Selecting Ingredients To Manage Shelf-Life

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Shelf-life is an important aspect for food manufacturers so as to prolong its value and also reduce food waste. Going back to the basics, the ingredients one uses for one’s product is one way to manage shelf-life. By Liew Gin Lim, head of sales and marketing, Southeast Asia, and Cindy Tian, lead scientist, Kalsec

The longer an item can be on a store shelf, the more valuable it is for a retailer. Food manufacturers are always looking for new ways to extend the shelf-life of their products. There are several ways increased shelf-life can be achieved such as through processing, packaging and shipping, but another way is to go back to the basics—ingredient selection. Ingredients, being a vital piece of the final product, can have influence on not only shelf-life, but nutrition, colours and flavours.


In some industries, such as meat and poultry, continued improvements in shelf-life extension are critical to maintain fresh products while providing convenience for consumers.

In the past, it was easy to add a synthetic ingredient to a food product in order to gain extended shelf-life. This was a cost effective way to add additional days without affecting taste or price. However, in recent years, consumers’ desire for simpler ingredients has had an impact on the use of synthetic ingredients.

Consumers’ demand for cleaner and simpler labels is driving food manufacturers to replace artificial and ‘chemical sounding’ ingredients with natural alternatives. The ingredient list on a food or beverage product influences about half of all consumer purchase decisions, according to International Food Information Council in 2014. In a recent online survey by Kalsec, most consumers identified ‘no artificial ingredients’ in categorising foods and beverages as natural. How can this balance between, taste, price and consumer needs for cleaner labelling be achieved?

Natural antioxidants can provide effective alternatives to synthetic ones traditionally used in the industry, such as tert- Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHA), Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), and Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA).

In industries such as bakery, meat, poultry, seafood, and snacks, oxidation is one of the biggest issues challenging food manufacturers. Oxidation causes off or rancid aromas, flavours, and colour changes. These result in shortened shelf-life, increased waste, revenue lost and negative customer perceptions.

Antioxidants from natural sources can be highly effective in inhibiting oxidative reactions to protect food products and extend shelf-life, while meeting the need for consumer friendly labelling. Antioxidants from natural sources include flavonoids, phenolic acids, ascorbic acid, carotenoids, phospholipids, and protein-based compounds.

Spices and herbs are excellent sources of antioxidants and have a long history of safe usage. The ancient Egyptians used spices and herbs more than 5,000 years ago for food and medicinal purposes. Many studies have demonstrated that spices and herbs such as rosemary, sage, and oregano serve as strong antioxidants.

Rosemary extract is the dominant natural extract used as an antioxidant in Europe and the United States. Major active constitutes of rosemary are phenolic diterpenes such as carnosic acid and carnosol, and phenolic acids such as rosmarinic acid. Like most phenolic antioxidants, these compounds donate hydrogen to quench free radicals, thus breaking the chain reaction and slowing down the oxidation.

Rosemary is one of the most effective herbs used in food systems, and has been successfully used in edible oils, meat and poultry, snack foods, and sauces to retard oxidation and preserve quality. Low flavour and low aroma rosemary extracts provide the flexibility to increase the amount of natural antioxidant used, allowing for greater shelf-life without the flavour and aroma limitations often associated with traditional rosemary extracts.

Rosemary extracts also possess excellent synergistic effects when combined together with other antioxidants, such as tocopherol, ascorbic acid, citric acid, and green tea extracts. This ability to create antioxidant systems with different solubilities and functionalities can help attack the oxidation pathway at multiple points effectively reducing the creation of undesirable colour, flavour, and aromas thereby increasing shelf-life.

While making the switch from synthetic to natural antioxidants can seem difficult for a food manufacturer, selecting the right ingredient supplier is paramount. An ingredient supplier will help you with a successful transition.

Tips To Choosing Your Antioxidant Ingredient Supplier

Your ingredient supplier should manage the complete process of ingredient development, from the selection of raw materials to the extraction process, to how the ingredient works in your specific application.

The right raw material provides the foundation for your antioxidant. Ideally your supplier should oversee the raw material selection process by collaborating with farmers and developing relationships that allow for the growth of the most consistent, high quality ingredients. Additionally, they may also cultivate and grow their own plants. The combination of these two approaches can provide you with a consistent and reliable supply of product.

They should also be able to provide a wide variety of antioxidant products which are specifically designed for your application needs. This may include products with varying concentrations and solubilities which ensure even distribution in your food matrix. The flavour intensity of the resultant extract should also be controlled to ensure a consistent flavour profile from lot to lot.

Additionally, they should be able to help you identify the best addition points in your manufacturing process. Your ingredient supplier should be knowledgeable about the oxidation pathway and be able to offer you more complex antioxidant solutions for highly sensitive applications.

