HappySoaps: Collaborating to create sustainable, plastic-free care products

Sam: “The use of microplastics in cosmetic and cleaning products is under pressure. That’s because these microplastics are being released into the environment via the products we use, where they’re impacting water quality and can potentially be found in humans and animals. Cosun Biobased Experts develops ingredients to reduce the use of petroleum-based products.” It was this common ambition, that brought Sam and Sabine together. Sabine: “We were looking for new ingredients for the HappySoaps products. I visited the Biobased Experts stand at the In-cosmetics trade show in Barcelona and discovered that QUATIN® had exactly what I needed for our shampoo bars.”

Better combability

QUATIN® is produced from Inulin, a substance that Sensus (part of the Royal Cosun group) extracts from chicory root. “Inulin is normally used in the food industry,” Sam explains. “We try to use as much of the Sensus Inulin that’s not suitable for human consumption as possible, and turn it into functional ingredients. This enables us to upcycle this raw material and so add more value to the supply chain.” In shampoos and conditioners, the product gives softer, more combable hair with a beautiful shine. Sabine can confirm this: “We had a panel of HappySoaps customers test a shampoo bar with and without QUATIN®, asking if they noticed a difference in combability. Nearly one in three noticed a significant difference. For changing just one ingredient, I think that’s a lot!”

Lightweight and local

Creating a product that works well is one thing, making an impact with it is another matter. The collaboration between HappySoaps and Biobased Experts is not only leading to a better product, it is also reducing CO2 emissions. “HappySoaps products contain no water. This means less weight and so lower impact for transportation,” Sabine explains. “Take traditional shampoo from a bottle as an example,” Sam adds. “Of the total product, 10-15% is an active ingredient, the rest is water.” Because HappySoaps products are made in the Netherlands, QUATIN® can also be used as a local ingredient. “Most of the chicory comes from Dutch growers,” Sam continues. “Everything is grown and produced within a 250 km radius. This further reduces transport miles, especially considering that competitive products mostly come from Asia.”

Highly soluble

The plastic-free and water-free trend offers a double opportunity for Biobased Experts. Sam: “We initially developed QUATIN® in liquid form. For many manufacturers, a liquid product works best in their process because of its solubility, for example. With the growing trend of shampoo bars, we developed a powder variant that, unlike alternative powders in the market, turned out to be very soluble.” Although this growing market is not yet very large, Sam sees potential in its future. “We’re delighted with HappySoaps as a pioneer. They have a strong story and are marketing a good product with greener ingredients.”

A plant-based alternative to cheese, of Dutch origin 

Plant-based requirement 

Potato Cheezz originates from Aviko Rixona’s ambition to address the growing consumer need for healthier food and more plant-based options. Gerbert: “There is no way around it anymore, plant-based is booming. Plant-based products are animal-friendly, environmentally friendly and they fit into a healthy diet. The popularity of plant-based food is a major gamechanger for the food sector. With this development, we at Aviko Rixona recognised the challenge of getting even more added value out of potatoes! The result was Potato Cheezz.” 

From potato to plant-based cheese

The production of Potato Cheezz starts with choosing the type of potato. Gerbert: “When the potatoes arrive at the factory, they are first washed and peeled. After peeling, we cut the potatoes into slices, which we then cook. Next comes the most important bit, a touch of ‘chef’s magic’ to achieve the final product: a 10kg block of Potato Cheezz, which can be used by producers as an ingredient in all kinds of tasty hot dishes. Potato Cheezz is the ideal plant-based cheese substitute in finger foods, snacks or fillings in meat substitutes. A special Potato Cheezz variant is also available for use on pizzas or gratin,” Gerbert stated.  

No potato flavour 

The initial reactions to the product have been positive and surprised. Gerbert: “When you tell people Potato Cheezz is made from potatoes, they expect to also taste it. But once people try the product they often remark, ‘I can’t believe this is made from potatoes’. That is fantastic and generates a lot of energy.” No fat or salt is added to Potato Cheezz. “We get surprised reactions to that too, because the taste is full and the product melts well. This is exactly what you want in a cheese.”  

