Soy Allergen Concern

Most formulators and nutritionists realize that soy protein provides many functional and nutritional benefits in foods. These benefits include providing better yields and moist texture in processed meats and protein-based satiety when added to beverages or nutrition bars. However, in all cases, when added to prepared foods or nutritional products, soy is considered a definite allergen as it is listed as one for the 8 top allergens found in foods as follows:

  • Peanut
  • Tree Nuts
  •  Milk
  • Egg
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

All of us are concerned about the labeling and health concerns of having an unwanted allergen in our product. But here are some facts which might help us to re-consider soy protein use:

  • The largest survey conducted found only 0.0005 percent of adults are allergic to soy protein.1
    Cow’s milk allergy is about 40 times more common than soy allergy.1
  • The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology estimates that only 0.4 percent of children are allergic to soy protein. Of those, an estimated 70 percent will outgrow their allergy by age 10.2

When designing a prepared food or nutritional food for adults, it is vital to weigh whether our soy protein use or rejection is based on allergen labellling dictates or remote risk concerns about allergenic effects of soy protein products.

  1. Savage, J.H., et al. “The natural history of soy allergy.” J Allergy Clin Immunol, 2010. 125(3): p. 683-686.
  2. Vierk, K.A., et al. “Prevalence of self-reported food allergy in American adults and use of food labels.” J Allergy Clin Immunol, 2007. 119(6): p. 1504-10.


The Great Protein Opportunity

The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970.  It was organized in response to population growth with an eye toward the impact every human makes on the Earth.  Denis Hayes, the chief organizer of the first Earth Day said at that time, “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.”

The FAO and the UN predict global population to reach 9 Billion by 2050, this means we will need to to increase food production by 70%.  Demand for protein (an essential nutrient for growth and health) is expected to rise between 50 and 90% assuming developing countries continue to consume low end quantities of 25 grams of protein per day per person and developed countries consume 50 grams of protein per person per day.

In the USA, 50% of consumers have a goal consumption of protein per day.  87% know that protein builds muscle, 72% know it can help you feel full, and 63% know it is an essential part of weight loss programs.

These statistics prove that whether you’re feeding hungry populations or educated segments, the demand for protein will continue to grow, straining our resources and causing prices to rise and supply to tighten.  This blog is the first in a series titled, Creating Protein Strategy.  Each month we will discuss different considerations in your creation of a protein strategy, and we will highlight how soy protein is a key element in many ways.  But this is not just about soy.  It’s about diversification, flexibility, nutrition, flavor, safety and environmental impact.  Reduce your reliance on one protein and hedge your strategy to create a strong protein platform for your company’s future and the future of our planet.

In Defense of Soy: Men’s Health vs Men’s Fitness

In 2009 Men’s Health published an article claiming that soy causes “gynecomastia,” better known as man boobs.  One, 60-year-old man developed some real man boobs and took himself to a gland clinic.  It was discovered he was consuming ¾ gallon of soy milk a day.  When told to stop drinking the soymilk, the man’s boobs went away.

In a case of skewed evidence, Men’s Fitness reported in defense of soy, and told the reader to please remember this is equivalent to 24 glasses of soy milk every day.  The effects of this caloric consumption paired with a food diet of any type resulted not only in man boobs but his weight being classified as obese.  Millions of people globally ingest soy protein as a staple in their diet and there are NO reported cases of gynecomastia.  The National Institute of Health has published three studies showing lack of long term evidence that soy consumption causes man boobs or reproductive harm in men.

Men’s Health has said themselves that gynecomastia can be caused by obesity, excessive alcohol, smoking pot, or excessive steroid use.

2015 – The Clean Year

2015 could be called The Clean Year.  The year we cleaned-up ingredient labels so consumers would know what each ingredient in our formulas is.  This could be called the year that everything became “more real” and less processed.  Perhaps consumers would celebrate how clean our labels are if they knew what they wanted in a “clean” labeled product.

According to Liz Sloan from Sloan Trends Inc., in her article titled, “Clean Label Rules, But Confusion Reigns,” 47% of consumers have never heard of the term “clean label” and 37% have heard of it but don’t know what it means.  Here at SPI we think it’s the word “clean.”  “Recognizable” “Natural” and “No Artificial” are the top three consumer clean label drivers.

Ultimately clean label is about avoiding chemicals.  Chemicals in food is the number one consumer food safety concern in 2015, up 13% from 2014.  8 in 10 consumers think preservative-free is healthy and 78% think no artificial sweeteners is healthy.

Interestingly, Sloan says that Organic, Natural, Non-GM, and Free-From are second-tier, peripheral attributes that are not driving consumers but may add to overall perception of “clean-ness.”

Consumers just want to know what’s in their food.  Did you know that 71% of consumers in all age categories think there are more harmful ingredients in foods than manufacturers are telling them?  This means they question us, the people making their food.  SPI Group stands by all of our ingredients and will always tell you everything in our products.  We may not be clean, but we promise to be transparent.

