More than 100 US manufacturers are working with samples of PromOat – a colorless and odorless oat beta-glucan ingredient from Swedish firm Biovelop – that is already on the market in Europe in a range of foods from a cholesterol-lowering juice from UK retailer Marks & Spencer to a low fat mayonnaise in Norway.
Several US firms were now at an advanced stage in the product development process, with new products likely to launch later this year, said Biovelop director of sales and marketing David Peters, who was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA.com after striking a deal with Brenntag to distribute PromOat Stateside.
Fat reduction, cleaner labels and novel applications
While oat beta glucan is nothing new, its use has historically been restricted to categories such as ready-to-eat cereals and snacks because of the strong color, taste and grainy texture imparted by the insoluble fiber and protein often remaining in oat ingredients after processing, claimed Peters.
However, Biovelop has tackled this issue by developing a patented method for separating the soluble fiber in oats as a colorless and taste-neutral powder, which means PromOat can be used in a far wider range of products from smoothies and juices to ready meals, soups, sauces, cookies, crème fraiche, mayonnaise and cream cheese, he said.
Fat replacer and water binder
While oat beta glucan is best-known for its cardiovascular and digestive health benefits, PromOat – which has 35 percent soluble beta glucan - was attracting interest from manufacturers because of its technical properties as well, said Peters.
“Because it acts as a natural emulsifier, stabilizer and viscosity modifier, you can use it to replace starches, gums and stabilizers and reduce fat in things like ice cream while retaining a creamy viscous mouthfeel.
“This also means you can get a cleaner label, which has appealed to a lot of people we’ve been speaking to. By using it in a mayonnaise you can go from 80 percent fat to something like 25 percent.”
Prebiotics, satiety and cholesterol reduction
Based in Kimstad, Sweden, Biovelop specializes in the fractionation of cereal grains. It has started with oats, but was also looking at other crops as well, said Peters.
“We’ve been around for just over 10 years, but most of that time we’ve really been an R&D company. We first started talking directly to US companies about PromOat last year and we’ve had a huge amount of interest ever since.
“Some people are interested in satiety [PromOat forms a thick, filling viscous solution in the stomach]; others are interested in digestive health [a prebiotic, oat beta glucan is not digested in the small intestine and is available in the large intestine for ‘good’ bacteria to feed on]; some are really focused on hard health claims about cholesterol; some are looking mainly at fat replacement; and others are just interested in it as a general healthy ingredient with technical benefits.”
Health claims and oat beta glucan
Oat beta glucan is one of only a handful of ingredients to secure positive opinions from the European Food Safety Authority, which recently gave the thumbs up to claims about cholesterol reduction, post prandial glycemic response and increased fecal bulk.
Health Canada has also recently approved claims about oat beta glucan and cholesterol reduction.
US firms are able to use generic FDA-approved claims about soluble fiber and a reduced risk of heart disease, although a more specific cholesterol-lowering claim would be more helpful, said Peters.
US cardiovascular health market
Speaking at the recent SupplySide East trade show in New Jersey, Windrose Partners president Greg Stephens claimed product launches in the US food, drink and dietary supplements market on a heart health platform had tripled in the past five years, and now accounted for 1.5 percent of all new launches.
Meanwhile, sales of US heart health ingredients (wholesale) topped $563m in 2008 and were predicted to exceed $1bn by 2012, reflecting a compound annual growth rate of 20%, he added.
While consumers did not necessarily associate the word ‘fiber’ with cardio health, with most citing ‘oats’, ‘omega-3s’, ‘wholegrains’, ‘dark chocolate’ and ‘antioxidants’ ahead of ‘fiber’ when asked what ingredients were linked to heart health, more than a quarter believed they were not getting enough fiber, he noted.
And fiber was second only to calcium in a list of ingredients about which consumers claimed to know at least one health benefit, he pointed out.
Datamonitor predicts that cardiovascular health foods in the US retail market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.8 percent from 2009 to 2014, rising from $5.6bn to $7.08bn.