Healthy alternative 

A healthy product composition is becoming increasingly important to consumers. When it comes to plant-based products, it is possible to improve nutritional value with plant-based alternatives such as Potato Cheezz by not adding fat or salt to the product. Gerbert: “For example, we received a request from a manufacturer to help them think about how a product could be made healthier. By using Potato Cheezz instead of another plant-based alternative, together we have managed to raise the Nutri-Score from a D to a B.”  

Tasty and trustworthy

Potato Cheezz gives our cooperation the opportunity to offer consumers a tasty and surprising alternative to cheese, which is entirely in line with our ambition to get everything out of the plant. For our growers, it also offers a new way to extract full value from their potatoes.    

Want to read more about Potato Cheezz from Aviko Rixona? Have a look at here! 

Fascinating: Aligning new crops to human needs

Nutritionally responsible

Harm van Baar is directly involved in Fascinating from the Cosun Nutrition Center and is responsible for Ambition 1: A healthy and well-balanced diet (Dutch content). Harm explains, “As the name suggests, our focus as part of Ambition 1 of Fascinating is on nutritional aspects. We assess the project applications submitted to Fascinating from a nutritional perspective and make the necessary adjustments.” Andries adds, “In other words, we examine Fascinating through a nutritional lens.” The recommendations given by the Cosun Nutrition Center within Fascinating are always based on scientific research. Andries continues, “An important prerequisite for us is that the scientific consensus is a decisive factor. At the Cosun Nutrition Center, we also have a scientific committee that advises and supports our scientific activities and communication. This enables us to secure the scientific validation of the Cosun Nutrition Center.”

Well-balanced proteins

One of the crops that is being examined within Fascinating is the fava bean. Andries explains, “It’s a great crops that falls within the scope of sustainable farming because these protein-rich beans require little artificial fertiliser due to the nitrogen-fixing capacity of the plants, which also leave a considerable amount of nitrogen in the soil. And fava beans require relatively little water.” They also see opportunities in potato protein. “Recent studies show that potato protein is of exceptional quality. Project partner Avebe within Fascinating is focusing on this protein, which has the potential to create opportunities in the future,” says Andries.

New functional proteins

Apart from being a source of protein, the fava bean can also be used as a functional ingredient. For example, Cosun Protein has developed the Fava Protein Isolate (Tendra®), an emulsifier that can be used to replace milk protein in ice cream or chicken egg protein in mayonnaise. Since the fava bean is also an excellent source of numerous essential amino acids, an incidental effect may also be to improve the protein quality of a product. This is necessary because many meat and dairy alternatives in the market are nutritionally suboptimal. But it is important to combine fava bean protein with plant-based protein sources containing those amino acids that are in lower concentrations in the fava bean (methionine, cysteine and tryptophan).

Andries comments, “Another great example is Fidesse®, which is extracted from beet pulp. This high-fibre, low-calorie ingredient provides texture and juiciness in plant-based alternatives like vegan burgers and increases the fibre content. In other words, new ingredients can contribute to a healthier and more plant-based diet.”

Value from crop to end product

Andries considers it a tremendous advantage that every partner within Fascinating contributes specific expertise. “Fascinating examines how you can grow and process new protein crops in a sustainable fashion. You need each other’s expertise in order to arrive at the best possible result. The different partners offer for instance, specific agronomic or process technology knowledge.” Harm adds, “At the Cosun Nutrition Center, we explore how the new crops align to human needs from a nutritional perspective.” Andries says, “Together we can make an important contribution to the protein transition that is the focus at Cosun, with future-proof cultivation of crops that can be produced and processed closer to the end user.”

