Innovating clean label food preservation

Food safety concerns and clean labelling are highly related topics. The growing demand for clean labelling is largely in response to consumers’ mistrust of the food industry, due to recent food safety scandals worldwide. We caught up with Simona Birtic (Scientific Coordinator) and Catherine Bayard (Category Manager) at Naturex to discuss how the natural preservative power of plants can be used to meet these expectations.

Simona Birtic & Catherine Bayard


Why do you think the Clean Label trend has become so important for consumers?
‘Clean Label isn’t just a trend anymore, it’s become a reality with a worldwide impact. Many consumers today are unwilling to accept food products with ingredients that sound like they come from a chemistry set. Consumers are clearly expressing their desire to return to simplicity. According to Mintel GNPD, 68% of European consumers want to recognize ingredients on the labelling list and more than 40% in France and Germany are ready to pay 10% more for a product that claims ‘no additive, no preservative’. This clean label wave is increasingly ta king hold in the meat industry, which has been under the spotlight in recent years.’

Food safety is also another concern for consumers across the globe. Is there an opportunity for these two trends to overlap? If so, how?
‘Food safety concerns and clean labelling are highly related . The growing demand for clean labelling is largely in response to consumers’ mistrust of the food industry, due to recent food safety scandals worldwide. Consumers are increasingly interested in where their products come from and how they’re made. They are looking for natural alternatives and want to understand the composition of their food without compromising on safety and freshness.

What are the benefits of using natural preservatives over synthetic ones? How do they perform comparatively?
‘Natural preservatives have the benefit of being perceived by consumers as familiar ingredients that they might find in their kitchen and are more likely to trust. At Naturex, we are faced with the challenge of developing natural solutions that are at least as efficient as the synthetic ones, and suitable for use on an industrial scale. We’ve been able to successfully meet this challenge thanks to our expertise in plants. In studies, Cleanatis™ M1 and Cleanatis™ M2, our recently launched natural preservative solutions, acted respectively against Listeria and Salmonella, at least as efficiently as conventional solutions like sodium lactate or sodium acetate to prevent bacteria growth.’

Which ingredients have the best antimicrobial properties? Are some better for certain applications that others?
‘Antimicrobial ingredients may show activity against a wide range of microorganisms or they may be endowed with specific antimicrobial properties. Depending on which plant compounds they contain, they disable several or certain specific vital biochemical mechanisms of microorganisms. So we expected their combination to result in synergistic growth inhibition. Our in vitro data has shown that rosemary extracts have excellent antimicrobial activities against a wide range of microorganisms, including Gram positive and negative bacteria, yeasts and fungi. Both Cleanatis™ M1 and Cleanatis™ M2 contain rosemary extract. When combined with citrus extract (as in patent-pending Cleanatis™ M1), rosemary extract shows an impressive synergistic effect against Gram positive bacteria, notably against Listeria monocytogenes, especially in meat matrices. We think that it is reasonable to suggest that such a synergistic effect is observed thanks to the actions of each extract on different growth mechanisms of bacteria, which together considerably enhance and accelerate bacterial cell deterioration.’
‘Our subsequent experiments in meat have shown that combining other plant products resulted in an efficient antimicrobial solution against another bacteria, Salmonella typhimurium, which led to the development of Cleanatis™ M2.’
‘Both Cleanatis™ M1 and M2 preserve the meat’s organoleptic properties, without altering its red color.’

How can they be used as preservatives in finished products? Is it simply a case of adding the raw ingredient to the finished product, or is a process required to extract the part with the antimicrobial properties?
‘A conversion process, including extraction, is necessary to concentrate active compounds. Extensive know-how and appropriate equipment are also essential to achieve optimal results. Naturex has put a great amount of work, effort and time in to developing different plant solutions. Furthermore, Naturex has implemented an open innovation research Program, conducted in cooperation with international scientific partners. Part of the program involves screening and evaluating the antimicrobial activities of our existing and newly developed products in vitro and in food matrices (including beef, pork, poultry and fish). Two hundred extracts have been investigated to date.’
‘The program also works to identify compounds responsible for antimicrobial activities and explain the mechanisms according to which our products can inhibit microbial growth. This ongoing program encompasses a large number of plant solutions originating from more than 600 plant species, and includes many other food matrices. This research has been made possible by Naturex’s great expertise in plant science and the company’s large sourcing network.

If extraction is required, what is the most effective technique?
‘The conversion process is specific to each plant species, each plant part, to the type of use, and the final food matrix. The formulation step also requires considerable expertise and is key to ensuring the efficacy of our solutions in application. Obviously, regulatory, safety and legal requirements must be respected. And of course, the preservation of the organoleptic feat ures must be kept in mind throughout the overall development process.’
‘Over the last 25 years, Naturex has developed many specific conversion techniques and methods for more than 600 species of plants. Valuable expertise has been acquired and numerous conversion possibilities exist using multiple techniques and types of equipment.’

How do you see the ‘Clean Label/ natural ingredient’ trend developing over the next 3-5 years?
‘The Clean Label wave impacts the global food market. We expect it to become unavoidable in Europe and North America in the very near future, but consumers in Asia and South America are also driving manufacturers to clean up their products. We are convinced that the synthetic tide is turning around the globe.’

Be sure to catch Dr. Simona Birtic’s presentation ‘How plants fight food microbes: synergistical antimicrobial effects of botanical extracts as natural food preservatives’ at the Fi Europe 2017 Conference during the session on Clean Label & Natural Ingredients – Part 2 on Wednesday 29th November 2017, 14:30–17:15.