The full ELizabeth Sloan article is available in the members-only section at  It was published in the September issue of Food Technology.

Ohly Honey Powders: the versatile sweetener

Honey powders were developed to meet the needs of the food industry for a better way to store honey. Dried honey requires less storage space and stops the inherent waste and sanitation problems associated with liquid honey. It’s also a convenient way to store honey for prolonged periods of time to avoid crystallization of the liquid honey. Honey powder easily blends into dry mixes and little adjustment in product formulation needed.

Application for honey powders includes sweetening sauces, beverages, seasoning blends and in topical applications like coatings and glazes. Liquid honey is made up of glucose and fructose and about 20% water. The health food industry knows that glucose absorbs quickly while the fructose is absorbs slowly over time. This gives honey a low glycemic index and better at keeping blood sugar in balance.

Ohly uses two processes to manufacture their line of honey powders. In the spray dry process Ohly spray dries a liquid honey and maltodextrin carrier slurry via an evaporating tower. At the bottom of the tower they end up with a dry cream colored powder that is approximately 32% honey solids and 68% maltodextrin. To achieve the same amount of honey solids to liquid honey you need to add 2.5 parts spray dried honey powder to .5 parts water. With the additional maltodextrin solids and depending upon your application, you may need to adjust the amount of water.

In the roller dried process Ohly mixes the liquid honey with wheat starch, the carrier chosen for this line of honey powders. They plate the thick slurry onto a heated roller where the product dries and the wheat starch pre-gelatinizes in the process. The roller dried products can come out at up to 70% honey solids and 30% wheat starch. By adding 1 part water to 1 part honey powder the roller dried honey powder is on a 1 to 1 basis to liquid honey.

The honey solids in the spray dried products are lower than the roller dried ones are. But because of the maltodextrin carrier, the honey flavor has an immediate burst of honey as the maltodextrin is so clean. The spray dried powders are also completely soluble in water.

In roller dried products where wheat starch is used as the carrier, a masking effect may happen on an immediate honey flavor. But when used in the right applications the honey flavor and sweetness is released. So these products tend to work best in baking, sauces and glazes where the product has been heated or cooked.

Ohly has a complete line of honey powders to choose from. Depending on the functionality needed, they have that will work in your application. They also manufacture non-GMO versions in both roller dried and spray dried forms.

The following Ohly honey powders are available through SPI Group.

Spray dried: Honey HSD 50 and Honey HSD 50 in IP form.

Roller dried: Honey HRD 40 and HI Honey HRD 70 in IP form.

Please contact us today if you would like to look at a spec, order a sample or just have a question.


Clean-Labelled Fresh Ground Meat Shelf Life Improvement

In the highly competitive and price-sensitive world of fresh ground meat, shelf life can be crucial for profits. One or two extra days without unsightly browning can be the difference between a sale and a return to the manufacturer.  Raw meat quality, clean processing and controlled atmosphere packaging remain keys to maintaining a good fresh appearance in retail tray-displayed ground meats. The question arises about how to provide a safe and acceptable hurdle to improve shelf life and yet meet the clean label requirements of today’s consumer?

Clean Label Alternative Ingredients

The possible answer may lie in clean label ingredients from natural sources like Rosemary, Acerola (Cherry), and Green Tea with antioxidant color retention effect being added to fresh ground meats during processing. Rosemary extracts are widely accepted commercially to improve shelf life in ground poultry. Rosemary naturally contains rosmarinic and carnosic acids which are responsible for the longer shelf life antioxidant effect without the characteristic rosemary flavor. The organic acids (mostly ascorbic acid) present in Acerola Cherry juice powder provides oxygen-scavenging properties that protect meat pigments from the color change caused by oxidation. Green tea extracts have been commercially developed over that past 10 years based on water extractable polyphenols in fresh green tea leaves. Similar to green tea extracts, many other spice and fruits are sources of organic acids and naturally-occurring compounds like polyphenols with known protective effects useful in maintaining freshness. Commercially, suppliers are providing combined blends of these natural antioxidants and measuring their potency. These blends have been tested to be efficacious in retaining the bright red meat color in beef at usage levels as low as 0.2% to 0.5%

In considering these alternative clean-labelled ingredients cost, flavor and efficacy and label recommendations must be considered. A 2015 Nielsen-Perishable Group study concluded that “Consumers will to pay more for cleaner labels-up to 70 cents (per pound) for fresh ground beef.”  Naturally-sourced clean-labelled shelf life improving ingredients will definitely play an exciting role in this very current development.

For more information about this opportunity, contact your SPI Group sales manager and get more literature, shelf life study results and samples.



Eating 3 meals per day?

Do you eat 3 square meals per day? Probably not, according to a recent Consumer Eating Behavior survey!

