Fruit & Vegetable Ingredient Functionalities

Originally Published: October 1, 2015
Last Updated: February 9, 2021
Fruits and vegetables provide a clean ingredient source for sweetening, coloring, texturizing. preserving, fortifying and flavoring.

October 1, 2015 – With a focus on clean labels, Martha (Marty) Porter, Scientist at Merlin Development, discussed fruit & vegetable ingredient functionalities used to sweeten, color, texturize, preserve, fortify and flavor. Highlights from sweeteners, colors and texturizers are as follows.

Sweeteners—“Juice concentrates and purées have been sweetening options for a long time. Pear, apple and white grape are typically used due to their low flavor impact, but the sky is the limit,” stated Porter. “A beautiful raspberry purée provides flavor, color and texture. Solids level must be considered when using these replacements.”

Liquid sweetener comparison

Comparisons can help choose sweetener systems. HFCS is a fairly high solids product, therefore a good replacement might be tapioca syrup or agave nectar, which match that pretty well. The sugar profiles are different for a lot of these, so if replacing HFCS, for example, fructose and glucose need to be replaced.  (Click for a downloadable pdf of the chart.) 

Beet sugar is 100% genetically modified, after an industry-wide decision in 2008, but evaporated cane sugar can be a non-GMO source of sucrose. Vegetable sources, such as sweet potato and carrot juice, are also used, but sugar profile and chain length [of polysaccharides] are considerations when replacing the current sweetener. Also, note that disaccharides are less efficient at controlling water activity than monosaccharides.

Colors—Chemistry comes into play here. Carotenoids are lipophilic, so generally they need to be emulsified in aqueous formulas. They are heat-stable but lose color through oxidation. Anthocyanins are water-soluble but are also heat-, pHand oxygen-sensitive. Product pH impacts their color. Betacyanans are stable between pH 4-7, but heat-labile. “Any baker who’s tried to make a red velvet cake with beet powder [betacyanins] knows it turns brown,” added Porter.

Chlorophylls are soluble in polar solvents and are heat- and light-sensitive. Caramel colors can now be sourced from caramelized onions, garlic, pear and apple. The shade of brown and flavor depends, in part, on source material. “Label simplifications result if an ingredient is used for both color and flavor; a win-win,” she added. To preserve color, Porter recommended waiting to add color until later in the process, if possible, and using packaging solutions.

Texturizers—Fruits and vegetables contain cellulose and lignin in their cell walls. These components can be used to provide texture to a food system. Refined fruit fibers have shown moderate success as modified starch replacers. Native root starches, like tapioca, potato and arrowroot; and purées of sweet potato and pumpkin, are all popular texturizers in clean label formulas. One consideration is a lower level of viscosity standardization.

“Pectin from apple and citrus is well-known but requires pH and solids to gel, unless chemically modified—not in the spirit of clean labeling,” Porter said.

Legume flours offer functional proteins and carbohydrates that can deliver various textures. “Cooked chickpea flour provides immediate viscosity in water, while the uncooked flour does not. Therefore, ratios of the two can be used to create the viscosity desired,” advised Porter. Whole-fruit pieces can deliver texture in granola bars and meat analogs. Xanthan and guar gums are still seen in Whole Foods markets; they are useful tools that should not be ruled out.

Preservatives/Antimicrobials—Making food safe is a primary task of food developers. Organic acids, like sorbic and benzoic, have been widely used in the past. Those same acids are contained in some fruits. Citrus, pomegranate or plum derivatives have high levels of organic acids, but there is no fruit extract commercially available for antimicrobial use. Bakers have long used raisins for their anti-mold effects. Raisin and prune juice concentrates contain propionic acid, but their water activity, pH and phenolics also contribute to preservation. Nitrites derived from celery, beets, carrots and spinach juices
are effective in meats.

Higher usage levels are necessary, though they add higher costs; however, combining ingredients can result in synergies. Porter suggests trying multiple acids at low levels, so no characterizing flavors result.

In summary, whole-fruit solutions are recommended, if possible, because flavor, color, texture and nutrition arrive in one ingredient, said Porter.

Martha (Marty) Porter, Scientist, Merlin Development, Inc.,, 1-763-475-0224,

October 1, 2015, Global Food Forums, Inc. — The following if from an excerpt of the 2015 Clean Label Magazine.