Malt Products Corporation’s new lab helping address upsurge in plant-based demand

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

The company says finding the right sweetener for plant-based ice cream alternatives has challenges.  Pic: MPC
The company says finding the right sweetener for plant-based ice cream alternatives has challenges. Pic: MPC

Related tags Ice cream plant-based Dairy alternatives Sweeteners Tapioca Rice

US-headquartered Malt Products Corporation (MPC), a manufacturer of malted barley extract and other natural sweeteners, said it has experienced an increase in demand for its all-natural sweeteners in the plant-based ice cream alternatives market.

Plant-based alternatives are among the food and beverage applications with which MPC customers can experiment through the company’s new innovations lab.

The new space is designed for its customers to test ingredients, try new formulations and gain insight into critical flavor and stability properties. The lab incorporates a variety of recent infrastructure investments including ovens, mixers, shearers, proofers and temperature-controlled incubators, as well as analytical equipment such as spectrometers and instruments monitoring water activity and rheology.

Finding the right sweetener for plant-based ice cream alternatives has two main challenges, the company said. Firstly, not all sweeteners are vegan certified; for example, many common sugar products depend on animal parts, such as bone char, for coloring improvement. The other issue is the market segment: consumers seeking vegan food options largely intersect with those demanding all-natural, pantry-friendly ingredients. This often eliminates from consideration high-fructose corn syrups and other prominent sweeteners, even if they could be considered vegan.

Once those factors are addressed, texture is another significant consideration, MPC said. Its all-natural sweeteners like MPC’s TapRite tapioca extract and RiceRite brown rice-based sweeteners offer a lower dextrose equivalent (DE), provide bulking and control ice crystal growth – bringing a creamy consistency to plant-based ice cream alternatives that may otherwise be difficult to realize. Meanwhile, sweeteners like MPC’s OatRite oat extract, as well as vegan-certified items in its CaneRite sugar cane molasses portfolio, help provide appropriate taste to popular flavors such as mocha, crème brulee and cookies & cream.

MPC said in addition to being all natural, many of its sweeteners contain health benefits such as proteins and antioxidants. Many also offer digestive benefits by optimizing ‘good bacteria’ while minimizing ‘bad bacteria.’

Amy Targan, president of MPC, said, “The emergence of vegan ice cream is a logical next step from non-dairy ice creams, which have been incredibly popular for quite some time. Companies trying to create niche version of traditional food products – in this case, ice cream – frequently face challenges finding ideal formulations that meet specific criteria while still appealing to a target consumer subset. Many are finding our MaltRite, OatRite and certain molasses varieties as highly attractive options to sweeten vegan ice cream, which can be a delicate dance from an ingredients perspective.”

Related topics Manufacturers Ingredients Ice Cream