“Free-from” novelties spotlighted as innovators eliminate artificial “nasties,” gluten and animal produce
23 Nov 2022 --- The term “free-from” is ubiquitous in the food industry, particularly referring to formulations that cancel out potentially harmful artificial additives, animal products or allergens. The label’s appeal continues to spur functional innovations, which perform identically to traditional recipes.
FoodIngredientsFirst reports live from the showfloor of Free From Functional Food Expo in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, speaking to a variety of exhibitors specializing in gluten-free bakery, versatile cow-free cheeses, clean label tapioca and a new variety of Japanese ponzu.
Melty, spreadable and versatile vegan cheese
Scottish company Bute Island Foods is exhibiting its range of 100% dairy-free Sheese brand of certified vegan cheese alternatives, which are gluten-free and certified kosher.
“We’re the first vegan cheese company from the UK from 1989 and now we’re the biggest cheese brand in the UK. All our products are coconut oil-based and we offer the biggest range of flavors to give vegans the flavor experience they’ve been missing out on,” says Tim Brand, international account manager.
“Our biggest sellers are cheddar, cracked black pepper and spring onion dips. We find they’re really good and popular and can be stirred through pasta sauce or eaten alone.”
The manufacturer of Sheese offers a variety of recipes, which are compatible with its product, including Mediterranean-style vegan skewers, risottos, cheesy shepherd’s pie, puff pastry slices, baked potatoes and pizza.
However, Sheese can also be integrated into fully vegan sweet desserts, such as cheesecakes, cranberry loaves, chocolate tartlets, creamy truffles, rice pudding and carrot cake.
“Achieving texture is a common challenge of alternative cheeses and this is the hardest bit,” highlights Brand. “We use potato starch as one of our key ingredients there, so it gives it a crumbly texture while still being creamy. Coconut oil allows it to melt, which is the best functionality.”
In terms of flavor, Brand notes: “Soy oil is too dominant in flavor and cashew burns too easily when you use it in foods like pizza, so we definitely think coconut oil is the way to go.”
Clean and convenient boba
Bubble tea has been trending for some time as a popular Asian drink now craved across Western markets, thanks in part to consumers’ appetite for discovery and TikTok content featuring the beverage.
At the Free From Functional Food Expo, Natural Isle is presenting its clean label tapioca pearls used in the drink.
“We are a tapioca brand that manufactures tapioca that’s chemical-free. So there’s no preservatives, artificial additives, coloring, flavoring or pigments. We’re a Taiwanese brand and we have our own factory so we make everything ourselves,” comments Sophie Hall, product manager.
“Our tapioca has a variety of different flavors. Our most classic one is brown sugar tapioca. We also add fiber to our tapioca – each packet of tapioca contains around six grams of fiber. So I always jokingly tell people that if you have enough tapioca, you don’t need to have your vegetables for that day.”
In terms of color, Natural Isle’s shade is slightly lighter in comparison to typical tapioca boba due to its lack of added colorants.
“The gist of the company is that we want to produce something that’s tasty but healthy at the same time, which really represents the delicacy of Taiwan, which is tapioca pearls. You can add it to your choice of beverage – oat milk, milk, coffee, tea or whatever you prefer,” highlights Hall.
“Because our products are frozen due to not having preservatives, you can cook them in a microwave, which is the quickest way. For commercial use microwaves, that’s about 1,400 watts for about 50 seconds,” she details.
“For home use, that’s around 800 to 900 watts at around one minute and 45 seconds to two minutes. You can also boil or steam it, and both of those methods require around four to six minutes, until the tapioca is semi-transparent.”
Natural way to sip
Soof Drinks is exhibiting its range of soda alternatives, which are carbonated water-based sweet drinks made from “nothing but fruits, vegetables and herbs.”
“There are no additives, sugar, sweeteners or preservatives. All the ingredients fit on the front of the package, which is a very simple and easy concept,” highlights Nicole Horsmans, who co-founded the brand.
“We have our drinks in cans, made with sparkling water. We also sell syrups, which can be diluted with sparkling water yourself, which is a more sustainable choice. We heat our products through pasteurization, which helps with the preservation.”
Soof offers five different flavors in syrup form – carrot, ginger and apple; lemongrass and pear; and apple and lime. “We also have three different canned drinks – blackcurrant, lavender and apple; rose, cardamom, pear and apple; and lemon, mint and apple,” says Horsmans.
“We work with a Dutch supplier that helps us source in a sustainable way. Our tea comes from China and Argentina, while things like apples come from Central or Eastern Europe, depending on what time of the year it is.”
Meanwhile, gluten-free dough manufacturer Puff & Butter is showcasing its range of products, which are the culmination of seven years of research.
“Getting this kind of gluten-free dough that functions like traditional patisserie is very hard,” says Ildemaro Orellana, general manager. “Gluten-free doughs are hard to work on. It is easier to make a bread, cookie or muffin, but laminated dough is complicated. We had to find the right ingredients and vegetable fibers needed to do this, which we have achieved.”
The company’s own formula is based on corn, rice and tapioca starch fibers. “But we also use psyllium and xanthan gum, which are the most standard gluten-free ingredients for this,” adds Orellana.
“We have puff pastry products, like croissants, pain au chocolats, danishes, palmiers and cheese sticks. We’re also working on more products.”
Japanese brand Mizkan is showcasing its yuzu-flavored ponzu, which is a soy sauce with vinegar and citrus.
“It has a unique, umami and citrus flavor. We are a 200 year old Japanese company, primarily specializing in sushi vinegar,” says Jasper, Business Development Manager.
“We’re seeing more and more yuzu flavors popping up in the market, from beer to ponzu to other ingredients, because it’s citrusy and so versatile,” he continued.
Recent reports have noted the growing popularity of yuzu, especially in hybrid combinations with other flavors, as yuzu-lavender.
“Ponzu is often used withbeef tataki. In general, we notice that the influence of Japanese taste has increased in restaurants. Perhaps the best example of this is the boke bowwl, which has grown in popularity.”
By Benjamin Ferrer, reporting live Free From Functional Food Expo in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
This feature is provided by NutritionInsight’s sister website, FoodIngredientsFirst.
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