Thursday, November 1, 2012

Planters NUT-rition Peanut Butter

A key attribute of my food personality is that I like trying out new food products. I become extremely excited about food products if a technical challenge was combated or the food concept is innovative. 
One of my most recent purchases was Planters NUT-rition peanut butter.  Planters launched three flavors of NUT-rition: Cinnamon Raisin Granola Nut, Berry Nut, and Banana Granola Nut. The names are pretty self explanatory of the addition ingredients.  I purchased the Cinnamon Raisin product because I thought that it would be the most challenging of the three flavors to develop. 

I thought it was an interesting (seemingly simple) idea to incorporate raisins, crunchy granola, fruit, and seasonings into a peanut butter. But there is a bunch of Food Science that must be incorporated in the development.  The water activity (free water that is available to interact with other molecules) of all the ingredients needs to be similar, so that the raisins and the granola can retain it's texture. 

I'm guessing that peanut butter has a low water activity value since peanut butter seems low in water and high in fat.  That means that the additional ingredients (raisins, granola) need to also have a low water activity value.  How does the granola stay crunchy? You would think that any moisture in the whole product would migrate to the dry granola, but I think the rice starch on the granola helps to absorb some of the free water.

I tried to take a picture of the peanut butter with all the inclusions, but this is the best shot that I got. 
Brief information on WATER ACTIVITY (Aw).  Water activity is measured on a scale from 0 to 1.  A cup of water has an Aw=1, crackers have an Aw~0.25.  These Keebler PB&J sandwich crackers are a dual texture product.  The crackers have a flaky texture than the jelly and the peanut butter. Did you ever wonder how the crackers remained crunchy even though the filling seemed to have more moisture?  One way it's done is by adding different ingredients (i.e. sugar, salt, starches) that bind to the available water in a product (in this case the peanut and jelly), so that the water activity of the pb and j is similar to the cracker's Aw. 

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