Finally, they should also be able to provide technical support once you start using their product. This might include providing dose confirmation in your product which ensures that the antioxidant is being added in the right amount during manufacturing. They may also provide shelf-life testing for you to help you determine the actual effects of the antioxidant performance. This testing is typically tailored to the matrix and could include peroxide values, quantifying the aldehydes in the product or sensory testing.

Antioxidants are incredibly effective compounds which can extend the shelf-life of a wide variety of food and beverage applications. As the trends continue towards clean and clear labels, natural antioxidants continue to grow in importance over the traditional synthetic antioxidants. A reputable antioxidant ingredient supplier can help you choose and apply the right antioxidant to your food system in order to achieve your shelf-life requirements.


Natural antioxidants are not the only ingredient solution for extending shelf-life in food applications. The use of naturally sourced colours have been on the rise as consumer demand for a clean label also determines what a food or beverage manufacturer may consider as suitable ingredients or colourings for their finished product. Many major food manufacturers are making the switch to natural colours, and the need for extended light and heat colour stability is imperative. As the demand increases, so do the number of offerings of high stability naturally sourced colours.

It is a widely held misconception that all natural colours are difficult to use due to their instability to heat and light, while synthetic alternatives are consistently stable. In fact, a full range of natural hues is available and colour manufacturers have developed products with acceptable stability in many applications. Applications for which natural colours are effective include: batter, beverages, butter, cereals, confectionery, crumbs, fruit concentrates, margarine, meats, salad dressings, sauces, soluble seasonings, soups, spray dried cheese, and yogurt. Outlined below are the range of natural colours available and a description of each.

Yellow Colours

Options for colouring cereals, confections, margarines, soups, sauces, and yogurt with a natural yellow hue include oleoresin turmeric and carrot extract. Because turmeric can often have a greenish tint, combinations of turmeric with annatto are frequently used where legislation permits.

Orange Colours

Natural orange hues based on carotenoid pigments from paprika and annatto provide the colouring for a host of consumer products, including confections and sauces.

Carotenoids are the most widely used and robust natural colour pigments in the food and beverage industry. However, there are stability concerns when creating a food product that needs to withstand processing temperatures while maintaining acceptable shelf stability under a broad range of conditions.

High stability orange colours based on carotenoids have been developed by the colour industry to provide improved product quality and extended shelf-life. Paprika and paprika/ annatto combinations are typically used to provide orange shades to dry ingredients such as crumbs, dry seasonings and spray dried cheese coatings.

Red Colours

Red hues for foods and beverages are achieved by the use of either carmine or fruit and vegetable concentrates. While carmine is an excellent colour for beverages, confectionery and meats, its non-kosher status is an issue for some consumer products. Anthocyanin pigments from fruits and vegetable are the preferred alternative. Vegetable concentrates, such as black carrot, cabbage and radish, are typically recommended over grape concentrates due to their superior heat and light stability.

The challenge of working with anthocyanin pigments lies in the pH effect on hue and stability. Anthocyanins are most red and stable at a pH value of 3-3.5 and sometimes as high as 4.5. At a pH value higher than 4.5, the hue becomes bluer and less stable. Anthocyanins are an excellent choice for beverages, confectionery, and fruit preparations.

Green Colours

The colour green is often used in confectionery, dressings, sauces, and seasonings. Sodium copper chlorophyllin, a water-soluble pigment, is one alternative to synthetic colours. Other natural sources of green colours include extracts of lucerne (grass) and alfalfa. However, regulatory approval for green colours varies by country so it is important to check your local regulations.

Brown Colours

Replacing water-soluble brown colours with caramel is relatively easy. There are a wide range of caramel colourings for use in beverages, poultry coatings and sauces. The hue can be adjusted to more yellow with the addition of turmeric or carrot, and to more red with the addition of paprika.

Spice And Herb Flavour Liquid Extracts

In many markets, dry or ground spices are the predominant forms for adding flavour to finished food applications. However, dry and ground spices can be difficult to store and their flavour diminishes over time.

Oleoresin spice and herb flavour liquid extracts are good alternatives to dry spices for adding the full flavour and aroma to a food product. The standard shelf-life of an oleoresin spice or herb flavour extract is typically a year under proper storage. They also provide consistency from batch to batch and provide the same flavour, colour and aroma profile each time they are used.

Oleoresins, when added to a food product, maintain their full flavour impact longer than traditional dry or ground spices, thus extending the shelf-life of the food product. Also, oleoresins and extracts can provide more microbial stability than many dry spices.

Therefore, the takeaway for food manufacturers and producers is that when developing a new food product or reformulating an existing one, it is good to keep in mind how one can use ingredient selection to help extend shelf-life, and at the same time, gain other benefits.