One of the goals of the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act now taking effect is greater consumer awareness of the ingredients used in food products. Many food processors want their ingredient legends to reflect the consumers' demand for healthier and natural foods.
Current and pending legislation involving glutamate labeling is prompting many flavor companies to develop savory flavors that enable the industry to create what it calls "clean labels."
The term clean labeling can apply to the absence of a variety of ingredients. The actual list can vary with the manufacturer, but they may want to replace artificial flavors, monosodium glutamate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, nucleotides or autolyzed yeast, which appear most often in flavoring products and consumer products.
"We're seeing a number of customers who are backing off on the natural portion of the label and accepting artificial flavors in a clean label product," noted one industry flavorist who declined to be identifies. "Some artificials can give you a very powerful, relatively inexpensive, clean label product. [Food processors] are not as concerned with the artificial tag as with the other compounds, as long as it delivers the flavor they are looking for."
The flavor industry can produce good natural meat and other savory flavors with processes based on the Maillard reaction, according to Michael Lynch, director of marketing for the Haarmann & Reimer Corp. flavor division, Springfield, N.J. This reaction occurs naturally in the roasting process.
"We use naturally derived meat materials, or to capitalize on a new trend, vegetarian products, we can use nonmeat materials," Lynch said.
Ken Tragash, product manager at Haarmann & Reimer, said: "We've developed an extensive line, called HypR Cleanflavors, to meet current demands for clean label products. Our position is that, first of all, it meets the needs of companies who want to address these consumer-sensitive ingredient issues. But there are a number of companies willing to accept autolyzed yeast and these flavors will allow them to add what they feel is acceptable to meet their criteria."
Lynch said, "While the issue of clean labeling sounds like a good idea, in some cases, processors may find that consumers will not be satisfied with the flavor delivery.
"While the flavor industry has made great strides in developing clean flavors, you're not going to find an exact match for some compounds," he said. "In general, the flavor industry still fully believes in the value of things like MSG and nucleotides in enhancing flavor."