Cereal and snack focus

Roquette opens its doors to healthy snack ingredients

By Anthony Fletcher in Lestrem

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Roquette, Nutrition

Roquette, a global leader in starches, has developed new
ingredients designed to help snack makers tap the health trend, as
FoodNavigator discovered on a visit to the group's headquarters in
Lestrem, France.

The family-owned business, which now has operations spanning the globe, was established at a time when the major preoccupation of agriculture was ensuring that people had enough to eat.

Now of course the emphasis is on quality, and more specifically, on health.

"There has been a switch of emphasis from food to nutrition,"​ said Jean-Luc Dufour, development director of Roquette's food business unit.

"The drive for less calories, less sugar and fat and more fibre content is everywhere."

Sales of food and beverage categories considered by consumers as being unhealthy are, in general, falling. Combined with growing regulatory pressure on the industry to provide healthier food, this provides a strong incentive for food makers to invest in new ingredients.

The health trend also provides companies such as Roquette with the opportunity to develop new ingredients to fit new emerging markets. Catherine Lefranc, nutrition communication manager at Roquette, said that the firm has been involved in producing health products for more than 20 years, and has become increasingly sensitive to the different needs of consumers.

"Different areas of the world often have different concerns, and we have to take these into account,"​ she said. "In Japan for example, you can't mention stress, its just not a culturally acceptable. The same goes for nutritional claims - it all depends on the regulations and the culture."

Emily Lauwaert, from Roquette's food business unit, agrees that it is vital that the company understands the environment in which its customers operate. In confectionery for example, Roquette has developed solutions to enhance crunchiness and enable the taste in sugar free gum.

Roquette claims that Maltisorb crystalline maltitol, obtained by hydrogenation of maltose, a natural sugar extracted from cereals, was proven in tests to be superior to other competitors. It is now the leading polyol in many countries for this specific market. Maltisorb maltitol is also being used in other applications such as chocolate and biscuits.

"Sugar free snacks are becoming a significant market,"​ said Bruno Gehin, Roquette's baking, snack and meat market development director. "Consumers are beginning to understand what maltitol is."

The popularity of snack ingredients such Maltitol comes on the back of WHO recommendations that stipulate that too much energy is obtained from simple sugars. Such concerns have driven the sugar-free and reduced sugar snack sector.

Another dietary consideration of course is the consumption - or lack of consumption - of fibre. Roquette believes that its Nutriose product can help food makers achieve a better ingredient balance without sacrificing flavour.

The ingredient, a soluble dietary fibre made from wheat or maize, can be added to recipes to help food makers make positive nutritional claims on their products. There is currently of course a big push to increase the amount of fibre consumed.

One of the reasons the snack industry has such a bad reputation - and is being blamed by many for the current obesity crisis - is that many products contain empty calories and quick-release energy. Roquette claims that Nutriose, on the hand, offers extended energy release. "This has been proven in clinical trials,"​ said Yves le Bot, global manager of Roquette's confectionery operations.

It could be used therefore to provide the benefits of brown bread in what is ostensibly white bread. "The general trend in this market is that if a consumer tries something and it tastes good, they will try it again,"​ said Gehin.

One interesting new development has been the launch of a pea protein called Nutralys. Although the core business of Roquette is starches, the company is beginning to look more closely at how protein ingredients could be used in the snack market.

"It is clear that there is demand for protein,"​said Gehin. "The market has become more and more conscious of the importance of 'protein rich' products. Lots of foods could add this claim."

There is an opportunity here. Traditional sources of protein such as meat have negative issues surrounding them such as safety, availability and price. Protein-enriched snacks could therefore prove to be an interesting new market and concept.

For example, Roquette has recently developed extruded pea protein pellets, called Crispea, which have a high protein content. The company envisages that this could be the future - a healthy protein-rich snack.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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