How to keep the crunch in low-fat chips

University of Queensland chemical engineers have developed a new method to analyse the physical characateristics of potato chips in a bid to develop a tastier low-fat snack.

Professor Jason Stokes said while a low-fat potato chip might reduce guilt, many people don’t find the texture as appealing.

“A key challenge in the food industry is reducing the amount of sodium, added sugar and saturated fat without sacrificing the taste, flavour, texture and mouthfeel in food and drink,” Stokes said.

“Even subtle changes in the composition of processed food and drink can alter the consumer’s acceptability of a product for reasons that are not well understood, which compromises healthy choices.”

Professor Stokes worked with flavour scientists including senior research fellow Dr Heather Smyth, USA researcher Dr Stefan Baier – now at Motif Ingredients – and former UQ postdoctoral researcher Dr Michael Boehm who now works at PepsiCo, Inc.

The team has been developing a more objective method of analysing the potato chips at four stages of simulated eating.

“We wanted to simulate the entire eating process, from first bite, to the break down and softening of chip particles and finally swallowing the clumped mass of chip particles,” he said.

The researchers used the results to design a lower-fat chip coated in a thin layer of seasoning oil, which contained a small amount of a food emulsifier.

In tests with sensory panellists, the seasoning oil made the low-fat chip more closely resemble the greasiness of a full-fat one, but it only added 0.5 per cent more oil to the low-fat product.

Professor Stokes said he had worked with all manner of food and drink.

“Whether they be considered solids, powders, soft solids, semi-fluids or liquids, primarily the aim is to improve the efficiency of ingredients in oral processing and improve health benefits

Kakadu plum industry project named a major partner in a $2.7m research initiative

A Farming Together project, involving the Kakadu plum industry, has been named a major partner in a new $2.7m research initiative.

Kindred Spirits Enterprises – Traditional Homeland Enterprises is among the groups participating in a three-year cooperative research centre for developing Northern Australia project, launched at Darwin’s Parliament House in early August.

The enterprise currently processes and sells Kakadu plum fruit, puree and powder products.

Farming Together assisted Kindred Spirits Enterprises to support the Kakadu plum project it initiated in 2013 at the request of the Women’s Centre and Traditional Owners in Wadeye, NT.

READ: Farming Together study helps set higher milk price

The project has since expanded to include other harvesting communities in the Northern Territory and Western Australia’s Kimberley region.

Kindred Spirits Enterprises executive officer Ann Shanley said potential customers told the enterprise they wanted to use Kakadu plum in food products, cosmetics, nutraceuticals – but they needed information about how to do it.

“Growing the market and increasing demand also creates opportunity for local indigenous harvesting communities to grow their enterprises and their local economy,” she said.

Farming Together was truly helpful to us. They provided clarity around issues, and the consultant presented in a way that everyone could understand. Most importantly, all felt comfortable to ask questions. We wouldn’t have been able to move forward as we have without the program,” said Shanley.

The cooperative research project seeks to improve processing and storage methods, distribution of Kakadu plum products and provide training in harvesting, manufacturing and marketing.

Some of the potential commercial products which might result from this project include dehydrated products such as in breakfast cereals, energy and health bars, high-fibre products and bio-active rich extracts for natural preservation.

Farming Together program director Lorraine Gordon said the potential of this native crop would repay the commitment shown by these groups in the near future.

University of Queensland associate professor Yasmina Sultanbawa said the Kakadu plum industry offered significant opportunity for growth.

“Demand and growth for Kakadu plum products here and overseas is expected to be around 10 per cent annually, with significant opportunities emerging in the nutraceutical, supplement and pharmaceutical industries, so looking at how we can improve the value chain to better capture these new markets will be a key focus of this research,” said Sultanbawa.