Fidesse® simplifies the plant-based transition

Juicy, tasty and plant-based

Fidesse® has no colour or taste. A strong trait, according to Ralph. “Fidesse® has a neutral taste. That’s a considerable advantage because it means that it won’t influence taste.” Plant proteins are often bitter. To mask that bitterness, salt is usually added to meat substitutes. Fidesse® has a neutral, non-bitter taste, so that little salt needs to be added. Fabian adds, “Another advantage of Fidesse® is its ability to absorb water and then release it again. This means that products can be made even juicier, resulting in a juicy and flavourful product.”

From pulp to perfection

“What makes the Fidesse® production process so unique is that it is a mild process without any chemical applications,” explains Ralph. “The beet pulp that remains after the sugar has been extracted is washed, boiled and frozen. Although that may sound very simple, a touch of Cosun magic is added, of course, to give the product its unique properties,” he says with a smile. “This process was developed by our colleagues at Cosun R&D.” Once frozen, the product is sent to manufacturers of, for instance, meat substitutes, who process it into a product you might find in the supermarket.

Tastier plant-based products

The ingredient consists nearly entirely of fibre, which can be a tasty and nutritious building block of plant-based products. Ralph explains, “Generally speaking, meat substitutes have a dry aftertaste. Because it’s a high-fibre ingredient, Fidesse® can make a product juicier, thereby enhancing the taste experience.” Fabian adds, “The product itself may not contain any proteins, but because you contribute positively to the quality of the products in the market, you also contribute to the protein transition.” Ralph says, “You might say we are making the plant-based movement a tastier one.”

More than just a meat substitute

If it were up to Ralph and Fabian, Fidesse® will ultimately be used in more than meat substitutes alone. Ralph comments, “There are lots of possibilities in the bakery segment and with dairy substitutes, from sausage rolls and mayonnaise to apple pie filling and cottage cheese and curd-based products. The neutral taste means it can be used in both savoury and sweet products. Fidesse® is the perfect blank building block for products, also as a bulk ingredient. Because it’s high in fibre and produces a juicy mouth feel, you can use it to replace fat.” Fabian comments, “Combine that with the need for fibre and relatively low caloric value and Fidesse® can contribute to a healthier product composition and possibly also a better Nutri-Score.”

Understanding needs

As a Business Development Manager, Ralph takes an out-of-the-box approach to identifying new opportunities for Fidesse®. The collaboration between Ralph and Fabian makes it possible to take advantage of these opportunities. Ralph comments, “After exploring an opportunity, I pass on the knowledge I’ve gained to Fabian, who supports our customers with product development and analyses their needs.” Fabian comments, “The tricky part is to determine from a technical perspective how you can best serve customers without having to make a huge number of changes to a process. You cannot build a new factory for every customer since, after all, that would be neither efficient nor sustainable.”

Sugar beets back to the food chain

An application like Fidesse® lets the Cosun Beet Company further increase the economic value of the sugar beet. “The Cosun Beet Company aims to become the most sustainable beet processor in the world. Converting beet pulp into Fidesse® is a perfect example of this,” states Fabian. A large percentage of the beet pulp produced by the Cosun Beet Company is still used for animal feed or fermentation for green energy. It is also processed into paper, including the packaging of our own kilo bags of Van Gilse granulated sugar. “An important goal is always to return valuable raw materials to the food chain as much as possible. Fidesse® makes this possible.”

Within the innovation-ecosystem of Cosun, we’re working hard to make the plant-based transition healthier and more tasteful. Examples are the stories of Aviko Rixona’s Potato Cheezz and the functional protein crops of Fascinating.

Plant-based nutrition for older people: how do you find the right balance?

How does muscle building work?

“Building muscle is like building a wall,” says Jorn Trommelen, Assistant Professor of Human Biology at Maastricht University. “Muscle protein synthesis means building blocks from your diet are constantly added to the muscle. At the same time, muscle protein breakdown takes place: exercising causes ‘damage to the wall’. You have to repair this first before you can continue to build”. According to Trommelen, these two processes are in harmony. “After meals you have a positive protein balance, meaning you will be building muscle. In-between meals, the balance is negative. This is usually a stable process measured throughout the day.”

