According to research conducted by the Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, MI (the survey sampled 400 adults ages 30 to 35 years old), although nearly three-fourths (72%) of breakfast eaters enjoy cereal only in the morning, more than one-fourth (26%) of people snack on it at other times of the day. What does these consumption habits represent to cereal manufacturers? One word: opportunity. Its a new time for cereal, and the endless formulating possibilities bring good news to a food category that, just a decade ago, was shrinking.
In a six-month study of about 100 elementary school students
in Boston, researchers found that children who consumed less than half
of the energy recommended for breakfast had significantly poorer attendance,
punctuality and grades at school. They also had more behavioral problems.
After getting breakfast at school for six months, their attendance,
math grades and behavior improved.
The good news with kids is that, as consumers, sweet,
brightly colored, boldly flavored cereals will forever be attractive
to them. The advertising, promotions and other marketing gimmicks associated
with kids cereals serve as the final hook for making them a mainstay
consumer segment. And even though a serving of many kids cereals
contains as much sugar as some candy bars, in many parents minds,
cereal is one of the best disguises for delivering vital nutrients to
their children. A few years ago, scientists with the USDA Agricultural
Research Service Childrens Nutrition Research Center at Baylor
College of Medicine, Houston, showed that ready-to-eat breakfast cereals
fortified with a moderate amount of calcium could significantly boost
kids calcium intake.
Whats new with kids cereals these days is
not so much the product as the way it is marketed. For example, in February,
Kellogg debuted the latest addition to its line of Disney cereals: Chocolate
Mud & Bugs. Inspired by The Lion King, when milk
is added to the crunchy rock-shaped cereal, kids can stir up muddy chocolate
milk and spoon up colorful marshmallow bugs. Its interactive eating
because they are digging for food just like the characters Pumbaa and
When you look closely, that cereal is really nothing more than not-so-perfectly round chocolate puffs and standard cereal marshmallows simply shaped like bugs. But kids dont know this, nor do they probably realize that its made with whole grains and fortified with 11 vitamins and minerals but most parents do.
A standard 11 vitamins and minerals typically are used
for fortification: vitamins A, C and D, iron, zinc and the six Bs
thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, folic acid and B12. For some manufacturers,
a 12th nutrient calcium has become part of the standard
Unlike other foods, such as enriched bread, there
is no government regulation or standard of identity that puts a limit
on how much of each nutrient can be added to cereal, nor which nutrients
can be added its discretionary, says Ram Chaudhari,
Ph.D., senior executive vice president of research and development,
Fortitech, Inc., Schenectady, NY. However, manufacturers must
be prudent. You do not want to take the chance of overfortifying, which
can lead to toxic levels of certain nutrients. After all, who really
wants to have all nutrients at 100% levels from one serving of cereal?
Typically, the target for the average consumers
intake of nutrients at each meal should be one-fourth, or slightly less,
of the days requirement, assuming three meals and one snack are
consumed. This is why many fortified cereals contain nutrient levels
equivalent to 20% to 25% of the Daily Value (DV). There are times
when marketing a product with 100% DV of certain vitamins and/or minerals
makes sense, Diane Hnat, senior marketing manager for the food
industry unit of Roche Vitamins, says, and developers need to
be aware of appropriate market forms in those cases. Your nutrient supplier
can also help with some of those difficult choices. However, product
designers need to consider more in the equation than just nutrition.
After a cereal manufacturer decides which nutrients
to add, the levels at which they are to be added and the desired shelf
life for the cereal, the product developer must make sure the nutrients
do not negatively affect the odor, flavor or color of the cereal,
Johnson says. They also must be stable over time and sufficient
overage must be added to compensate for losses in processing and storage.
Hnat also observes that product designers need to be cognizant of the
forms of minerals added, as some are more reactive than others.
Chaudhari notes: Nutrients are fine chemicals. They
can react with the actual cereal or even among themselves. He
says that manufacturers can minimize those interactions by adding
the nutrients at different stages, which vary by formulation and process.
