Although many consumers are demanding more economical proteins to enjoy at home and in restaurants, most are unwilling to sacrifice the full flavor and juiciness in meat and poultry products. Brines and marinades help processors satisfy this intensifying demand, as well as to add value to a variety of cuts.

Leading processors have been using brines and marinades for years to add value to their line-up. For example, Tyson Foods touts its Chile-Lime Roaster for foodservice as an economical entrée featuring a bone-in chicken breast marinated in chili, lime and sea salt marinade. And Hormel Always Tender flavored pork and beef are pre-seasoned with a marinade for tenderness, juiciness and flavor and feature more than 40 varieties.

On top of trends

Brine and marinade manufacturers pay close attention to eating and dining trends to ensure their products are on-target for their meat and poultry customers.

“We are seeing more meat and poultry processors making marinated products without phosphates and allergens,” says Rick Cassidy, executive vice-president of product development, BindMax Proteins, New Berlin, Wis. “In the past, most marinades contained water, salt, sweeteners [usually dextrose or corn syrup solids], soy protein, spices, flavors and sodium phosphate. The trend is towards shorter and cleaner labels with no GMO ingredients or chemical-sounding additives. Greater awareness of natural and organic products by consumers is driving this trend.”

BindMax is receiving more requests for clean label, natural marinades that contain water, sea salt, cane sugar and spices only, Cassidy says. “These are part of our BindMax Naturals product line,” he adds. “Sea salt is considered more natural than iodized table salt, cane sugar is non-GMO, while dextrose and corn-syrup solids are usually made from genetically modified corn.”

Natural spices can be fermented to increase their ability to absorb water in meat, lessening the need for chemicals like phosphate, he continues.

“Soy and milk are rarely used now because both are allergens,” Cassidy says. “Natural meat flavors containing collagen bind water but do not present an allergen issue as long as you use the same specie [i.e., pork flavor in marinated pork].”

The common challenge for meat and poultry processors trying to make clean-label marinated products is to maintain the moisture retention in the meat without using phosphate and allergen-based proteins, Cassidy says. “Most natural-ingredient solutions fall short, but some come closer than others,” he adds. “Fortunately, the natural, clean-label products sell for a significantly higher price at retail stores, and this more than offsets any yield disadvantage.”

It is important for meat and poultry companies to compare the relative moisture-binding effectiveness of various suppliers of clean-label marinades because there is a very wide variation in moisture retention between suppliers, he continues. “We feel our BindMax technology gives us an advantage when the customer has strict labeling requirements and still wants to make an economical, moist and juicy marinated item,” he adds.

Label focused

The hottest brines and marinades trends World Technology Ingredients (WTI), Jefferson, Ga., has seen emerge are based on consumer demands for all-natural, clean-label and low-sodium products, says Dr. Ruediger Ladberg, vice president. “We have also seen an increase in foodsafety awareness and a demand for anti-microbial ingredients,” he adds.

WTI offers a variety of ingredients that provide solutions to emerging consumer demands, Ladberg says. For example, its MOstatin line includes all-natural, clean-label products that also help processors to inhibit pathogens, he says.

Several challenges in using brines and marinades are shared by the company’s meat and poultry customers: providing a quality product that is safe, looks and tastes great, has maintained superior yields from the beginning of the processing to the table and with all of this care and attention – provided to the customer where profit can still be realized, Ladberg continues.

WTI officials say most processors return to the basics when choosing brines and marinades.

“When you begin to address basic issues such as pH, water hardness, brine/marinade pick-up across shifts, temperature guided marination, etc., you will quickly realize what is working and what is not,” Ladberg says. “Functional ingredients play such a critical role in these basic issues that oftentimes just a re-examination of your operations to achieve a level of consistency across days/shifts with each of these basic issues is the difference between good to superior results.”

Familiar flavors rule

When asked to identify top trends in meat and poultry marinades and brines, Jay Hall, president of Excalibur Seasoning Co., Pekin, Ill., responds: “We’ve found over the years that familiar flavors and titles are still king. Teriyaki, butter garlic, barbecue, sundried tomato basil, Greek and Sweet Bourbon still top the list.”

Excalibur’s newest and fastestgrowing marinade is Wild Turkey Bourbon Grillin Glaze – a shelf-stable liquid blend consisting of 12 percent Wild Turkey Brand Bourbon and a special blend of seasonings.

Hall hasn’t heard customer concerns relating to marinating meats, as long as the meats are tumbled. “Only when operators inject do we encounter some issues,” he says. “One is the E. coli scare, which is a difficult issue for beef. The other is aesthetics for injected flavors – how to best add a topical is always difficult because it adds another step in processing.”

Some operators shake on a topical or they place the meat in a tumbler after injecting and apply the topical through tumbling, he adds. “We’ve found tumbling works best if the meat used is no larger than an average fist,” Hall says. “Meat must be injected if it is larger than a fist, as the marinade will not penetrate enough to season all the way through.”

Future growth

Cassidy says the market share for marinated meat and poultry items will continue to grow as consumers demand more convenience and a wider array of flavor profiles to choose from.

Excalibur’s Hall believes common and usual flavors and names for value-added entrées will continue to increase over the next year or two due to economics. “When the average consumer can create a restaurant-quality entrée in their kitchen for less than half the cost, you’ve got a winner on your hands,” he says.

The use of brines and marinades in the meat and poultry industry will increase as the need for food safety will not rest, WTI’s Ladberg insists.

“Along with that understanding, we recognize our responsibility to continually research, develop and innovate new products in partnership with the processors that we support,” he adds. •