill Texturizing Solutions, Wayne, N.J.; and Martha Llaneras, senior technical service manager of ISP Food Ingredients business of International Specialty Products (ISP), Wayzata, Minn.
DSM Food Specialties provides standard dairy product ingredients such as starter cultures, colorants and vitamins as well as separate functional food ingredients.
Cargill offers texture solutions for multiple food applications, including hydrocolloids, emulsifiers, lecithins, cultures, starches, soy flour and functional systems.
ISP offers 500-plus food and beverage ingredients, dairy specialty products for applications including chocolate milk, acidified dairy beverages, cream, yogurt, fermented dairy products and processed cheese products.
The following has been edited for space:
Q: How do functional ingredients further enhance dairy products’ nutritional or health benefit offerings?
Rijken: Dairy is already perceived as quite a healthy product, making dairy an ideal background for adding more functionality; this is why you see a lot of innovation in the category. It is acceptable to add more health attributes to an already healthy product, but it would be a strange approach to “add health” to an intrinsically unhealthy product. It’s good to state that dairy product development and marketing have done a good job.
Loesel: Since dairy products are already a good source of calcium, it makes sense to compliment that attribute by adding prebiotics such as inulin where emerging data suggest that inulin and oligofructose may increase the absorption of dietary calcium during certain stages of life. In the case of yogurt, inulin can also act as a prebiotic for probiotic bacteria to ferment in the large intestine, which is important in terms of colonization resistance against pathogens. Low-fat dairy products such as yogurt and cottage cheese are perfect products for the addition of extra protein (whey proteins), vitamins and even omega-3’s, to future enhance a healthy food choice.
Llaneras: Stabilization systems don’t offer a specific health claim or nutritional benefit. However, some of Cargill’s Textureze™ SD products can provide added fiber. Ingredient manufacturers will be challenged to help manufacturers develop innovative, stable products with health benefits, unique flavors, and exceptional mouthfeel. As the growth in dairy-based healthy products continues, stabilization systems such as Textureze will be more in demand.
Q: What functional ingredients have widespread applications for dairy product formulations? What specific health attributes do the individual ingredients (or combinations of ingredients) impart?
Rijken: There’s a wave of weight management, digestive health and immunity and, of course, the yogurts with probiotics and prebiotics are really hot, particularly in Europe. One specific example is weight management. You have the low-fat products, general knowledge and acceptance that dairy products in and of themselves can help people manage their weight, and weight-loss ingredients.
At DSM we have Fabuless, a unique ingredient you can incorporate into dairy products that results in decreased caloric intake if consumed daily and used to support efforts to manage overall diet and lifestyle. Fabuless studies published in scientific journals found people gained less weight after dieting and lose a bit of fat. This ingredient launched in a daily shot dose format to consumers in Netherlands at the beginning of this year with such a success that the stores went out of stock; the consumer product is now also sold in Germany, France, Italy and other countries, and also is available in the States.
To manage expectations, this isn’t a magic bullet ingredient that allows you to loose weight quickly while you just overeat; that doesn’t exist. Diet and exercise work, but that’s too hard, so consumers really appreciate the product.
We also have a Lactobacillus probiotics strain intended for daily consumption, with supporting studies. Positive outcomes showed if people take the probiotic daily, there were significant improvements in the impact of colds and flus. It won’t cure the common cold, you may be sick the same amount of time, but you’re not as miserable.
Loesel: Dairy proteins (whey proteins) for muscle growth recovery and blood pressure control. Soy proteins can offer a high-quality protein with all the essential amino acids, which can be beneficial for menopausal symptoms, prostate health and can be combined with dairy proteins to minimize flavor issues. Isoflavones can also be included within the soy product line to help with bone health, cardiovascular function. Omega-3’s for heart health. Plant sterol esters (CoroWise) can help reduce cholesterol levels by inhibiting gastrointestinal absorption of dietary and biliary cholesterol into the bloodstream. Glucosamine hydrochloride (Regenasure) can be added for bone joint health. Fiber ingredients such as inulin and resistant starches and maltodextrins can be formulated into light dairy yogurts and smoothies to promote colon health and offer low glycemic and insulinemic response.
For functional sweeteners, Cargill can offer erythritol (Eridex) as an alternative to sugar to provide a no-calorie, natural, organic and sugar-free ingredient for yogurts and dairy beverages to appeal to consumers who want to manage their weight or sugar levels. Another product for sweetness is Xtend Isomatulose, a slowly digestible nutritional sweetener with a low glycemic response known as “slow sugar.”