For example, nutrients can be mixed into the sugar coating and applied
to the flake, rather than added to the flake directly. Some nutrients
can even be sprayed on right before packaging and not go through any
processing at all.
Another option is to use microencapsulated nutrients,
Chaudhari continues. With iron, which can cause discoloration
as well as metallic off-flavor, cereal manufacturers should either choose
a less reactive form of iron or one that is encapsulated.
Pete Zambetti, national sales director for nutrients,
Balchem Encapsulates, New Hampton, NY, agrees that iron is a challenging
nutrient to add to cereal and highly recommends using a microencapsulated
form to mask off-flavors.
Vitamins A and D are generally not added to the
cereal mix because of temperature and oxygen sensitivity, Johnson
says. In fact, even spraying these vitamins onto the finished
cereal may make them more susceptible to oxidative degradation.
This can be minimized, according to Johnson, if adequate
protection is built into the spray system. Such protection is
most readily provided by an appropriate antioxidant system and a carbohydrate
oxygen barrier in the spray system, he says. An effective
antioxidant system is butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), or a blend of
this with butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), included in the nutrient blend
by the supplier or processed separately into the liner. The simplest
and most-common oxygen barrier is sucrose, or in some cases high-dextrose-equivalent
corn syrup. Sucrose should constitute at least 10% of the spray formula
and generally less than 25% is used.
Vitamin E, as alpha-tocopherol or mixed tocopherols, can
be another effective antioxdant. These forms of the vitamin are not
typically added to cereal for fortification purposes; usually their
addition protects other vitamins from oxidative degradation. For example,
ingredient statements on Cheerios® from General Mills Inc., Minneapolis,
say, Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) added to preserve freshness.
However, in this product, vitamin E is not included on the Nutrition
Facts label, because once these forms act as antioxidants, the resulting
compounds can no longer serve as nutrients.
Rather than added into the spray, vitamin E can be built
into the plastic liner. Antioxidants can be used in plastic packaging
to prevent damage associated with the effects of processing, heat, long-term
storage, and exposure to air and atmospheric pollutants, says
Zambetti. Vitamin E built into the plastic package preserves the
taste, quality and shelf life of cereal.
Another nutrient that has always posed problems
for cereal manufacturers which is why they dont make it
part of the standard package is vitamin C, Zambetti says.
Vitamin C cannot survive high-heat processing, nor the typical
one-year shelf life of most cereal. However, Balchem has recently made
a breakthrough with microencapsulation technology, making vitamin C
stable for cereal applications. We already have a commercial version
that is suitable in nutrition bars.
Microencapsulated vitamin C for cereal has not been commercialized
yet, but Zambetti believes this will happen within the year. This
technology will also allow us to encapsulate highly unstable wellness
ingredients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, another nutrient where encapsulation
is very promising, he says.
An important note for organic cereal manufacturers: Because most micronutrients are not available organically, or they are just too expensive to use in cereal, it is not likely that a fortified cereal will be labeled 100% organic according to the new USDA guidelines, Chaudhari notes. The next level of organic, which is simply organic, is the best option. The term organic can be used on products containing at least 95% organically produced ingredients by weight (excluding salt and water).
Lost between Generation X and the nations senior
population is a consumer segment that could fundamentally change the
marketing landscape of the food industry, states Garrity Communications,
Ithaca, NY, in its recently published report entitled Marketing
2020: Meet the Tweeniors. From now through 2020, Americans age
55 to 70 are poised to become the fastest-growing and most free-spending
segment of the U.S. population. Too old to be categorized as middle
aged, too young to be seniors (in their perspective), the emerging demographic
is wedged in between. They are Tweeniors, a term coined
by Garrity Communications.
