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Carrot fibers from FoodSolutionsTeam: Closing the door on food waste

FoodSolutionsTeam has been shortlisted for the upcoming Food ingredients Innovation Awards 2017, and specifically in the sector of the Sustainability Champion Award Shortlist for its’ present KaroPRO, a functional, natural and sustainable carrot fiber ingredient. Derived from side streams of vegetable juice production, KaroPRO is produced using innovative drying and milling technologies. The development of KaroPRO is claimed to reduce food waste and at the same time offer a highly functional ingredient with a positive declaration and beneficial nutritional values.

Managing Director at FoodSolutionsTeam, who firstly discussed the upcoming awards: “For a small company like ours, just to be nominated is great – it gives us a window in terms of recognition to inform our customers about our product. It gives them the reassurance that they are working with an ingredient that is being regarded as an innovation and which is sustainable and that is exactly what we tell our customers.”

“Getting this extra reassurance from a body is very helpful for a small company like us and certainly its recognition after five years of hard work that we’ve taken the right direction,” he adds.

“We have so far been successful in commercializing a fiber product that is being made from carrot pulp. The carrot fiber that we produce is currently commercially available and we have customers in the meat, bakery, sauces and fine foods industry as well as dry blending. Our carrot fiber is also available in organic quality which sets us apart even further from competitors in the fiber arena.”

“When we set up the business in 2012, our objective was to reduce food waste,” Linke confirms. “There is a carrot fiber already on the market, which we think is not necessarily aimed at food waste reduction, but that is a functional ingredient. We thought if there’s a market for an ordinary carrot fiber, then there should be a market for something that is made from food waste, thus resulting in our product: KaroPRO.”

“Fiber enrichment is one of the issues that we can address,” says Linke. “Supplying our customers with functional foods is important to us and our KaroPRO fibers can be used for technological purposes, water retention, texture and fiber enrichment in general.”

“The typical food fibers that the industry is using at the moment are white and have no taste making them easily applicable in many applications. That makes it a very simple ingredient for developers and that is what most NPD people are used to. Given that we do not clean our fibers, we don’t bleach or take out sugars, there are still flavors left in our products. Our carrot fiber is slightly off-white because the beta-carotene is not stable so 4 weeks after production the orange has turned into an off-white – and we have a slight carrot taste to it,” Linke explains.

“We have a product that is as functional as the carrot fiber that is already on the market, we do, however, have slightly different nutritional values but in terms of functionality we are equal with the advantage that we have a sustainable product.”

“Our carrot fibers have very high water retention so you have retention of 1 to 26, meaning it can carry its own weight in water 26 times, in terms of vegetable fibers this is one of the best attributes.”

According to Linke, there are a number of food application areas that have a good potential when it comes to fibers. “An area in where we see the most interest is in the meat products space,” he says, “Because if you combine our carrot fibers with water then meat products generally are made cheaper.”

“There are markets where meat products have to be cheaper and manufacturers can add fibers in order to retain the water which then reduces the meat content. You could call that a negative effect, but in these markets, it is necessary to have affordable products. In such markets, it is all about the affordability of food and meat especially and those fibers can play that role of making expensive foods, especially meat products, affordable to the end consumer.”

Food waste
The ongoing issue around food waste has been a real challenge throughout the food industry for many years and for FoodSolutionsTeam there was a gap in the market for their carrot fibers. “When consumers buy baby carrots in a supermarket, they have been cut and shaped,” he notes. “These cuts are typically being disposed of, but now, you can use these cuts to press juice and then you are left with a pulp. That’s the pulp we take, we dry and mill it and we end up with our carrot fiber.” It is the same with vegetable juice. People drink it because they perceive it to be a natural and healthy food – and it is. But these consumers do not think about the impact on the environment – roughly 50 percent of the carrots grown for juicing are being disposed of in the form of pulp.

“If you look at all the reports about food waste, it is typically around households, foodservice and retailers that were targeted. There seems to be an awful lot more which can be done than just vegetable pulps – we see products being thrown away left right and center because they are deemed to be without value, but I believe there are many more opportunities to reduce food waste in the industry,” explains Linke.

“If you compare our vegetable fibers to many of the fibers that are already on the market, you will see that our fibers are actually all from the edible part of the plant, as part of our sustainability and natural promise, our fibers will always come from the edible part of food and in this case: carrot.”

From a sustainability standpoint, Linke notes that is a priority for the business. “During the course of five years, we developed our processes, how to naturally process these vegetable pulps to be able to call it a natural fiber. Of course, naturalness to us has a lot do with sustainability, if we use chemical solvents, or bleaching agents, for example, then sustainability suffers. We don’t wash any sugars from our fibers, because then again we would lose 30 percent of the product without really gaining any functionality,” he states.

FoodSolutionsTeam is working on a selection of vegetable fibers including fibers from beetroot, kale and pumpkin, all produced sustainably and available from summer 2018. According to Linke, one of the difficulties in finding the right partners is that they only process these fruit or vegetables sustainably and that can be a challenge.

“When we started years ago, sustainability with regards to a food ingredient was a novel concept but now we see more people embracing this concept and for these people and food companies it is really important that something that is sustainable is produced in a natural way,” Linke concludes.

FoodSolutionsTeam has run trials with vegetables like cucumber, turmeric, red bell peppers, cauliflower and ginger and all these trials have been successful. All of the aforementioned have water bindings of more than 10 times up to 20 times their weight. Most of them carry stable colors which can be used to color applications and some of them still have flavoring properties.

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