Learn about the crucial role starches play in the food industry and the label friendly options that are available.
In the era of the “adventurous” consumer, sauces serve as the entry point into all manner of global cuisine, from south-Asian curries to Middle Eastern tagine sauces. But while creative culinologists are drawing flavor inspirations from around the globe, bringing those ethnically inspired experiences to life starts with a solid base. That’s a reality making starches the unsung heroes of most great sauces.
“Sauces – especially those in frozen-ready meals – go through a lot,” points out Erin Radermacher, senior technical services specialist for Cargill. “High retort temperatures, long hold times and low pH conditions, followed by a multitude of freeze-thaw cycles, can all conspire to do a number on the starch granules that give sauces viscosity and stability.” Add in cost constraints and consumer “clean-label” demands, and the task can seem downright impossible.
Just five years ago, ingredient formulators would have insisted on modified starches for these moderate-to-high processing conditions. But according to Cargill’s texturizing expert, that’s no longer the case. “We’ve learned how to get more from our native starches using tools like temperature, water and pressure,” she explains. The results speak for themselves, as the company continues to expand its line of highly functional native starches under the SimPureTM brand.
The timing couldn’t be better, as processors clamor for help reformulating sauces to remove modified food starch from product labels. “Consumers want more transparency around the ingredients in the products they buy, and our SimPureTM products fit that desire to a T,” Radermacher contends. “Our line of functional native starch solutions are all simple and pure – yet they have the kind of process tolerance that you’d typically only find in a modified food starch.”
The company’s two newest additions, SimPureTM 99400 (for low-to-moderate processes) and 99405 (for more intense processing conditions), both come from waxy corn. Designed for use in sauces, as well as soups and gravies, the cook-up starches create a rich, satisfying texture, delivering performance on par with legacy modified food starches – yet label simply, appearing on U.S. ingredient statements as corn starch.
The new starches give product developers some significant advantages over other label-friendly starches – especially when it comes to flavor. “Today’s sauces are often layered with complex flavors, but some starches tend to mute those subtle notes,” Radermacher explains. In contrast, sensory testing with Cargill’s SimPureTM starches validates that their mild, neutral profile allows flavors to come through more clearly than other label-friendly options. Formulators will also appreciate the clean texture associated with the SimPureTM starches. “Native starches have a reputation for creating a pasty texture, but these starches provide a creamy, rich mouthfeel,” Radermacher explains.
Thickeners and more
That brings up another common starch misconception. Formulators typically include starches in their sauces solely for their contributions to viscosity, but Radermacher insists that these foundational ingredients can do more. “Starches can serve as mouthfeel enhancers and even help control syneresis,” she explains, both important tasks in the sauce world. Those additional functions can add up to cost savings, depending on the application. In a decadent cheese sauce, for example, formulators might be able to dial back the expensive dairy component by adding one of Cargill’s label-friendly starches to the formula. The resulting sauce would still deliver the creamy mouthfeel consumers expect, while also keeping ingredient costs in line.
That multifunctional appeal can also make Cargill’s new starches part of the replacement solution for other ingredients sometimes targeted for removal: guar and xanthan gums. Radermacher admits that replacing these hydrocolloids in sauces can be tricky, but she insists that label-friendly solutions are possible. “It takes multiple ingredients and a bit of trial-and error,” she acknowledges, “but starches can go a long way toward replicating the mouthfeel and viscosity provided by the gums.” From there, she advises formulators to turn to other label-friendly ingredients like pea protein, pectin, lecithin and chicory root fiber to fill in the remaining functional gaps.
Label-friendly starches can also help formulators targeting the trendy plant-based space. For example, Cargill has developed a vegan cheese sauce prototype that relies on SimPureTM 94400 to create a consistency, texture and mouthfeel that mirrors traditional cheese sauce – without a drop of dairy. “We used pea protein to replace the bulk of milk solids, then relied on our label-friendly starch to replicate the creamy, dairy-like mouthfeel you expect from a dairy cheese sauce,” Radermacher explains.
Then, there’s sugar reduction. In today’s sugar-wary environment, processors are keen to keep sugar levels in check, even in sauces. “Like any food, when we take out some of the sugar in the sauce, we need to add back bulk to the formula,” Radermacher explains. She says Cargill’s label friendly starches are great for that task – not just replacing sugar’s bulk, but also contributing to emulsion stability. The result is a reduced-sugar sauce that still maintains the creamy, smooth appearance consumers expect.