However, there is a big difference in this process between young adults and older people. “Older people respond less strongly to the stimulus of protein. This is called anabolic resistance: when taking in food, muscle protein synthesis increases less rapidly, and decreases less rapidly between meals. The muscles have become less sensitive to food that normally maintains muscle mass”. Trommelen argues that older people must do more to activate that stimulus, especially if they eat more plant-based foods. “Plant-based products contain slightly less of the essential amino acids per gramme of protein than animal proteins. In addition, plant-based products more often have an incomplete amino acid profile and the digestibility of these proteins is also less favourable.  Together this can lead to a deficiency of one or more essential amino acids. If you do not have enough of one of the amino acids, the other amino acids will not be used for muscle building either. You can compare it to building a house. Even if you have all the bricks in the world, if you are short of windows or doors, you will never be able to build a functional house.

Amino acids and exercising

It is possible for older people to get enough protein from a plant-based diet, but according to Trommelen you have to pay attention to a number of things: some products are very high in specific amino acids, but low in others. By mixing the right products you will achieve a healthy amino acid balance. The timing of protein intake is also important. Most people take in their proteins twice during the day, while it is better to divide this over three times. We sometimes solve this with a protein supplement before going to sleep. “Physical effort is indispensable for muscle building. If you don’t, the proteins you take in will not be used for muscle building. Any kind of activity is good. This can be achieved through strength training, or simply by walking; every 1,000 extra steps you take per day already have a positive effect on your protein efficiency. We often see a vicious circle in older people; because they are less mobile, they avoid movement. Whereas they would have to challenge their bodies.”

Risk of malnutrition

“We can see increasing popularity in the Netherlands for plant-based and sustainable foods. This is also the case in hospitals and care institutions, which accommodate lots of older people,” says Pol Grootswagers, Ageing and Nutrition researcher at Wageningen University & Research. “A more plant-based diet does entail a greater risk of protein deficiency. On the one hand because plant-based food is lower in protein and saturates faster and, on the other, because older people have a higher protein requirement. The combination of this increases the risk of malnutrition. A shortage of important micro-nutrients is also lurking. For example, B12 does not occur naturally in plant-based foods, while 25% of older people have a B12 deficiency. You need B12 to carry oxygen in your blood and produce energy. This makes this vitamin very important for mobility, especially among older people.”

Benefits of plant-based diet

Grootswagers states that the protein transition also has a number of important benefits for older people. “For example, a plant-based diet means lower risk of diabetes and it is also related to a lower risk of heart disease. You also increase your fibre in-take and eat less fat. I believe our understanding of finding a healthy balance in a plant-based diet is growing.”

 

Within Cosun, there’s a strong focus on making plant-based foods healthier and tastier. In the Fascinating program for example, plant-based food ingredients are being developed based on human needs, and crops are selected that suit a sustainable and balanced diet. Also, Cosun Beet Company developed Fidesse®: a high-fibre ingredient that gives plant-based products a pleasant texture and more juiciness.

Plant-based diet for athletes: what to consider?

Is a plant-based diet for athletes as effective as an animal-based diet?

The short answer is: yes. ‘When I ask people if you can grow muscles from eating plant-based food all day, they often answer in the negative,’ says Luc van Loon, professor of physiology of exercise at Maastricht University. ‘But of course you can. As long as you eat a lot of it. The only question is: how efficient is it?’ Van Loon researches the relationship between nutrition and exercise. ‘For muscle production, we need both nutrition and physical exertion,’ he explains. ‘We also know that the two factors together have a stronger effect. Hence, many athletes eat protein after exercise.’

