FUNctional Foods: Providing Health Benefits in Great Tasting Foods
JEFF HOLTZ VP Quality and Innovation, THRIVE ice cream
Mr. Holtz began by addressing a popular perception on food’s healthfulness and taste. He said over 60% of Americans subscribe to the idea that the healthfulness of foods are inversely related to its tastiness. In other words, if it’s good for you, it must not taste good. He spoke about a study done at the University of Texas in 2006, showing this food bias is found when a label showed a product to be “less healthy” then people assumed it tasted better and would bring them more enjoyment. It’s a subconscious effect, he said, people will gravitate to non-healthy because they believe it will taste better.
Mr. Holtz said based on these findings, two things are needed: 1) Make healthy foods more desirable, or “cool,” and; 2) Make healthy foods actually taste better! He said nutritious food does not have to taste bad, it just takes more time and energy to create a better tasting nutritious product.
His product, THRIVE ice cream, was created to solve a nutrition gap for many segments of the population. The elderly, hospitalized, picky eaters, athletes and those with loss of appetite all need products that are enjoyable and offer enhanced nutrition. THRIVE ice cream and gelato products are an alternative to liquid supplement, which often carry bad aftertaste, a lingering metallic flavor, and just bad flavor, especially when warm, he said.
Mr. Holtz said “it’s not nutrition until it is consumed” so if food ends up in the garbage due to bad taste, it has had no nutritional value. THRIVE products carry added complete milk protein, natural soluble dietary fiber, 24 vitamins and minerals and 4 live and active strains of probiotics.
The probiotics used by THRIVE is a product called BC-30. It has been extensively studied, and, according to Mr. Holtz, has been proven to increase protein absorption, immunity and digestive health, bowel movements, gut microbiome and to decrease gas, diarrhea and bloating.
The product and flavor development process for these products was lengthy. Mr. Holtz said they encountered a lot or R&D challenges over the 10-month timespan. They were seeking ingredients for their functionality, proven flavors, fibers and proteins. There were many ingredient trials and combinations tried. He said they found regular ice cream flavors would not work easily, especially vanilla extract.
Background flavors from protein, vitamins and minerals and a high level of solids affected the ability to flavor and achieve the desired taste. He found that the order of incorporation of ingredients also affected the finished product. “If we put the salt in too late,” he said “or the protein in too early, the product got too viscous.”
While he had intended on using a good vanilla for these products, the total solids, fiber issues worked against the flavor. “The good news,” he said “is that the dairy, fat and solids, the sugar and the cold temperatures helped in formulation. The dairy helped “encapsulate” vitamins and minerals and avoided the metallic aftertaste. The frozen form helps mask some of the “off” flavors in the formula.
Mr. Holtz spoke about the many areas of new product markets for THRIVE. He said diet centers in hospitals need a low carb, high protein product for weight control. THRIVE created one using allulose and stevia. He has found many needs outside of the nutritional market already served. Mr. Holtz said his company is always looking for new and emerging flavors and ingredients to help grow their fortified category.