Most of us have experienced the joy and the challenge of using spices and herbs to create just the right flavour profile in a homemade meal. While it is relatively easy to clean and prepare spices and herbs in home kitchens, imagine the difficulty of creating that exact flavour profile time and time again on a large scale in a food manufacturing plant. This is when liquid seasonings can provide many advantages.
For more than 50 years, spice and herb extracts and liquid seasoning blends have played an important role in the processed food industry. Extracts in the form of oleoresins are ideal for oil based applications or for plating on to dry carriers, and water dispersible extracts can be added directly to food applications that contain both an oil and water phase such as sauces, low fat meats, marinades and soups.
Liquid extracts are defined as solid or semi-solid resin possessing the full organoleptic character of the natural spice. Makers of prepared foods and food ingredients rely on liquid seasonings for consistent, natural and reproducible flavour, aroma and colour.
Using liquid seasonings instead of ground spices offer many advantages:
Superior microbiological status
Ground spices are well known for their poor microbiological status. Liquid spice and herb extracts have lower micro counts due to the production methods used.
Immediate, fresh, clean flavour delivery and consistency
Liquid seasonings deliver immediate flavour impact and need no time to rehydrate, making them ideal for use in products with either short or long production times.
Knowing that your supplier maintains controlled extraction methods can ensure liquid seasonings that provide consistently clean and fresh flavours.
Ease of use in the factory
Clumping and caking challenges traditionally associated with the use of ground spices are solved when liquid seasonings are used. Liquid seasonings are easily incorporated into most food product processing methods.
Function beyond flavour
Liquid seasonings have natural beneficial and functional uses that can be harnessed and controlled by a knowledgeable supplier. For example, the enzymatic activity of ground spices can cause problems in the consistency of sauces, whereas liquid seasonings are an ideal alternative as the enzymes have been deactivated.
Additionally, a smoother sauce texture is achieved when using liquid seasonings in place of ground spices. The concentrated liquid seasonings reduce the volume of spices needed in finished sauces, therefore interfering less with consistency.
Heat (Pungency) Management
Consumers want bolder, more complex flavours. Globally, the demand for hot and spicy foods is continuing to increase, particularly in snacks, sauces and dressings.
According to a recent survey, one out of two consumers prefer spicy/hot sauces and marinades. Another major advantage of working with liquid seasonings is the ability to manage heat (pungency), which can be difficult when incorporating black and white pepper, ginger or chilli peppers into your food product.
Chilli peppers, and their characteristic pungency, have become an essential ingredient in many cultural cuisines. Today, countless varieties of pungent chilli peppers are cultivated. They share one distinctive characteristic: the unmistakable zest they give to the foods they flavour.
Although fresh or brined chilli peppers are sometimes used to flavour and colour food, the traditional method of preserving chilli peppers is dehydration. Afterward, they are crushed, ground or flaked. They are sometimes combined with other dehydrated spices to make pungent seasonings, such as chilli powder.
Call it ‘heat’, ‘pungency’, ‘warmth’ or ‘bite’—in modern commercial food applications, it is crucial that this characteristic be uniform, predictable and consistent.
Creating just the right amount of heat in a food product can be a difficult and delicate process. Some products require no heat, some just a subtle amount, and some need to sizzle. Providing consistent and predictable heat can be achieved when using liquid seasonings.
By isolating specific components from a wide variety of herbs, spices and vegetables, then extracting the critical components and standardising their effect, the amount and delivery of heat can be easily controlled.
Working with a primary extractor of pungent spices results in maximum control over critical parameters:
- Flavour and aroma profile
- Additives on label
When managing heat, different combinations of liquid seasonings can impart very different tactile sensations, such as chemesthesis (heat, cold, stinging) and mouthfeel, or multi-dimensional heat. For a product developer looking to create something new, the concept of multi-dimensional heat offers a way to add a new profile to an existing product and an opportunity for product line extensions.
What exactly is multi-dimensional heat?
It is the result of combining many different pungent spices in ways that control desired aspects:
|When||Deciding the timing of pungency.|
|Where||Selecting the location on the palate and tongue.|
|How much||Determining the right intensity.|
|Why||Satisfying consumer tastes.|
Today’s consumer likes it hot. Today’s consumer is also looking for ways to reduce fat and calories, without sacrificing flavour.
Using Liquid Spice Extracts
Some of the different types of spice extracts that can be used to create multi-dimensional heat are capsicum, ginger, mustard, horseradish and Szechuan pepper extract.
Capsicum extracts can be decolorised, delivering the heat experience without imparting colour at typical dosage rates or they deliver standardised pungency with a bright orange hue, often used for breadings.
Depending on the capabilities of your supplier, there are other capsicum options that may be ideal for specific applications, such as sauces and pickling brines, where a distinctive heat is desired and water solubility is important.
Paul Keller, Berlin, Germany
Szechuan pepper can also provide a unique twist to your food application. The Szechuan (or Sichuan) pepper has a unique aroma and flavour that is not hot or pungent like black, white or chilli peppers. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones.
The Szechuan plant belongs to the citrus family and it is not botanically related to the black pepper or chilli peppers. Its active ingredient—sanshools—delivers a distinctive tingling, numbing sensation in the mouth, giving food manufacturers a way to provide a distinctly different sensation to an existing product, with line extension opportunities.
Szechuan pepper is a common spice used in Asian cuisine. However, due to its unique ability to enhance other flavours, especially other pungent spices, it has significant potential for many other applications.
Whether you are considering more pungency, improved texture, or simply a more consistent flavour in your product line, liquid extracts offer many options. But before you start to convert your ground spices to liquid, you need to find the right supplier.
The Supplier Factor
A reputable and experienced liquid seasoning supplier can work with you to find the best possible replacement for ground spices and can guide you through the challenges you may encounter while making the switch to liquid extracts.
The first step to ensure a quality functional ingredient is to select a supplier who provides you with ingredients that meet the utmost quality standards. A critical component to this is selecting a supplier that oversees the selection and sourcing of quality raw materials.
You should be sure that your supplier utilises consistent, reliable processing methods in the manufacturing of their ingredients. Combining raw material selection expertise and technology with careful attention to processing conditions creates effective ingredient solutions for your application.
Your supplier should be more than just a raw material source; they should also be a partner in helping you overcome challenges and understand how their ingredients perform in various applications. Your supplier should have the resources and knowledge available to work collaboratively on specific projects. By discussing factors such as processing parameters, ingredients in the formulation and labelling restrictions, you are ensuring that your supplier finds a suitable option to ground spices.