Llaneras: There is no single hydrocolloid or functional system that can be used in widespread dairy applications. The application (beverage, ice cream, processed cheese, etc.), the process and other ingredients will dictate which hydrocolloid or functional system is best. ISP’s technical service is available to help customers select the best hydrocolloid or functional system for their particular application. ISP’s technical service is knowledgeable regarding product properties and the technology required by customers to fulfill market needs.
Q: What formulation and functionality challenges and considerations should dairy product development teams keep in mind when creating “super-fortified” dairy products?
Rijken: It is not always straightforward to incorporate such ingredients; you have to consider the taste profile. Then there is the aspect of shelf life, you have to check what the shelf life of the product will become. Generally speaking, you have to do tests, and that takes time. But if you want a product with a one-year shelf life, you have to do a one-year test. People are always in a hurry; there are accelerated shelf-life tests, but you have to be careful there. There is also the aspect of the stability of the ingredients in the matrix, because if it changes over time, the functionality may change, so you have to look at the integrity of the ingredient. Sometimes the ingredient changes the physical properties of a product; Fabuless, for instance, makes the yogurt a little thicker.
Loesel: The main concerns in the development of super-fortified dairy products would be flavor, texture and stability of the dairy product. Overfortification, or putting so much in to derive a health benefit, could lead to off flavors, bad texture and instability over shelf life, especially in liquid dairy products. Another concern is to ensure the functional ingredient is present in adequate levels throughout the entire shelf life, which can be affected by pH, in the case of probiotics.
Llaneras: The production of dairy foods will vary with regards to formulation, processing and storage conditions. All of these will affect the acceptance of the food by the consumer. Correct stabilization is a means of obtaining the desired product. Stabilization with hydrocolloids provides body, freeze/thaw stability, suspension, mouth feel, texture, syneresis control, foam stability, melting characteristics, protein stabilization and overrun. The selection of the hydrocolloid or functional system required to achieve these attributes will depend on the formulation, processing, and storage conditions. 
Q: What challenges and opportunities has the recent wave of dairy protein-fortified water and beverages created for dairy R&D departments?
Rijken: A lot of protein fortification is very difficult, because if you add protein to water, it starts to fog, which is something most people don’t like. At DSM, we have specific enzymes and specific proprietary technology that cuts the protein to pieces. After you’ve done that, you have peptides that do not foam and also provide a clear solution, rather than opaque. It so happens that if you change the dairy proteins into peptides, you add to functionality as well. For example we have one peptide that if consumed in sufficient amounts, it can help you recover more quickly from sports, or improve endurance during sports. Also if you do it right, you can even improve performance. This is not a fairy tale; it is all clinically proven.
Loesel: The challenge and opportunities are that dairy beverages need to compete with energy drinks and waters to provide the same health benefits with extended shelf life, with and without refrigeration. Milk has a natural level of protein so it is a good starting base to compete with non-dairy products, but it does require the correct stabilization systems to ensure quality. Most functional ingredients will impart a flavor and contribute to texture in some way, so it’s the challenge of the product developer to incorporate functional ingredients without negatively effecting final product quality.  
Llaneras: Protein-fortified waters extend the use of dairy protein into non-traditional dairy products. This provides an opportunity for manufactures to think “outside the box” of traditional dairy applications and develop innovative products.
Q: Can you share your concluding thoughts on dairy and functional foods?
Rijken: One big driver behind this functional trend is that, speaking in general, people really do not eat healthy. Everybody is trying to get people to eat healthy, but it simply doesn’t happen. My conclusion is that we should continue to tell people to eat healthy. One approach to make people’s diets healthier is to change the food that people eat to make it more healthy. That is not impossible to do; you can make every food that people eat tasty and healthy — they have to check their portions sizes and their intake themselves, but you can provide smaller portions. We are the beginning of the functional foods era, really. I feel very strongly that in 20 to 30 years, all the food on the market will be functional in some way. If you think that is futuristic, in the Far East, this is not a new thought. In the Far East, health through food has been there for thousands of years. People look at food as a sort of medicine, and have for many ages. In the west we don’t do that, but we are discovering our way to grow in that direction, it is more science-based then tradition-based. We are going for a bright functional foods future.
Llaneras: Consumers are asking for more natural and organic products. Acidified milks, soy-based beverages and processed cheese products using the unique benefits of alginates, pectins, carrageenans and functional blends are also in demand.
Cathy Sivak is a freelance journalist and a former editor of Dairy Field.