Everyone knows about the aging population, but if
all you see is the graying of America, youre shortchanging
the most significant marketing opportunity of the next 20 years,
says Charleen Heidt, director of research and account services at Garrity
Communications. This age group is wealthy and active. They are
highly interested in maintaining a vibrant lifestyle and are extremely
aware of nutrition and health. They want food specific to their nutritional
needs and personal tastes, and are willing to pay for it. Tweeniors
are still quite busy, and any ready-to-eat product that provides a complete,
nutritionally balanced meal is considered a perfect food to them. Cereals
developed with this groups nutritional needs in mind should fare
Linda Gilbert, president, HealthFocus International, Atlanta,
concurs that this segment of the population is a prime candidate for
foods formulated to meet specific nutrition needs. The Baby-Boomer
women are the first generation of females to have to live with the long-term
effects of menopause, particularly bone loss and hormonal fluctuations.
General Mills has developed a breakfast cereal that appeals
to this consumer segment. Described as a low-fat nutritional cereal
for women, Vanilla Almond Oat Harmony is supplemented with calcium,
antioxidants, soy, iron and folic acid.
Cereals formulated for womens health tend
to focus on bone health and energy, says Hnat. Along with
calcium, other nutrients typically added include magnesium and vitamin
D, both of which are necessary for proper calcium absorption. In fact,
cereal is one of the few foods in the marketplace that can be fortified
with vitamin D. Iron, which is part of the standard 11 nutrients for
cereal fortification, is often boosted in cereals that are designed
for women, as iron helps keep energy levels high. For mens health,
levels of the B vitamins tend to be increased and there are more being
associated with cardiovascular health, a major concern for adult males.
Johnson adds, For both men and women, eye health
is very important. Since early 2001, the carotenoid lutein, which is
being studied and associated with eye health, has been Generally Recognized
as Safe (GRAS) for application in ready-to-eat cereals up to 500 mcg
per serving. The dry beadlet form is typically designed for use in cereal.
It can be included in the customers standard nutrient blend.
Lutein is naturally found in dark-green, leafy vegetables;
unfortunately, most people typically do not eat enough of these vegetables
to increase the protective deposits of lutein in the tissues of the
eye. Research shows that low ocular levels of lutein could contribute
to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Research conducted at the
University of Utah School of Medicine,
Salt Lake City, showed that AMD patients who began taking lutein supplements
(4 mg or more per day) were able to return low ocular levels of lutein
back to normal. With AMD being the leading cause of irreversible blindness
among adults 50 years and older, this is good news, especially since
fortifying foods with lutein is now possible. Research also suggests
that lutein deposits may reduce the formation of cataracts and retinal
Zeaxanthin, another eye-health carotenoid, is awaiting
GRAS acceptance in food. Hnat says that we expect acceptance within
the next few months for up to 100 mcg per cereal serving, as lutein
and zeaxanthin should be used in applications at a five-to-one ratio.
Some manufacturers of better-for-you cereals have also
started adding botanical ingredients to their product lines. For example,
Kashi Co., La Jolla, CA, recently rolled out Heart to Heart, which
the company describes as a nutrient-enhanced cereal that promotes heart-health.
Panels on the front of the box state that the cereal contains soluble
fiber, grape-seed extract, green tea, vitamin E, a variety of B vitamins
and other antioxidants. Back panels explain the possible health benefits
of consuming these ingredients.
Heart disease is a multifactorial condition,
says Jeff Johnson, director of nutrition, Kashi. We created (this
cereal) to address heart disease from many different aspects, beyond
just cholesterol reduction. A 3/4-cup serving provides 5 grams
of dietary fiber, including 1 gram of soluble fiber from oats. It has
100% DV for folic acid and vitamins B6, B12 and E. The B vitamins are
essential to the breakdown of homocysteine, an amino acid formed in
the metabolism of protein in the body. When excess homocysteine accumulates
in the blood, it may increase cardiovascular-disease risk. Along with
100% DV of vitamin E, a serving also contains 50% DV of vitamin C, both
powerful antioxidants that protect healthy cells from free-radical damage,
which may lower heart-disease risk. Most unique in Heart to Heart cereal
are the grape seed and green tea extracts. The polyphenols and bioflavoids
in these extracts may help protect against cholesterol build up on vessel
walls, thus supporting heart-health.
