Beneo-Orafti Active Food Ingredients Application Manager Rudi Wouters examines how ice cream makers can make their indulgent products more healthy.
Ice cream has always been viewed as an indulgence product. In fact, in recent years, the ‘premiumisation’ of the category – coupled with the rise of ever more decadent flavours – has only served to reinforce this positioning. But at the same time, health conscious consumers are driving demand for low sugar and low fat ice cream.
For many producers, bridging this gap between health and luxury is the key to holding on to their share of a market that is mature, stagnant and facing increasing competition from private label.
In the UK, for example, Heinz has extended its Weight Watchers range with a frozen dessert product called Chocolate Top Desserts – which appear to have all the traits of an indulgent treat but are in fact low in fat and contain just 166 calories per serving.
In Germany, meanwhile, Roncadin is marketing a premium chocolate ice cream with just 3.5% fat under its Ehrmann brand and Langnese-Iglo has added a low fat ice cream dessert with cherry sauce and white chocolate inclusions to its Langnese Cremissimo range.
That a window of opportunity exists in the ice cream market for such products is clear. However, formulating products, which will win consumer acceptance, is not that easy in practice. Indeed, market research conducted by Beneo-Orafti confirmed that consumer expectations are high when it comes to selecting a low fat alternative to traditional indulgence products.
It is the high sugar and fat content of ice cream that gives consumers a feeling of satisfaction. The challenge for product developers therefore, is to reduce the fat and sugar content without a discernable difference in sweetness profile, texture or mouthfeel.
Beneo-Orafti has addressed this by developing Orafti HSI (Highly Soluble Inulin) – a composition of short chain inulin molecules derived from natural chicory root. The ingredient combines the fat replacing benefits of inulin with the ease of use and sensorial properties of oligofructose.
Inulin is a well known fat replacer owing to its ability to stabilise water into a creamy structure with the same mouthfeel as fat. However, it is only 10% soluble at room temperature, which limits its use in certain applications. Oligofructose, on the other hand, is highly soluble and does not crystallise, precipitate or leave a dry or sandy feeling in the mouth. It also has a moderately sweet taste, which renders it an ideal natural sugar replacer.
By incorporating Orafti HSI into ice cream recipes, product developers can take advantage of the combined benefits of these two ingredients.
Orafti HSI can be used to improve the body and mouthfeel of low fat products, delivering roundness and creaminess. Up to 100% fat reduction is possible in ice cream. It is 35% as sweet as sucrose, which means it can be used in combination with sweeteners to reduce the sugar content of ice cream without affecting the taste. When blended with high intensity sweeteners, a synergy is created which reduces significantly the artificial aftertaste of the sweeteners to produce a balanced, rounded flavour.
But Orafti HSI doesn’t just exhibit exceptional technical attributes – it also delivers well documented health benefits – so in addition to marketing ice cream containing the ingredient on its fat or sugar reduced status, manufacturers can focus on positive health attributes such as its prebiotic effect and high fibre content.
Heat shock tests carried out by Beneo-Orafti have shown that incorporating as little as 1-2% of Orafti inulin into ice cream has a positive effect on the stability of the finished product. Orafti inulin inhibits the growth of ice crystals, which form during the product’s shelf life and cause the ice cream to develop a coarse texture.
Orafti HSI has a caloric value of 1.6 kcal/g compared to sucrose (4 kcal/g) and fat (9 kcal/g) – meaning a significant level of caloric reduction is possible – and it has a Glycaemic Index (GI) of virtually zero, which means it breaks down slowly in the digestive system, causing slow and steady rises rather than sudden spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
Recipe 1 shows how Orafti HSI can be incorporated into a vanilla ice cream recipe to reduce both the sugar and fat content.
Recipe 1: vanilla ice cream
Ingredient Test recipe %
Cream (35% fat) 12.86
Skimmed milk powder 11.50
Isomalt ST-M 3.00
Acesfulfame K 0.0044
There are numerous examples of commercially available ice cream products, which are harnessing the fat and sugar replacement properties of inulin and oligofructose. One such product on the UK market is Wall’s Light ice cream. The individual tubs of vanilla ice cream are marketed as containing 50% less calories and 80% less fat. On the Belgian market, meanwhile, Unilever has a 5% fat vanilla ice cream under its premium Carte D’Or brand, and the company’s impulse brand Magnum now includes a Light variant with 30% less fat and 33% fewer calories. The UK market is also home to Skinny Cow ice cream, a brand that sells ice cream lollies and tubs containing, in some variants, less than 2% fat.
Adding a healthy dimension*
But Orafti HSI doesn’t just exhibit exceptional technical attributes – it also delivers well documented health benefits.
Inulin and oligofructose are prebiotics which are selectively fermented by intestinal flora. This means they not only promote optimal intestinal function, but also balance the body’s intestinal flora by stimulating beneficial bifidobacteria. So in addition to marketing ice cream containing the ingredient on its ‘fat reduced’ or ‘sugar reduced’ status, manufacturers can focus on positive health attributes such as its prebiotic effect and high fibre content.
While the concept of marketing a product traditionally considered indulgent on its positive health benefits is relatively new, there are manufacturers who have seized this opportunity for innovation. Ice cream producer Pregel, for example, is making good use of both the technological and nutritional benefits of inulin and oligofructose. It is targeting consumers with a range of products – carrying the Beneo symbol – that are marketed on their prebiotic effect.
Interest in healthier variants of traditional products is at an all time high. But to create products with staying power, manufacturers need to be sure that in removing the guilt of consumption they are not removing any of the enjoyment – and that means creating reduced fat and reduced sugar products which taste as good as their regular counterparts. By capitalising on the technological attributes of Orafti HSI, manufacturers can prove that it is possible to conceive products that are low in fat, but not in fun.
*Beneo-Orafti Active Food Ingredients *
*Application Manager *
*Rudi Wouters *
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019