With the advent of pandemics and other infections, consumers seek snacks that help satiate the empty stomach and offer health benefits. Established entities are investing heavily into their R&D sector to compete in the market with better-for-you products. Additionally, with growing awareness regarding hygiene and food safety, consumers are likely to buy small portion packs, fueling the demand for better-tasting products for the re-purchase of the products.
With growing health concerns and the threat of pandemics, consumers have started adopting a healthy lifestyle and nutritious diet. Consumers are showing an inclination towards non-fried snacks as well as fruits and vegetable-based natural snacks. As a result, the industry is seeing a surge in introducing a wide range of alternative products that are healthy and non-fried snacking options. Additionally, the alternative products claim benefits such as protein-rich, whole grain, high-fiber, natural/no artificial additives that further draw the consumers’ attention.
The critical aspect that manufacturers focus on for better-for-you products is the use of clean-label and known ingredients, which has led to the demand for technologies that can develop safe and healthy products with a standard shelf-life. Exhibit 1 illustrates a list of entities utilizing alternative and disruptive technologies to manufacturing better-for-you snacks.
Significant disruptive technologies
Manufacturers are investing and launching snacks developed using innovative and unique technologies due to the surge in demand for non-fried snacks. The alternative, disruptive technologies claim to develop healthy products by reducing the overall oil content in products and retaining nutrients. Enlisted below are a few shortlisted alternative technologies that the product manufacturers already use.
A. Ultrasound and microwave-assisted vacuum frying (USMVF)
The application of ultrasound and microwave-assisted vacuum frying (USMVF) is one of the emerging technologies for producing better-for-you, non-fried snacks. The significant features of USMVF are:
The importance of using Ultrasound and Microwave-vacuum frying:
Snacks produced using USMVF uses both ultrasound and microwave frequencies in combination, which results in faster mass transfer along with potential advantages such as:
Freeze-drying, also known as lyophilization, is a process that subjects fresh/cooked foods or snacks in the dryer is frozen at about -40° Fahrenheit or even less. After freezing, the freeze dryer creates a vacuum around the food. The ice gets transitioned into vapor and evaporates as and when the food is warmed. This process removes water/moisture from the food, thus inhibiting the growth of bacteria.
The significant advantage of freeze-drying is:
Entities have adopted freeze-drying for developing products such as ready-to-eat snacks, breakfast cereals, and beverages. Established and emerging players that produce healthy vegetables and fruits-based snacks as chips and snack bars can efficiently utilize lyophilization for the product innovation.
C. Pulsed electric field (PEF) pre-processing treatments
Innovations have led to the emergence of unconventional technologies that can be used for pre-treatment to achieve the final product. One of the innovative pre-treatment technologies adopted to produce healthier snacks is pulsed electric field (PEF) technology.
PEF is a non-thermal alternative for snacks production and works by incorporating pulses of electricity, which tends to puncture the cell membranes and further allows fluid to exit the food product.
The significant features of the technology are:
The technology replaces the pre-heating techniques, thus reducing water and energy consumption by about 90%. The result of which is reduced sugar, moisture, and acrylamide in the food.
D. Electrospinning Technology
Extension of product shelf-life is crucial, and we have witnessed continuous research and development in the segment that has resulted in technologies for extending the shelf-life of the food product. One of the similar technologies is electrospinning technology which has promising applications in the food and pharmaceuticals industries.
The technique is a facile and versatile method used to produce fibers with a high surface-to-volume ratio and porosity. The significant features of the technology are:
Electrospinning is a potential technology to encapsulate food ingredients, active compounds, and enzymes in the food industry. Natural polymers such as chitosan, collagen, chitosan, alginate, and gelatin are electrospun and tested for medical applications. Additionally, electrospinning has the potential to produce meat alternatives and associated snacks.
E. Individual Quick Freezing (IQF)
Individual Quick Freezing (IQF) is a preservation technique used to block or cluster freezing of small-sized products. IQF freezes all the food components individually, thereby keeping them separate from each other. The significant features of the technology are:
Some of the major produces successfully treated using IQF are berries, peas, corn, lobster, shrimp, chicken, pork, beef, bison, oysters, and clams. One of the most commonly preserved crops by freezing is corn/sweet corn, a common ingredient in better-for-you snacks, wherein both corn on the cob and cut corn are frozen and later used for various purposes. One of the significant advantages of using IQF on end produces is that it doesn’t alter the sensory and physio-chemical attributes of the snack.
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