Formulators considering adding botanical ingredients to cereal formulations should review the level of scientific support for the ingredients safety and the legality of any label claims. They also need to address the botanicals status as a food ingredient. In recent months, FDA has expressed concern over improper use and claims regarding botanicals and has issued warnings to companies with questionable products. Ensuring FDA compliance before a product goes to market saves later compliance costs and a companys reputation.
Fiber. Most consumers know
that whole-grain cereals pack more nutrition than those made from refined
grains. After all, whole grains include the germ and bran portions of
the grain kernel, which are rich in fiber and B vitamins.
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences recently established
the first Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for dietary fiber as 38 grams
per day for men and 25 grams per day for women. The current median intakes
of dietary fiber for men and women are 17 and 13 grams per day, respectively,
presenting an incredible opportunity to fortify foods (particularly
grain-based foods) because consumers are already familiar with them
as a source of fiber.
A recent dietary study conducted at Cardiff University,
Wales, United Kingdom, shows that people who enjoy a high-fiber diet
are happier, more energetic and think more quickly. Specifically, the
study showed that a diet including whole-grain cereals has a marked
effect on mental health.
Fiber comes in two primary types: insoluble and soluble.
Each possesses unique functionalities.
Insoluble fibers are the more-common fiber ingredients
and traditionally have been the type used to boost fiber content in
cereals and breads. Insoluble fibers help prevent constipation and diverticulosis,
and, in animal studies, have been shown to reduce the risk of developing
A rather new insoluble-fiber ingredient with application
in cereal is derived from the pulp of the carob fruit. Commercially
available as Caromax from Nutrinova Inc., Somerset, NJ, manufacturers
can add carob fiber to all types of cereals as either a classical dietary-fiber
component or as a functional ingredient.
Carob fiber has some interesting health-promoting properties.
Clinical trials have shown that carob-fiber-enriched foods can significantly
reduce blood-cholesterol levels especially low-density lipoproteins
(LDL, or bad cholesterol) without adverse reactions. Furthermore,
carob fiber contains substantial amounts of insoluble and soluble polyphenols,
which have strong antioxidative potential. Carob fiber protects the
cereal against oxidative degradation, and also has been shown to improve
cereals texture and color. Try adding carob fiber to cereal formulations
with other dry ingredients at levels of 5% to 10%.
Another source of insoluble fiber is resistant starch.
Resistant starch is so named because it is resistant to the effects
of digestive enzymes and is not digested in the small intestine,
says David Huang, market development manager at National Starch. When
consumed, it functions more like fiber than starch.
Many dietary-fiber sources bind water, which, during processing,
can have a negative effect, and on the final product, can exert a gritty
mouthfeel and a characteristic fiber taste. Novelose resistant
starches have low water-holding capacity, small particle size and bland
flavor, so they facilitate processing and improve a cereals appearance,
texture and mouthfeel, Huang adds. Fiber levels can be boosted
in cereals and the consumer would never know it from a visible or sensory
point of view.
Within the soluble-fiber category, the source can create
noticeable health differences. For example, the soluble fiber found
in oat bran and psyllium has been shown to bind dietary cholesterol
as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract, helping the body eliminate
cholesterol and lower blood-cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk
of heart disease. This soluble fiber can also trap carbohydrates, slowing
their digestion and absorption, and helping prevent wide swings in blood-sugar
levels throughout the day.
Devon, PA, recently introduced a highly concentrated oat fiber. OatVantage
contains 10 times more oat beta-glucan than other oat-bran ingredients,
says Gregory Stephens, vice president of sales and marketing. When
OatVantage is added to foods, such as cereal, consumers may receive
the cholesterol-lowering benefits of oat-bran soluble fiber at a far
more convenient dose level than previously possible.