Proteins are a source of amino acids, which are the building blocks of our muscles. ‘In general, plant proteins contain fewer essential amino acids, and less leucine in particular, than animal proteins,’ says Van Loon. ‘But this is not true for all plant proteins. Maize, for example, has a high concentration of leucine: an important amino acid to stimulate muscle production.’ You can overcome amino acid deficiencies by simply eating more of a particular protein, either by combining different plant proteins. ‘In doing so, it may be wise to enlist the help of a dietician or sports dietitian,’ says Van Loon.

Which plant proteins are best for an athlete?

‘That depends on the energy requirements,’ says Esther van Etten, who coaches both (top) athletes and recreational athletes in her Amsterdam practice. ‘A two-metre basketball player has a different energy – and therefore protein – requirement than a weight-class athlete like a judoka.’ As a sports dietitian, Van Etten looks at the whole range of nutrients, including proteins. In doing so, she gives each athlete tailor-made advice. ‘What is the right amount for a person to keep performing well? And what is his or her goal? Timing is also important. If it is not possible to eat a meal immediately after training, a protein powder can offer a solution.’

It is important that a protein is easy to digest and well absorbed in the body. According to Luc van Loon, many factors influence this. ‘How was the meal prepared? Is the food heated or not? Is the food eaten upright or sitting down? Studies usually focus on a protein extracted from the food. We don’t yet know what the effect is when everything comes together on one plate. More research is needed for that.’

How do you get to a good protein intake?

‘Variety is the key word,’ says Esther van Etten. ‘That way, you make sure you get all the amino acids you need. Peas, for instance, are rich in leucine and brown rice contains a lot of the amino acid methionine. You often see that combination.’ She further recommends sticking to the 2(0) – 3 – 4(0) rule. ‘Eat up to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. The exact amount varies from 1.2 to 2 grams and depends on the athlete, goal, amount of training and current diet. After strength training, take 3 grams of leucine and maintain 20 to 40 grams of protein per meal.’ With a plant-based diet, also consider the amount of carbohydrates and fats, which you also need as an athlete. Van Etten: ‘I coach a judoka who is allowed to eat less because she needs to lose weight. Her diet consists almost entirely of proteins with some carbohydrates. But for a footballer, that is obviously not an option.’

Finally, Van Etten wants to dispel a myth. ‘Many clients think that oat or almond milk contains protein because they are alternatives to milk. But they are not.’ The word ‘meat substitute’ is also misleading: ‘Such a product often contains half as much protein as a piece of meat or fish. So again, pay close attention to the combination with other foods.’

Cosun is working on healthy food with more vegetable proteins in various ways. Examples include extracting nutritious proteins from beet leaves, field beans and other new protein crops.

Cosun Nutrition Center

For more information on a plant-based diet and future webinars, please visit cosunnutritioncenter.com.

Knowledge about tomorrow’s plant-based nutrition

The new Cosun Nutrition Center conducts research and gathers scientific information on plant-based nutrition in relation to health and sustainability. They share their knowledge internally with their Cosun colleagues and externally with health professionals, scientists, and the media. Cosun Nutrition Center is also actively seeking dialogue on social issues.

Responsibility to inform

Andries Olie is a Senior Manager of Nutrition, Health & Sustainability and spokesperson at the Cosun Nutrition Center. Andries explains, ‘Cosun is a big player in sugar and chips. These are tasty products that can be part of a healthy diet and which people enjoy, but which – if consumed in excess – can also contribute to obesity. As a company, we have a responsibility to society here. We have to be transparent about the nutritional aspects of these products, so that people can make an informed choice.’ In July 2022, the Cosun Nutrition Center was launched from the former Sugar & Nutrition Knowledge Centre and is a food science knowledge centre that bases its communication on scientific consensus. The main change is the focus on the full range of foodstuffs and ingredients that Cosun produces from its crops. In addition to health, the theme of sustainability within diets will also be addressed from now on.

