Functional foods and beverages—those that provide benefits beyond basic nutrition—are big business these days as consumers increasingly expect their food to “do more” for them. According to the International Food Information Council (IFIC)1, the category includes dietary supplements and vitamins, energy and sports drinks, and foods fortified with nutrients and probiotics—and it is growing rapidly. In fact, the category generated worldwide sales of $258.8 billion in 2014 and is expected to top $377 billion by 2020.2
These days, people don’t just want great tasting foods that will fill them up. They also want extra protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and more. They want their food to work hard for them, to give them added energy, soothe their digestive systems, and even sharpen their thinking. Custom nutrient premixes give food manufacturers the power to do all of that in a way that is efficient and cost-effective.
Nutrient premixes, like those made by Watson, Inc, are custom-designed blends of ingredients with associated health benefits such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibers, and more. These blends combine precise proportions of micro- and macro-nutrients specifically designed to suit your unique food product. This allows you, the manufacturer, to add functional ingredients to a food product in precisely the right quantity and the proper chemical form, at exactly the right moment during your production process. While you could fortify your products with individual nutrients, using a custom nutrient premix saves you time and money, helps reduce inventory and waste, streamlines production, simplifies end-product quality control, and minimizes order processing.
With custom premixes, manufacturers can optimize their products, combining multiple ingredients into a single blend to deliver a product with maximum benefits. A supplier with deep knowledge of ingredients, nutrients, their physical and chemical attributes, and how they interact can guide manufacturers in creating their products. Prior to determining a premix formula, several factors should be considered, including how much space the ingredients take up, whether or not they are visually appealing and/or palatable, whether they are stable or not, how they will interact with other ingredients, and what forms they are available in (such as oil, trituration, or powder).
The supplier's understanding of processing enables them to select the correct addition-points of a custom nutrient premix and to understand what can affect the stability of the nutrients under various processing conditions.
Typically, premixes consist of vitamins and minerals, but custom formulations can include such functional ingredients as fibers, gums, amino acids, proteins, and botanicals. Including other nutrients in custom premixes can save manufacturers time and money. The supplier’s job includes maintaining a comprehensive range of raw materials and sourcing raw materials from qualified suppliers. Thus, the manufacturer limits the number of raw materials they need to purchase, as well as the number of vendors they work with, eliminating time-consuming steps in the production process, streamlining production, and simplifying end-product quality control.
It takes more than a warehouse of raw materials and a blender to formulate custom nutrient premixes correctly. In order to create products that offer nutritional benefits, a manufacturer has to consider cost requirements, taste, and quality and consistency expectations.
To create a high-quality premix that achieves the manufacturer’s goals requires knowledge in daily values and recommended daily intakes, ingredients’ functionalities, interactions between ingredients, and the physical attributes of the nutrients. For instance, some are coarse granules while others are fluffy, light particles. These attributes pose challenges when integrating the nutrients into a homogenous formulation.
When used in fortified food and beverage products, functional ingredients must be added in precise quantities, in the right chemical form, and at the right point of the production process. Because every food product and process is unique, there is no single formula to satisfy every need. Using custom premix formulations made by a supplier with scientific expertise, strong understanding of nutrition science, and regulatory knowledge allows manufacturers to create customized, high-quality, shelf-stable formulations that are optimized for different food applications, which simplifies product development and reduces risk.
When creating custom formulations, a premix supplier leverages basic blending principles—including the order in which nutrients are added or how certain ingredients are preprocessed—to boost quality and lower costs. They can also identify the best style of blending, (such as high shear or low shear), and what ancillary equipment is recommended (screening, milling, or pre-blending) to accommodate special handling properties of ingredients.
To create a homogenous blend, parameters like particle-size distribution and stability must be taken into account without introducing variables that could compromise the taste, texture, or appearance of the end-product. Mitigating these variables is done through technologies ranging from microencapsulation to spray drying, agglomeration, micronizing, and film technology. Microencapsulation can be utilized to mask strong, undesirable flavors of certain additives, for instance. Micronization or agglomeration can be used to decrease or increase particle size. These capabilities allow the manufacturer to incorporate a range of ingredients in a formulation.
Suppliers also should possess the capability of running pilot trials to study interactions that affect stability, off-odors, or taste—or any other technological issues. This will accelerate product innovation. Working closely with reliable ingredient suppliers can help formulation scientists and manufacturing engineers choose the best ingredient form and make on-the-go adjustments during the manufacturing process to ensure food-product quality. Using robust blending principles and state-of-the-art serial dilution tools, premix suppliers with application expertise and innovation centers can play an important role in developing healthful blends to accelerate food-product innovation.
Customer and Industry Commitment
Developing a long-term relationship with a custom premix supplier can help manufacturers reach their goals, whether those are in product formulation, growth of market share, new product development, or long-term strategy. The ultimate goal of fortification is enhancing human health and nutrition around the world, and suppliers that lead the way in developing quality products and ingredient systems for the food and supplement industries lead the charge.
Using premixed nutrient blends adds value for the manufacturer by reducing product development time, improving production efficiency, lowering inventory costs, and limiting the number of suppliers a manufacturer needs to interact with, and streamlining quality control.
Finding the right custom premix supplier is as important as the premix itself. Look for a supplier who can offer customized service across the entire value chain, from initial concept development through final production. Excellent product development support and technical guidance will save you time and money while ensuring that your product quality is always on target.
For more information on choosing a custom nutrient supplier, click to watch our video on choosing a Custom Nutrient Premix supplier.
1 International Food Information Council, " Functional Foods, Sustainability, Protein, CRISPR and What’s 'Healthy' Among Top U.S. Food and Nutrition Trends in 2017," accessed October 17, 2017.
2 Statista.com, "Market size of fortified/functional foods worldwide in 2014 and 2020 (in billion U.S. dollars)," accessed October 17, 2017.