An individual serving of a non-oat-based cereal formulated
to contain 1.5 grams of this concentrated oat fiber will deliver 750
mg of oat beta-glucan, enabling use of the FDA heart-health claim: Soluble
fiber from foods such as oats, as part of a diet low in saturated fat
and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. The amount
of beta-glucan soluble fiber needed daily for an effect on cholesterol
is about 3 grams.
Another soluble fiber with application in cereal is inulin,
which has been shown to reduce blood-triglyceride levels, increase calcium
absorption and improve digestive health via prebiotic stimulation of
friendly gut bacteria. Inulin passes through the small intestine
and enters the large intestine undigested, where it selectively nourishes
beneficial bacteria, says Barry Schwartz, marketing manager, Orafti
Active Food Ingredients, Malvern, PA. The Raftilose® Synergy
1 ingredient is a special combination of inulin and oligofructose that
is clinically proven to boost calcium absorption by 20%.
With extruded cereals, inulin can be added at concentrations
up to 30% with no loss of expansion, Schwartz continues. The
cereals are typically crunchier and exhibit an increase in bowl life
(does not get soggy when milk is added), as compared to cereals without
inulin. With granola or cluster cereals, inulin can be added at levels
up to 5% in combination with other sugars. The mixture helps bind the
Flax. Shiny, reddish-brown
flaxseeds a little larger than sesame seeds are harvested
from the blue-flowered flax plant. Flaxseeds have a crisp and
chewy texture, and a nutty flavor profile, making it ideal for application
in hot and cold cereals, says Thomas Payne, president, Thomas
J. Payne Market Development, San Mateo, CA., consultants to the food
industry. The two commercial forms of flaxseed whole and
milled can be used as either a topping, in an inclusion or as
part of the cereal.
Flaxseed is very low in saturated fatty acids, and very
high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are associated with retina and brain
development in infants. In adults, omega-3s have been shown to reduce
the risk of certain cancers, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and
What makes flaxseed stand out in the fiber area
is that it contains generous quantities of both soluble and insoluble
fiber, adds Payne. Dietary fiber accounts for about 28% of the
dry weight of full-fat flaxseed, with about one-third being soluble
and the other two-thirds insoluble.
Fruits and nuts. Raisins
have long been the traditional packaged-cereal fruit. Not only
do they add flavor, color and texture, they contribute to overall iron,
thiamin, magnesium, potassium and copper levels, says Payne. Raisins
also contain dietary fiber, including soluble fiber, as well as phenolic
compounds, several of which function as antioxidants because they have
been shown to slow the potentially damaging cell oxidation process.
According to the Kellogg survey, fruit is the top choice
among nonliquid cereal toppings, with nearly 38% of people getting some
of their 5 A Day quota by adding fruit to their flakes,
loops or puffs. Consumers appear to understand that deep-colored fruits,
such as those from the berry and cherry families, are rich in health-promoting
phytochemicals such as anthocyanins and phenolics. These antioxidants
are associated with protecting against chronic diseases, including cancer.
New research out of the Agricultural Research Service
Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University,
Boston, shows that blueberries, when fed to laboratory rats, boost brain
power. Lab rats fed blueberry supplements equal to 1 cup daily in humans
had an increased birth rate of brain cells in the region responsible
for memory, as compared to rats not fed the blueberry supplements. The
blueberry-supplemented rats also did better in memory tests than did
Blueberries had previously been shown to have a
beneficial effect on eyesight, memory and other aspects of aging,
says Payne. Tuft researchers have also shown that a 1/2-cup of
blueberries provides a daily dose of antioxidants, which may act to
protect the body against damage from oxidative stress, one of several
biological processes implicated in aging.
The big three cereal manufacturers
General Mills, Kellogg and Kraft Foods, Northfield, IL, with its Post
brand have recently added berries to one of their mainstay cereals.