Snacking is becoming a lifestyle! According to IRI data, only 14% of American consumers are eating 3 square meals per day.  However, 28% of people say that they eat 4 -5 small meals per day.  In addition, 38% of us are eating 3 square meals plus several snacks – that means that over 86% of Americans are eating snacks!  (Source: IRI, Consumer Eating Behavior survey, May 2013)

As food manufacturers, we can’t help but be excited about this increased consumer snacking behavior and blurring of eating occasions; which is creating an opportunity for us! We know that consumers are embracing protein a beneficial ingredient for a healthy diet and lifestyle.  Soy protein is a versatile ingredient, with multiple formats available to add protein to any snack.  Please talk to SPI Group about adding benefits to your snack item- some of our favorite topics are added protein, fiber, or sustained energy claims.


The Facts about Allergens and your Ingredients

In 2014 the number one cause of food recalls was undeclared allergens. A food product with a label that omits required allergen information is misbranded and the FDA may seize products with undeclared allergens. The most common recall causing allergens are wheat, dairy and soy. The most common finished products recalled are baked goods, snack foods, candy, dairy products and sauces/dressings. More than half of all recalls are Class I which means there is a reasonable probability that exposure to a food product will result in serious adverse health consequences or death.

Recall Information can be found here:

FDA Reportable Food Registry

USDA FSIS Current Recalls and Alerts

In 2014, half of all undeclared allergen recalls were caused by an un-notified change in an ingredient by the supplier to a food manufacturer.

On December 26, 2014 a supplier of cumin forced hundreds of Class I recalls due to undeclared peanut. The source of peanut in cumin is known and levels in finished products are likely too low to cause a serious reaction. But the long lasting impact on a finicky consumer market remains, and none of the recall cases have been closed by FDA or USDA.

Pea Protein

As a leading protein ingredient supplier on the west coast, SPI Group gets a lot of calls for plant based proteins! Recently, we have especially had a lot of interest in pea protein, and are pleased to recommend pea protein isolate Pisane. Pea protein isolate meets the growing needs of manufacturers of high protein baked goods, including protein bars, granola bars, bread products and extruded crisps.

If you attended our recent snack seminar, you know that convenience is a key driver for healthy snacking! Many consumers are looking at bars for a healthy, convenient snack on the go- and we all know that “protein” is a key buzz word. In formulating bars, pea protein isolate can be a blended with other proteins such as soy or whey, or can be used as the sole protein source. Compared to other vegetables protein sources, Pisane has a very high level of BCAA: branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine). Amongst proteins, Pisane is also one of the best sources of lysine as well as a unique source of arginine.

We like Pisane because it is a non-genetically modified (GMO) ingredient, plus it has excellent digestibility.   We also love that it is gluten free!

For more information and specific details about pea protein isolate, contact us today.

Winter Fancy Foods Show 2015

The SPI Group was out in force this year to explore and taste the newest and hottest food trends at the Winter Fancy Foods Show. We were just some of the over 17000 attendees over the three day show. The show encompassed over 1300 exhibitors showing their fancy edibles at the Moscone Plaza in downtown San Francisco.

Fancy Foods Show 2015

Spread throughout two full halls were vendors showing off some of the most unique and a trendy foodstuffs you may (or may not) see in the grocery stores in the next year. Some of this years’ trends included:

  • Fermented products – Kimchi and similar products were out in force this year. We noticed a local San Francisco company – Sinto Gourmet – who had award winning Kimchi, and sees this as a hot new trend.
  •  Coconut – with the rise in popularity of coconut water in the last few years, the coconut trend seems like it’s picking up steam. We noted several coconut-based products from coconut milk ice cream (fabulous!), coconut nectar, to coconut chips. One favorite was Dang Foods Toasted Coconut Chips. These had a great flavor and are touted as “the perfect snack.”
  •  Hummus – the popular ground chickpea spread is having a new awakening with unique flavors around every corner at the show. Flavors like  Tribe Mediterranean’s Horseradish, Dill, Cracked Chili Peppers and Jalapeño were interesting as well as Cedar’s Mediterranean Foods offers of Cilantro and Tomato & Basil Hummus. Sabra is an industry leader and showcased more than a dozen varieties including Caramelized Onion, Cranberry & Fig, Chipotle, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Peppadew.
  •  Seaweed – Seaweed was showing up in multiple formats including various flavors of seaweed chips. Ocean’s Halo showcased various flavors including Texas BBQ and Chili Lime. Touted as a “sustainable superfood,” seaweed also showed up in almond seaweed crisps and an onion seaweed crunch from vendor Ocean Snack.
  •  Turmeric – This historically Indian curry spice was the “spice du jour’ at the show.  It’s natural anti-inflammatory properties continue the health and wellness trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

If you’ve never had a chance to attend a Fancy Food Expo, we’d highly recommend it. It opens your eyes to what is a continuing trend, and what some of the evolving trends will be. One thing for certain is the focus on healthy and functional products will continue to be “on-trend” and we at SPI Group will continue to assist the food industry with supply and technical help.