Acerola has been increasingly used in food products as a clean label ingredient to provide nutrition as well as functionality. From 2017 to 2019, over two hundred new products were launched globally that use acerola extract in their formulation, among which, meat products are a major application (Mintel, 2020).
The acerola (Malpighia emarginata D.C.) tree is an evergreen shrub or small tree which flourishes in zones of tropical and subtropical climate including South of Mexico, Central America and the northern area of South America. The tree bears drupe fruits containing an exorbitant amount of ascorbic acid, ranging from 1000 to 4500 mg/100 g, which is around 50–100 times that of orange or lemon. In addition to ascorbic acid, the fruit is also rich in anthocyanins and phenolic compounds such as ferulic acid, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, kaempferol and quercetin.
Acerola Extract in Raw Meat
When it comes to the purchase of meat, color plays a large factor in the purchase decision. Meat turns tan or brown when oxygen becomes limited; for example, when two bright red pieces of meat are stacked on each other, or when the meats’ color life is exhausted towards the end of its display and the myoglobin becomes oxidized. Exposure to store lighting during display also accelerates formation of metmyoglobin, an oxidative state of myoglobin that gives meat a brown color.
Antioxidants help maintain color stability in fresh meats in both whole-muscle and ground products, in addition to maintaining the “fresh meat flavor.” Kalsec’s natural rosemary extracts help retain fresh meat color. By combining acerola extract with these natural rosemary extracts, additional protection can be delivered in various packaging and display conditions. How does it work? The ascorbic acid in the fruit extract inhibits formation of metmyoglobin pigment, allowing it to rebind oxygen and generate a bright red color.
Kalsec developed ingredient systems that optimize acerola extract with rosemary to stabilize both the color and flavor in ground beef and fresh pork sausage products. Learn more about stabilizing fresh meat color.
Acerola Extract in Cured Meat
Acerola also plays a role in cleaning up the labels of cured meat products. Curing meat involves adding nitrite or nitrate, among other ingredients such as salt, sugar and spices to prolong shelf life and provide characteristic flavors. Industrial production of cured meat often involves the use of cure accelerators such as ascorbic acid, erythorbic acid, or their derivatives to speed up chemical conversion of nitric acid to nitric oxide, resulting in improved quality and safety attributes.
High in ascorbic acid content, acerola extract functions as a strong nitrite-reducing agent without large impact on product pH, thus accelerating and improving the rate of cured color development. In the meantime, it also serves as an oxygen scavenger and helps prevent oxidation and color fading during its shelf life. A natural cure containing acerola, rosemary and green tea extracts provides comparable effectiveness as a conventional cure in maintaining the quality of dry fermented sausage under Hi-OX Map packaging.
Benefits of Using Acerola Extract
From 2017 to 2019, the U.S. market saw a 46% reduction in the use of sodium erythorbate in processed fish, meat and egg products. In the same category, new product launches listing acerola extract on the ingredient list increased over 20% across the globe. This includes premium case-ready meat, sausage, ham, meat pastes, and meat alternatives (Mintel, 2020).
Natural antioxidants have been proven to offer the same functionality as their synthetic counterparts with the advantage of being label friendly and process compatible. As a rich source of ascorbic acid and phenolics, acerola extract, along with other natural antioxidants, offers a consumer-friendly alternative for maintaining meat quality and reducing food waste.
About the Author
Dr. Cindy Tian is a Lead Scientist at Kalsec. Tian joined Kalsec in 2014 serving as the key investigator on development of natural antioxidant solutions for various food applications. Tian’s research focuses on oil oxidation, free radical mechanisms and antioxidant synergism. Dr. Tian has authored a number of peer-review publications and conference papers, covering a wide range of topics such as omega-3 protection, nuts stability and frying oil degradation.