The Difference Between Retail & Commercial Ingredients

Why Bother?

Converting homemade recipes to industrial formulas isn’t only about converting volumetric measurements to weight measurements. It is also about converting from retail ingredients to industrially available ingredients.

Industrial ingredients have considerable advantages over retail ingredients. With industrial ingredients the materials are from a consistent reproducible source, have controlled storage and distribution, and are managed for shelf-life and quality.

Some retail ingredients contain multiple sub-ingredients that may be redundant, or contain preservatives (BHA, BHT), allergens (soy, nuts), technical ingredients (gums, starches) or flavor components (vanilla, salt) that are undesired in the finished product. The primary ingredient used may also be made through an inefficient process in the kitchen (wine reduction, roux, etc.) that can be simplified by purchasing a composed ingredient.

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Case Study: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Flour – Is the flour all purpose or cake flour? Is the product going to be produced east or west of the Rockies? The flour sources are widely different between the two coasts and will significantly impact the finished product. Once the flour specification is set, an industrial supply of flour is easily obtained either direct from a mill or from a distributor/broker. Specialized flour blends can also be made to eliminate the bleaching agents and enzymes that may be present in retail brands.

Fat – Does the base recipe use butter or vegetable oil? Both are readily scalable and can easily be sourced from industrial sources. Is the butter salted or unsalted? Salted butter can vary considerably in salt and water content from supplier to supplier.

Sugar – What type of sugar will be used? Will it be brown, white, or turbinado? Does the sugar come from cane, beet, palm, or another type of fruit? Is there a granulation specification? Depending on the target ingredient declaration and claims, these sugars can be sourced from a number of sources.

Chocolate Chips – Chocolate chips come in a variety of shapes (chip vs. chunk), sizes (mini to large), chocolate type (dark vs. milk), cocoa compositions (10-100%), ingredient compositions (soy, coconut oil, cocoa butter, sugar), and crop originations (African vs. South American). The proper selection of chocolate chips will has the greatest flavor impact on the finished cookie.

Eggs – Eggs are a relatively easy ingredient to transition from retail to industrial. Since shell fragments are a potential physical hazard in food products, industrial eggs come in pre-shelled forms, either as whole eggs or separated whites and yolks. The egg components are available in dry and liquid forms. Eggs are also typically pasteurized to eliminate pathogenic bacteria.

Vanilla Extract – Vanilla extract comes with an array of characteristics. Choosing the variety (Bourbon/Madagascar, Tahitian, Mexican) concentration strength (1x, 2x, 4x), and supplier can have a large impact on how the vanilla will express itself in the finished product.

Walnuts – What type of walnut is used in the formula, English walnut or Black walnut? The English walnut is easily cultivated and readily accessible whereas the Black walnut is more difficult to process and carry a price premium.


The Takeaway

Changing over from “gold standard” ingredients to industrial ingredients is one of the most crucial steps in the product development process, and is a big part of what we help many clients with. Our ingredient network is strong, and we rely on our vendors for samples and technical support. By evaluating the purpose and intent of each ingredient, a decision can be made on which industrial ingredients to use. Ultimately, industrial ingredients allows greater control over the product formula than retail ingredients ever could. 

Call CuliNex today for help sourcing industrial ingredients in your formula!

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