Sustainable Ingredients & “Free-from” Ingredients

Senior Product & Strategy Manager, Mathias Bohn V., weighs in on the latest sustainable and “free-from” ingredients.

As published in the July 2023 issue of Perfumer & Flavorist

P&F+: How have consumer demands, labeling, regulations or recent trends influenced recent innovations in the “free-from” ingredients market?

Mathias Bohn [MB]: As the industry continues to evolve through the scientific research of products that contribute to allergic reactions in people, or consumer interest in removing certain ingredients due to the real or perceived perception of wellness, the food industry must respond. The most recent update to sesame being added to the major allergen status has come with multiple challenges from the manufacturers to the consumers concerned about if the change means a concern to their well-being. In multiple cases, products that would often be considered non-allergenic after specific processing are still concerns for the industry and consumers alike. If you have a soy allergen, are you going to eat a product that says “contains soy” even if the form of that product could be considered non-allergenic in the example of soybean oil, or hydrolyzed soy protein? In certain cases, there are a variety of possible alternative ingredients that can be used in substitution such as soy protein being changed to pea or other varieties which may require some taste modulation technology for masking or other taste performance. In others, such as removing gluten, there is a much more challenging functional aspect that must be reviewed and developed that changes the entire basis of the original product.

P&F+: What does the future look like for the “free-from” ingredients market? What are some of the emerging trends?

MB: When reviewing the current and future state of “free-from” this falls within a few broad categories including Nutrition, Allergen, (customer or processing perspective), Sustainability, or Clean-label/Regulatory Claim (vegan, kosher, halal) concerns. More recent concerns that have arisen include ingredients that contribute significant costs or could have large changes in costs such as eggs, or other agricultural sources that vary dynamically based on the changing world environments. Issues ranging from the climate to geo-political concerns can create shortages or key ingredients being completely unavailable have inspired formulators to move away from them. This can be an instance where flavors can still include smaller ratios of ingredients or “type” of flavors that do not contain the profile ingredients without missing the overall taste perception in the finished products.

P&F+: Can you share some of the recent innovations in the “free-from” ingredients market?

MB: The future is very interesting and evolving incredibly quickly with the degree of possible “free-from” opportunities. From the perception of consumers or retailers on what ingredients are “cleaner” than others between sugars, starches and gums that started the “no-no” lists to the evolution of bio-active ingredients possible through precision fermentation or cultured products. These can create new compounds suitable to replace functions or flavors of ingredients or utilize cells of the starting materials that can be produced and managed in a more controlled manner. Other innovations are coming from the ingredient manufacturers themselves with new products that perform similar or better than past offerings with new label opportunities, such as native starches versus modified food starches. Then there is the continuing opportunity for taste modulation from flavors that can mask, enhance, or add taste systems in coordination with the utilized ingredients from alternative or non-traditional ingredients. Especially as the market starts to review the opportunity of free from “added” ingredients such as salt, sugar or MSG as examples. This evolution is driving innovation across the ingredients, flavors and the product formulations for finished products that still meet the expectations of taste along with the brands targets for the labels from the claims, ingredients and nutritional.