A study conducted by Leong and Oey in New Zealand published in Food Chemistry investigated the stability of phytochemicals such as anthocyanins, carotenoids and vitamin C in fruits and vegetables (cherries, nectarines, apricots, peaches, plums, carrots, red bell peppers) when exposed to three different processing conditions (98°C for 10 minutes, -20°C and freeze-drying). Phytochemical-rich fruits and vegetables are believed to have value in the prevention of some chronic diseases. Food processing enables the supply of these commodities outside of their growing seasons.
The aim of the Leong and Oey study was to evaluate the changes in phytochemical content as affected by processing conditions. The researchers reported that the stability of phytochemicals depends on their amount and species, food matrix, the presence of other bioactive compounds in fruits and vegetables, geographical locations of foods, and growth conditions.
The authors concluded that heating and freezing release the anthocyanins bound in plant cell membranes and therefore increase their bioaccessibility. They noticed higher anthocyanins content in heated cherries, peaches and plums (but not in nectarines) compared to fresh fruits. On the other hand heating decreased the carotenoids content in apricots, nectarines and carrots but not in cherries, peaches, plums and red bell peppers. Moreover, in contrast to existing literature the researchers reported that heating inactivates ascorbic acid oxidase that improves the stability of ascorbic acid, with an exception for red bell peppers.
Additionally, the researchers highlighted that heating causes leaching of water-soluble compounds which could change the phytochemical profile and content of fruits in vegetables. Similarly, the rate of freezing may contribute to the changes in phytochemical content.
In the present study freeze-drying as a technique of food processing resulted in a lower phytochemical content when compared to heating and freezing. Thus, in order to achieve high retention of phytochemicals in heated and frozen foods, Leong and Oey propose to heat commodities in sealed vacuum plastic bags and to recover the fruit and vegetables drip loss during thawing.
According to Innova Market Insights data, global launch numbers for lactose-free dairy products more than tripled in the five-year period to the beginning of 2012. The share of total tracked dairy introductions featuring a lactose-free positioning rose from less than 2.5 to 4.5% over the same period. Levels of interest and consequently new product activity have been particularly high in the US and Western Europe, which saw products marketed as lactose-free account for 10 and 6% of total dairy launches, respectively, in the 12 months to the end of March 2012.
Interest in dairy alternatives, improved labelling, growing awareness of the potential problems associated with lactose intolerance and technological developments that have allowed the production of better-tasting products have combined to boost the availability of lactose-free dairy products in recent years.
The Innova Research Manager LuAnn Williams explains how the sector is now trying to emerge from a specialist niche positioning to increase its appeal to a wider audience in the mass market.
The highest share of lactose-free products tends to be in sectors where there are already established dairy alternatives, particularly drinks, where the share of products marketed as lactose free was over 30%. Creamers, many of which already have non-dairy ingredients, such as vegetable fats, can also relatively easily be formulated as lactose-free, and this type of product accounted for over 9% of introductions in the sub-sector. In more traditional dairy markets, such as milk drinks, yogurt and cheese, penetration of lactose-free launches tended to be between 2 and 4%.
There have been specialist lactose-free ranges available for some time, but until recently these tended to focus more on the specialist dietetic market. Recent product activity recorded by Innova Market Insights indicates that some of these brands are now moving more mainstream and extending into new product sectors both within and outside the dairy category. These include OBM Omira’s Minus L range in Germany, Arla’s Lactofree in the UK, Valio’s Zero Lactose in Scandinavia, and McNeil’s Lactaid in the US. The development of own-brand ranges by the leading retailers has also driven awareness in the market, with most of the major multiple chains, including discounters, in many countries now having their own free-from ranges, including lactose-free options, which are rapidly increasing in number and scope.
Most significant in terms of market development, however, has been the arrival of lactose-free options from mainstream brands. In the US, General Mills’ market-leading Yoplait yogurt brand was extended with four Lactose-Free variants in early 2012, while Danone’s market-leading Activia yogurt brand has now been extended with a lactose-free option in a number of European markets, including Germany and Scandinavia. Likewise, in New Zealand, the Anchor dairy brand has been extended in the milks market, with two lactose-free alternatives under the Zero Lacto Blue and Zero Lacto Trim ranges.