General Mills offers Berry Burst Cheerios in two varieties: Strawberry
and Triple Berry (strawberries, blueberries and raspberries). Kelloggs
Fruit Harvest either comes with strawberries, blueberries and sliced
almonds, or with cinnamon-flavored apple slices and sliced almonds.
And lastly, Post added a strawberry version to its Honey Bunches of
Oats® original Honey Roasted and With Almond varieties.
All three lines provide the taste and experience of eating
fresh berries by using freeze-dried fruit. Freeze-drying helps the berries
maintain their original appearance, texture and nutrition. The apple
pieces are vacuum-dried using a patented method that locks in natural
color and aroma, and delivers a fresh taste. When milk is added to these
cereals, the fruit rehydrates and tastes like the fresh, real thing.
Nuts are a natural complement to fruit, especially in
cereal. Research shows that most nuts are a rich source of monounsaturated
fats, which have been shown to help lower LDL levels and, thus, help
decrease the risk of coronary heart disease. Nuts give cereal crunch,
enhancing sensory attributes. They can be added diced, sliced, slivered
or as meal in a coating system.
Almonds, by far, are the most common nuts included in
cereal. However, product designers can provide variety by expanding
the repertoire For example, hazelnuts, with their rich, indulgent, exotic
character, are starting to show up in more upscale, adult cereals. Hazelnuts
are a natural fit in the breakfast-cereal line, says Bonnie Gorder-Hinchey,
a culinary director representing the Hazelnut Council, New York. Their
slightly sweet, nutty flavor pairs well with the different grains and
enhances the wholesome perception of the cereal.
Soy. Since the 1999 approval
of the health claim linking soy protein with lowering cholesterol levels
and, thus, reducing the risk of heart disease, a plethora of soy-containing
cereals have entered the marketplace. Some state the FDA-approved claim
on their package. To be able to do so, the product must provide 6.25
grams of soy protein per serving, which is one-fourth of the effective
level of 25 grams per day. However, others do not, because the claim
is limited to only those products containing soy protein. Many of these
cereals use other soy ingredients, such as naturally concentrated soy
The germ of the soybean contains a large amount
of phytonutrients. In fact, it has about 20 times more the amount of
key better-for-you components, as compared to the rest of the bean,
says Walter Wilms, North American food account manager, Acatris Inc.,
Minneapolis, MN. This means you can formulate a soy-based food
with 20 times less soy ingredient and still get the same amount of beneficial
Soy protein as an isolate or concentrate contains
protein and low amounts of isoflavones, continues Wilms, but
SoyLife®, which is a 100% natural food ingredient made exclusively
from the germ of the soybean, contains a minimum of 15 mg of isoflavones
per gram, plus protein, folic acid, omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, vitamin
E, lecithin, saponins, and phytosterols.
Although marketers cannot make a soy-protein claim when
cereals contain such a soy isoflavone ingredient, they can state soy
isoflavone levels. Most consumers who buy better-for-you foods
understand the benefits of consuming isoflavones and find this information
just as, if not more, useful than a health claim, Wilms says.
Labeled as soy germ flour, the milled version works best in cereals, both hot and cold, with the isoflavones very stable in extrusion processes, Wilms says. The unmilled version is more applicable in granola-type cereals, as well as other coarse cereals where visual ingredient verification and/or crunchy texture is important. Typically manufacturers formulate cereal in order to provide 0.5 to 2.0 grams of SoyLife per serving, he concludes. At this level, there are no sensory drawbacks, and impressive soy isoflavone content claims can be made on labels.
Recently, researchers successfully substituted sugar on
cereal rings with the polyol isomalt. Discovered in the 1970s by Palatinit
GmbH, Mannheim, Germany, GRAS isomalt is made from sucrose and looks
much like table sugar. It confers a mild sweetness to foods, enhancing
especially subtle fruity, nutty or malt flavors, which is one reason
why it works so well on cereal, says Bodo Fritzsching, technical
services department, Palatinit.
