A8 Future Prospects

In recent years, there has been a general trend in the food industry to replace chemical methods of processing with those relying increasingly on enzymic treatment. This trend has been fueled by increasing consumer demand for more "natural" methods of processing that have a less damaging impact on the environment and has been underpinned by the increased availability of highly specific enzymes at a very low cost. For the ingredient manufacturer, perhaps the most attractive aspect of enzymic preparation of maltodextrins is the potential to tailor the structure of starch for specific applications. Although acid conversion of starch leads to remarkably reproducible saccharide compositions for any given degree of hydrolysis, it is precisely this reproducibility and the random action of acid that limits the usefulness of the method. With the range of specific enzymes, substrates, and processing control measures now available, it should be possible to select an optimized processing mix to obtain a specific molecular structure with targeted physical properties for use in specific fat replacement applications. Starches from genetically engineered plants with properties different from their native counterparts may also provide promising new industrial materials, including fat mimetics. Thus, although starch-derived fat replacers may not be suitable for every food application, their relatively low cost, wide availability, conventional storage and handling procedures, together with the potential for further refinement of structure and function, will ensure their continued use in the food industry.

Finally, given a thorough knowledge and understanding of the action and interaction of food ingredients, it is possible that the food technologist of the future will use a systems approach based on a combination of two or more fat replacers and/or other food ingredients, coupled with formulation and processing changes, to develop high quality low-fat products that consumers will accept. This approach, although by no means an easy option, is also advocated in Chapter 1 and is gradually being accepted by the food industry. However, since our knowledge and understanding of ingredient interactions in foods is as yet incomplete, the full benefits of this approach may only be realized once additional scientific data become available.

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