Maximum value from the plant

As Cosun’s product portfolio goes beyond sugar and chips, a portfolio shift is taking place at the Cosun Nutrition Center: ‘Based on the Cosun strategy, Unlock 25, we want to make the best use of the plant. What I really like is that we at Cosun are making more efforts to find health-enhancing and green alternatives. Examples include the dietary fibres produced by Sensus and the production and development of plant-based protein by Cosun Protein. Another great example is a product developed by Aviko Rixona called “Potato Cheezz”: a plant-based alternative to ordinary cheese that is significantly lower in calories and contains no salt or cholesterol.’ With its plant-based products, Cosun is contributing to a more sustainable diet: ‘On average, six grams of plant protein are needed to produce one gram of animal protein. It therefore makes sense that direct consumption of plant-based proteins is much more efficient.’ Various organizations, such as the Health Council of the Netherlands, the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, and the Dutch Council for the Environment and Infrastructure, recommend eating more plant-based food and less animal-based food. ‘The ratio of animal protein to plant-based protein in our diet should change from 60% animal protein and 40% plant-based protein to 40% animal protein and 60% plant-based protein. This is known as the protein transition, and Cosun is responding to it,’ explains Andries.

Opportunities for product composition

A shift to more plant-based diets is good for the environment and generally offers health benefits. This does depend on which plant-based products you eat and to what extent. Andries adds, ‘We want to express that in our communications with health professionals and at Cosun itself. Where do certain plant-based and animal foodstuffs differ in nutritional value? And how does that fit into a sustainable diet?’ New applications of plant-based food also offer opportunities for healthier product composition. Andries explains that dietary fibres are a growth area at Cosun. ‘Many people don’t manage to consume the daily recommended intake of fibre[1]. Adding inulin, the fibre that Sensus produces from chicory roots, to products both increases the fibre content and reduces the number of calories.’

Objective choices

The Cosun Nutrition Center bases its communication on scientific facts. These are derived from both independent guidelines and studies in which the centre is involved. The information is validated by a Scientific Council, which consists of professors with expertise in the fields of nutrition, health, sustainability, and communication. ‘Our Scientific Council reviews our communications and advises on studies we can participate in.’ The studies that the Cosun Nutrition Center co-finances are carried out in cooperation with universities or research groups. ‘No matter what the results are, everything is published.’ Andries considers this transparency to be a matter of course. ‘That is an important core value for good research.’

Valued partner

The Cosun Nutrition Center aims to be the place where health professionals can go for scientific information on plant-based nutrition. The first steps are now being taken by building the website and filling it with information. The next step is to further disseminate the knowledge and engage in dialogue. This means at conferences, through round-table discussions, via newsletters, or through webinars. The information is also disseminated internally, for example by giving presentations. Andries clarifies, ‘The ultimate goal is to be both a source of information as well as a reliable and valued partner in social discussions and topics such as the protein transition, sugar tax, and the Nutri-Score.’ By continuing to develop its knowledge of plant-based foods, the Cosun Nutrition Center contributes to Cosun’s mission from a scientific perspective: Plant-based solutions to societal challenges and transitions.

[1] (Sources: richtlijn voor de vezelconsumptie | Advies | Gezondheidsraad, Inname vezel | Voedselconsumptiepeiling (wateetnederland.nl) only available in Dutch).

Healthier muffins

Cosun supplies plant-based ingredients that help food manufacturers meet the growing demand for healthier food. An example of this is inulin from chicory, which can replace sugar and fat and also provides fibres that improves intestinal health.

‘The shelves of some supermarkets already feature many biscuits with ten or fifteen per cent less sugar. Just look at the labels; they usually contain inulin. ‘Consumers experience a pleasant mouthfeel when eating yoghurt containing inulin. They think the yoghurt is creamier even though it contains less fat,’ says Brigitte Peters — Technical Sales Support at Sensus.