Isomalt is a mixture of two disaccharide alcohols
gluco-mannitol and gluco-sorbitol. It is characterized as a bulk sweetener
and substitutes for sugar in a 1:1 mass ratio. Common applications include
hard candies, chewing gum, chocolate and various pharmaceuticals, but
now it has opportunities in cereal. Not only did the isomalt-sweetened
cereal taste just as good as the sugar-sweetened cereal, but researchers
identified other benefits, including a better crunch and an extended
bowl life, as compared to sugar-sweetened rings.
The cereal rings consisted of a basic recipe of 69.3%
wheat flour, 15.0% oatmeal, 2.1% malt, 0.6% salt and 12.0% bulk sweetener
either sugar or isomalt. In addition to being a part of
a cereal formula, isomalt can also be used in a sweetening glaze on
cereal, Fritzsching says. Being low hygroscopic, isomalt
also improved the cereals shelf life. The isomalt-sweetened cereal
remained virtually unchanged after six months of storage, whereas the
sugar-sweetened samples were reduced by 18% of their bite force.
Besides the product properties and production benefits,
isomalt offers consumer benefits, including the fact that it provides
around 2 calories per gram, unlike sucroses four. Isomalt also
does not promote dental caries nor increase blood glucose or insulin
Another option for lowering sugar levels in cereal while still maintaining some sweetness is to use oligofructose, which, like inulin, is a source of insoluble fiber. Oligofructose provides 30% of the sweetness of sucrose, says Schwartz. Oligofructose wont cause an insulin response and can thus reduce the glycemic index of formulated cereals. At the same time it helps reduce sugar levels, oligofructose also improves taste and texture. In extruded cereals, oligofructose can be added at concentrations up to 15% to increase bowl life and crunchiness. Some decrease in expansion occurs, but the product has a uniform cell structure and pore size. It can also be used at levels of 10% to 15% in coatings for flakes, and levels up to 15% will bind particles in granola and clusters, increasing crunchiness and bowl life.
Trans fatty acids occur
when an unsaturated fat is hydrogenated to improve stability. Most naturally
occurring unsaturated fatty acids are in the cis
isomer form, which is when hydrogen atoms are on the same side of the
double bond. When atoms are on opposite sides, they are in the trans
isomer position. This change in atom positioning is undesirable from
a health standpoint, as trans fatty acids
are associated with increasing total and LDL cholesterol levels.
Because most breakfast cereals are low in fat, many containing
no fat at all, the trans-fatty-acid issue
is not a concern for the cereal industry as a whole. However, cereals
such as granola or cereals containing granola-like nuggets, can be quite
high in fat.
Weve reduced the fat content of Raspberry
Heritage® granola by 21% and SoyPlus granola by a whopping
38%, says Arran Stephens, president, Natures
Path Foods Inc., Delta, British Columbia, Canada. A 1-cup serving
of Raspberry Heritage now contains 7 grams of fat, of which 0.5 grams
is saturated. SoyPlus contains 9 grams of fat, of which 1 gram is saturated.
The companys chief food scientist, Parimal Rana,
points out that fat is integral to granolas taste profile. The
difficulty in reformulating these recipes lay in maintaining the taste
profile while reducing the one ingredient that produces a significant
part of the flavor, Rana says. The company neutralized lower fat
levels by boosting the other elements of the flavor and extending the
toasting time of the oats.
Natures Path uses canola oil, which is trans-fatty-acid
free. However, many cereals that include a fat ingredient tend to use
partially hydrogenated oil for stability and flavor. If FDA decides
to require food manufacturers to quantify trans-fatty-acid content on
a separate line on food labels with many in the food industry
believing that a ruling is imminent by the end of the year cereal
manufacturers may decide to reformulate and replace trans-fatty-acid-containing
fats with better-for-you fats.
