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4th most popular ingredient in savoury food

By Dr. Peter Henriksen, International Business Manager, Azelis

In today's market place, food manufacturers need to invest more and more in sales and marketing activities, and often this is taken away from the companies' innovation budget. It is therefore crucial that major ingredients suppliers are ready and equipped to serve innovative solutions to the food manufacturers.

Azelis has invested heavily in R&D food laboratories worldwide and equipped them with highly educated technologists that are fully aware of the trends happening in the market. In the Asia-Pacific region, the company is investing and growing significantly and the food industry is a key area. One of the products in focus is our smoke flavouring under the brand name Scansmoke.

Grilling and BBQ are extremely popular trends around the world. Television cooking shows and food magazines are describing in detail the art of smoking various foods - from traditional meat dishes like beef and lamb over potatoes and onions - to fruit desserts. In Europe, about 30% of all 'smoked' foods are the result of added flavourings, rather than traditional methods, and this is set to grow to 70% in the next five years.

CHARRED, BURNED OR SMOKY NOTES

Mintel ranks smoke flavourings as the fourth most popular ingredient in new savoury food launches in Europe in the last 3-4 years, after cheese (mainly mozzarella), potatoes and nuts. Approximately 17% of all menus in the US have some kind of charred, burned or smoky notes. That's not just the main traditional dishes, but sweet desserts too. Smoke is flavouring chocolate and honey, and even tea and coffee.

Despite the growth in popularity, there are consumers who imagine smoked flavours are the result of a chemical reaction in a big factory. This is far from true. Smoke flavouring is still manufactured by burning wood or sawdust, as was the case with traditional methods. The smoke vapours are then condensed and trapped in cold water to remove the tar. With other words, smoke is 'put into a bottle'.

The company offers some of the most concentrated smoke flavourings in the world, making them very popular in the flavour and spice blends industry. The smoke flavourings can be found in powders, oils and water-soluble forms which makes them suitable for all types of applications. The flavourings are very popular in the snacks industry for products that include notes of bacon, ham and BBQ. Soups and various types of BBQ sauces are also popular applications. This Scandinavian range includes other beech wood flavours that can replace traditional smoking and add a premium taste flavor and golden colour to the food item.

The advantages of transitioning to smoke flavouring are plenty. For a start it is healthier, as the tar has been removed, and it is also cleaner. The messy reality of tar particles clinging to walls, floors, cracks and, most importantly, food products, is eradicated. Smoke flavourings also help ensure quality control. A pump that atomises liquid smoke will result in a standardised end-product in a way that burning sawdust, which could be more or less wet or varied in temperature, will not. It is also possible to dip or shower the food product to get same smoky end result. The company's products make for faster smoking, which translates into higher yields. Plus there is reduced weight loss.

The Indian cuisine with its broad spectra of mouth-watering dishes opens a world of opportunities for smoke flavourings. Tandoori dishes, already with smoky notes, are some of the most popular targets for smoke flavourings. However, the Indian cuisine with its wealth of protein bases like lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas in various soups, stews, curries and dips calls for a touch of smoke flavouring. Not to impart a smoky flavour as such, but to give a meaty note or simply to improve the overall flavour.

In some dishes, smoke flavourings can add a salty note to the final food product, making it possible to reduce the addition of salt in the final recipe. A flavour boosting effect of smoke flavourings is something that will be used more and more in the food industry. The use of flavourings such as smoke, that can resemble monosodium glutamate or yeast as a flavour enhancer, will also increase. Rather than act as the sole smoky flavour, it can be added in low dosage to soups and sauces to boost the overall flavour profile without being smoky.

It's not just about the taste. Smoke flavourings are effective colouring agents too, achieved through the Maillard Reaction. This reaction naturally takes place when foods containing proteins and sugars are heated at high temperatures. Scangold accelerates the Maillard Reaction and creates colour in a shorter time. The result is a far more natural golden colour than is achieved through traditional 'painting' techniques, which impart a less-than-convincing caramel hue and can make meat look and taste much better. Especially with microwaved food, the colour and texture of the final food with Scangold reminds the consumer of oven-cooked products. In bakery applications, the process adds flavour and crust to biscuits, crackers, pies and bread. In sweet goods, the use of colours such as annatoo and carotene can be replaced by the use of Scangold.

Smoke flavourings are good news for the growing vegan market. Many traditional meat companies want 30-50% of turnover in the next five years to come from vegan or non-meat products. Smoke flavourings will play a key role in creating an association with meaty notes.

The next generation of smoke flavourings includes smoke flavourings where the preservative components in smoke have been isolated or upgraded. Thousands of years ago, smoking preserved food. By isolating preservative components in smoke, shelf life of meat products can be significantly increased.

Article published in the December issue of Ingredients South Asia.

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