Less sugar and fat, more fibres

Inulin is extracted from chicory and is a soluble dietary fibre. It has a neutral to sweet taste and is a substitute for sugar and fat. This is an additional bonus for food manufacturers: adding inulin means adding prebiotic fibre. These are not digested in the stomach, but fermented in the intestines. This means that they have a positive effect on intestinal flora. All in all, this is an ingredient with several positive qualities.

Sweetness and colour

Sensus produces inulin and assists food companies in choosing the right type of inulin as well as the right application of it. ‘Some types of inulin have up to 60 per cent of the sweetness of sugar. However, sometimes an inulin type with a lower sweetness is better, because it helps to better bring out the taste of other ingredients. Think of the nut flavour in hazelnut spread or the taste of cocoa in chocolate, as examples’, says Brigitte. ‘The use of inulin results in many baked products appearing darker than previously. Gluten-free products, which often remain a little pale, get a nice golden brown colour thanks to inulin. We also develop ready-made recipes featuring inulin, such as muffins or cakes. That gives many customers a good starting point.’

On the waves of trends

Increasing numbers of products contain this healthy fibre which can replace fat and sugar. Inulin is already used, for example, in ice-cream, crispy muesli, cereal bars, biscuits and dairy products. Brigitte says, ‘There is a really strong focus on reducing sugar in food. And on natural sugar substitutes. With inulin, manufacturers can follow both trends.’

Find out about Cosun’s other plant-based solutions on our stories page!

Boost your gut flora

Healthy, plant-based diet

Elaine Vaughan, Health Science & Regulatory Affairs at Sensus, and Marcel van Boesschoten, Product Technologist at SVZ, provide an insight into how Cosun uses plant-based ingredients for a healthy diet.

‘Now that increasing numbers of consumers are finding it important to eat a healthy and natural diet, the advantages of food fermentation are being rediscovered’, Marcel van Boesschoten explains. ‘It’s a natural conservation process involving living organisms such as lactic acid bacteria. Fermentation techniques were traditionally used to extend the storage period of fresh vegetables. Food fermentation can improve the flavour, texture, and digestibility of food. Fermented food can also benefit people’s health. The same applies to fibre fermentation by your own gut flora’, Elaine Vaughan says.

Prebiotic chicory inulin

Within the Cosun group, Sensus is conducting research and development into healthy food ingredients from chicory roots. Inulin, a food fibre, is extracted from this root. Inulin enriches food products with fibre and can also replace sugar and fat. Inulin also has a prebiotic effect, selectively stimulating the growth of useful gut bacteria and their metabolic activities, which improves human health. The fermentation of inulin into organic acids by gut bacteria benefits digestion and the gut. Inulin contributes to a normal bowel function by increasing stool frequency; a health claim that is authorised by the European Commission (EC).

Moreover, chicory root fibre in food products replaces sugars, resulting in lower blood glucose levels; another EC-approved health claim.

Elaine: ‘In addition to the influence of gut bacteria on digestive health, there is growing recognition that gut bacteria, or the intestinal microbiome, and the resulting organic acids are important signals in the immune system. They also seem to play a vital part in the communication between the gut and our brains, possibly influencing our mental health. Chicory root fibre can support healthy gut flora and increasing numbers of consumers find this important.’

Delicious

SVZ focuses on ingredients based on fermented fruit or vegetables, for example fermented beetroot. Fermentation is interesting as the metabolic products that bacteria release during fermentation stimulate the flavour profile and also have an effect on colour nutrients such as sugars.

Marcel: ‘Food producers use fermented beet in plant-based dairy drinks and smoothies, among others. Adding milk acid bacteria to beets is a natural way to increase their shelf life. And, importantly, fermented beetroot has a deep and mild flavour. This makes it a valuable ingredient in healthy juices and smoothies, but you can also use fermented beetroot in baked goods.’

Growth

Increasing numbers of consumers are choosing tasty and healthy food. This is demonstrated in figures. The uses of prebiotic chicory root fibre and fermented products are continuing to grow. We can contribute to this with our food ingredients from natural plant-based sources and knowledge of plant-based diets.