There is even less certainty regarding the impact of acrylamide
on the cereal industry, if, in fact, there is any concern at all. In
June 2002, researchers from the Swedish National Food Administration
and Stockholm University reported that they found acrylamide in a variety
of fried and oven-baked foods. This chemical is carcinogenic in rats,
and although no human carcinogenicity has been shown in epidemiological
studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies
acrylamide as probably carcinogenic to humans. This past
January, about six months after the Swedish acrylamide scare, researchers
in the United States and Sweden said they found no correlation between
high intakes of acrylamide in food and cancer, reports FDA.
The exact chemical mechanism by which acrylamide forms
is being researched. Current theories involve reactions of carbohydrates,
proteins or amino acids, lipids and the possibility of other food components
acting as precursors. The Maillard reaction may influence acrylamide
formation. High temperatures promote the reaction and the level increases
with the time of heating. Therefore, given the formula and process by
which it is made, cereal typically can contain measurable levels of
Two months after the Swedish study, a joint consultation
of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was held. The organizations
provided recommendations and next steps to better understand the risk
to human health posed by acrylamide in food, which can be viewed at
www.who.int/fsf/Acrylamide/Sum mary reportFinal.pdf. In general, WHO/FAO
reinforces the old principle of consuming a well-balanced diet and moderating
consumption of fried and fatty foods.
For cereal, FDA lists a value of 266 ppb for Cheerios,
176 ppb for Lucky Charms, 52 ppb for Frosted Flakes, 156 ppb for Raisin
Bran and 47 ppb for Rice Krispies. (To compare, foods in which acrylamide
is not formed such as frozen green beans, gelatin dessert, quick-cooking
tapioca pudding, fish sticks, canned tuna and baby formula had
measured values of less than 10 ppb.)
FDA has taken no official position on acrylamide, as no one really knows for sure if the acrylamide levels found in foods cause cancer in humans. The results revealed this January spurred comments such as, We found absolutely nothing to support the theory of increased risk, which was reported in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. However, many researchers following the acrylamide issue caution that it is too soon to jump to the other extreme and say that conclusions that acrylamide is harmless should not be made. Hopefully, continued research will gain the needed insight to determine if there are long-term ramifications with eating large amounts of heat-processed, carbohydrate-rich foods.
For example, starch ingredients can help improve the texture,
mouthfeel, bowl life and shelf life of cereal. Traditionally,
manufacturers added 5% to 10% high-amylose starch to cereal in order
to make it a little harder. This helps keep the cereal crunchy in the
bowl once milk is added, says Huang. However, cereals made
using extrusion cannot include high-amylose starch, as the high shear
and high heat encountered during extrusion causes the starch to break
Cross-linked starches provide resistance to shear
and excessive heat, Huang adds. These starches resist granular
disruption and prevent over-expansion. They will provide extruded cereals
with textural variance ranging from soft crispiness to hard crunchiness.
Specialty starches for cereal can be either corn- or tapioca-based.
Tapioca starches have a bland flavor and work best in non-corn-based
cereals that are highly flavorful, says Huang. Corn-based
starches complement the natural corn taste in cereals made with corn
Starch can improve granola, too. Consumers typically prefer
more clusters rather than loose ingredients, with the latter a sign
of the product being old, of poor quality or abused during distribution.
Granola cereals are typically a mixture of oats, sweetener, fruits,
nuts and some fat. When starch is added with the other dry ingredients,
it effectively binds granola, creating desirable clusters, Huang
concludes. With whole-grain, biscuit-style cereal, specialty starches
act as a binder and processing aid to form the web of shredded grains.
Cereals are evolving with consumer lifestyles and nutritional needs. Its a new time for cereal, and its not just for breakfast anymore.
Donna Berry, president of Chicago-based Dairy & Food Communications, Inc., a network of professionals in business-to-business technical and trade communications, has been writing on product development and marketing for nine years. Prior to that, she worked for Kraft Foods in the natural-cheese division. Donna has a B.S. in food science from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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