The building blocks of product success: How functional blends are speeding up product development

6 May 2021

INFUSE by Cargill™ tailors ingredient blends to help customers speed up the product development process. Plant-based cold cut meat alternatives are just one example of a category where customers can benefit from this application expertise.

Today’s consumers are becoming increasingly mindful of the food they eat and where the ingredients come from. They seek innovative, sensory experiences. At the same time, clean label, plant-based, nutritional profile and sustainability continue to influence purchasing decisions.

The building blocks of product success: How functional blends are speeding up product development

These changing consumer demands mean that the future shopping list includes more plant-based choices, less sugar & calories, a growing array of label friendly ingredients, protein & fiber rich foods, and an increased array of healthier options.

Blended to perfection

Given today’s complex formulation challenges, the days of solving problems with a single ingredient are gone. This is why there is a growing demand for functional blends to simplify and speed up product development through to production, and thereby minimize complexity and room for error.

Cargill has more than 40 years of experience in blending functional ingredients, grounded on a vast knowledge of ingredient synergies and formulation expertise, and exemplified through custom texture blends. But now the company is taking this even further.

June 2021 marks the one year anniversary of the introduction of INFUSE by Cargill™. This new service offering model is all about tailoring ingredient blends to answer specific customers’ requests to develop innovative products that help meet challenging consumer demands. Following the initial success booked in Europe, the service is being launched to customers in the META (Middle East Turkey Africa) region.

“INFUSE by Cargill™ is about offering manufacturers the right expertise to support selecting the building blocks of ingredients that will help to deliver the winning solution for their product development,” says Hannah Keenan, INFUSE by Cargill™ Business Development Manager.

Set up at the crux of innovation and reformulation, the service helps customers to overcome the technical challenges involved in removing functional ingredients such as sugars or those from animal-based sources. By expanding the reach of blends to go far beyond texture alone, and therefore incorporate ingredients such as fibers and alternative proteins, new on trend avenues are opening up for customers. “By adding ingredients for sweetness and enrichment, we are now able to offer trend-driven solutions for our customers that respond to formulation challenges such as nutritional balance, label-friendly, plant-based, vegan, and free from,” Hannah notes.

Benoit Henne, INFUSE Product Manager stresses that these functional blends are truly designed with customers in mind, both in terms of their uniqueness and speed to market – no one system is the same. “Starting from individual customer needs, we leverage our broad Cargill ingredient portfolio to help design tailor-made solutions that work towards a customer’s specific application needs,” he notes. “Our blended ingredient solutions allow customers to simplify and speed up product development. It’s this agility that helps them stay fully in tune with consumer trends,” Benoit adds.

A cold cut above the rest

Since the aim of INFUSE by Cargill™ is to enable customers to stay up to date with major product development trends, demonstrating the service’s potential in plant-based cold cut meat alternatives is an obvious example of how this application and formulation expertise can be best employed.

Plant-based cold cuts for snacking aim to replicate products like sliced fine paste sausages, as well as Lyoner, Parizer, Mortadella or ham sausage types, and are predominantly aimed at flexitarians. These flexible vegetarians are reducing their meat consumption and seeking nutritional vegetable protein options that are low in saturated fats, but without compromising on that succulent texture and great taste that they get from “the real deal.”

For a product developer, achieving these organoleptic and technical attributes is easier said than done. This is clear from the marketplace, where many of the meat alternative cold cut products available are sometimes perceived as either too hard & brittle, or too soft & crumbly. Furthermore, many manufacturers are clearly tending to reduce that tell-tale plant protein aftertaste by overdosing on the flavor. 

With this in mind, the INFUSE by Cargill™ team set out to support Cargill customers in overcoming the technical challenges that this new and growing category presents. As Zuzana Van Beveren, Application Principal Scientist Lead, EMEA, at Cargill explains, the team’s trend knowhow, agility and tailored approach was used to help overcome technical challenges such as maintaining sliceability, getting the right texture while binding water, but without compromising on the taste of the end product.  The resultant concept was developed using pea protein isolate, which was recently added to Cargill’s protein offering for Europe.

She notes how an ingredient blend was specifically designed to deliver core processing requirements and shelf-life stability, through synergies between texturizers and fibers.  “The use of seaweed extracts and gums, boosted the gelation of the protein source and offered easy slicing, while fiber provided excellent water binding and moisture holding, which in turn improved the shelf-life,” Zuzana explains. 

“And finally, the specifically selected label-friendly starch improved cooking stability at higher temperatures, and contributed to that commonly desired meaty texture,” she adds.

Under the INFUSE by Cargill™ service, several new functional binding systems have already been developed that are suitable for a wide range of plant protein products. The versatile systems allow customers to create high-quality, meat-free sliced products using different plant protein sources, including pea protein, that consumers can enjoy without compromising on taste and nutrition.

The plant-based cold cuts solutions require no allergen declaration, and do not contain soy, lactose and gluten. Furthermore, they meet the conditions for certain high protein and energy reduced claims that help meet the additional consumer demand for nutritionally balanced plant-based meat alternatives. Applying this solution means that a Nutri-score value of B is possible when the overall food matrix is considered.

“These concepts show that we are delivering truly on trend solutions and have the agility in house to adapt recipes to these trends and serve up tailor-made options for our customers,” Zuzana summarizes.

The building blocks for product success

But the development of appetizing plant-based cold cuts is just one example of what’s possible with the INFUSE by Cargill™ service. Within the plant-based space, Cargill is currently developing plant based hot dogs, formulated with pea protein, to broaden its offering. But its’ competence cuts across platforms.

Just some of other great recent projects that the teams have been involved in include reduced sugar ice creams, vegan confectionery, plant-based bakery, dairy alternatives and protein-enriched smoothies.
In fact, whether a customer is looking for a partner to help grow in new markets or range extensions, support product reformulation or speed up technical development time, INFUSE by Cargill™ can offer solutions across a broad range of applications. 

“We can support a customer’s development challenges, by bringing together our capabilities and sharing them,” Hannah notes. “This model includes providing customers with marketing data, as well as regulatory aspects; all together in one approach.  This approach leads to on-trend solutions and prototypes that have been created and validated based on market insights, and with speed of concept in mind.”

She stresses that the INFUSE by Cargill™ team of experts is continuously working to discover and create synergies and new ingredient functionalities which can be applied and tailor-made according to specific needs.  Furthermore, a dedicated ingredient team is in place to help manage the supply chain and minimize sourcing risk. 

Whether a customer requires sweeteners, proteins, emulsifiers, fibers, or texturizers, INFUSE by Cargill™ provides the ease of blended ingredient solutions to help speed up the development process and time to market. As a result, the service truly succeeds in offering the building blocks of product success.

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