Seaweed calcium ingredient tests well in dairy, says GTC

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Milk Nutrition

Independent sensory testing on the mineral ingredient Aquamin has found that it can boost the calcium content of dairy products by up to 40 percent with no negative impact on taste or texture, says GTC Nutrition.

Aquamin is a seaweed-derived multi-mineral source, said to be rich in calcium, magnesium and over 70 other trace minerals. It is produced by the Irish firm Marigot, and is distributed in the US by GTC Nutrition.

The company this week announced results of tests conducted by the independent group NIZO Food Research earlier this year, which assessed the impact of two Aquamin grades (Aquamin S and Aquamin Soluble) in ultra high temperature (UHT) milk, long-life yogurt drinks and stirred yogurt products.

Calcium fortification

The UHT milk was fortified with 25 percent calcium and the yogurt products were fortified with 40 percent calcium.

Participants in the study were asked to comment on the taste and texture of the fortified products. They reported improved viscosity for the milk, and no negative flavor impact for the yogurts. The yogurt drink was also found to have an enhanced strawberry flavor, and a perception of increased freshness. All products were found to be visually stable.

GTC’s Trina O’Brien told this morning that the current testing was prompted by the recent addition of the most soluble grade to the Aquamin line – Aquamin Soluble. This form, she said, was particularly targeted for use in beverage products.

The other products in the line are Aquamin F, a fine powdery calcium source for use in liquid and dry applications, Aquamin S, a sea mineral source designed to enhance the nutritional profile of low pH foods such as carbonated beverages and frozen desserts, and Aquamin TG, a granulated natural calcium source for use in dietary supplements.

Health claims

Products that contain 10 percent calcium are able to carry a ‘good’ source of calcium nutrient content claim in the US, and products that contain 20 percent can carry an ‘excellent’ source claim.

In addition, GTC said Aquamin qualifies for an authorized health claim for osteoporosis prevention. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), products high in calcium (20 percent RDV per serving), along with regular exercise and a healthy diet, can help maintain good bone health in the teens and early adult years to reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Structure/Function claims can also be used on products made with Aquamin. Examples of these include: “Supports bone health”; “Contains bone building minerals”; “Essential minerals for overall wellness”; and “Plant derived source of calcium”.

One of the few plant-based calcium sources, Aquamin is still not on a par with calcium carbonates on the market. However, O’Brien said it is “competitively priced”​. It has proved particularly popular in Asian markets where consumers already know the benefits of seaweed and are keen to market its natural source.

Calcium deficiency

The US Department of Agriculture recommended increased dairy consumption when it reconfigured the food pyramid in 2003, but statistics indicate about 80 percent of Americans do not get enough calcium.

A similar situation in the UK led the British Dietetic Association to state calcium-fortified, non-dairy foods could be "very useful"​ in 2007.

In a 2007 survey conducted by market researcher the Hartman Group, 68 percent of 2,978 consumers polled cited calcium as a nutrient they would "deliberately add to their diets"​ second only to fiber. The next highest ingredients were protein and whole grains.

Despite these deficiencies and apparent consumer intentions, the calcium fortified foods market has been struggling to match its performance of the 1990s as newer ingredients have caught the imagination of food formulators and the public.

In 2006, the percentage of food and beverage products worldwide making ‘high calcium’ claims dropped below three percent for the first time this century, according to Datamonitor’s Productscan Online. Only 2.8 per cent of products made a ‘high calcium’ claim in 2006, compared with 3.7 per cent in 2005.

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