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Dried blueberries fill functional gap; Food processors report on how they satisfied consumer appeal for high moisture fruits in cereals, confections and bakery goods.

Consumers love to top their cereals, waffles, and shortcakes with fresh, plump and juicy fruits--especially cultivated blueberries. The tasty and colorful blueberries provide a tastebud and eye appeal that makes it more than just another "food to fill your hungry stomach." However, food manufacturers found it very difficult-and often impossible--to satisfy this appeal, since fresh fruit could not functionally be included in most dry cereals, frozen waffles, and shelf-stable candies. This problem has been solved with dried cultivated blueberries.

Dried blueberries are now available with and without added sweeteners, and with two levels of moisture content. Conventional drying reduces the moisture content to 11-14%, and freeze-dried blueberries are reduced to 3% moisture. Both types are deep blue in color and can be infused with sugar.

Application of dried cultivated blueberries offers potential in several major food product categories. In the cereal industry, with its expected growth to be less than 1% annually for the next 5 years, adding dried blueberries can be a competitive advantage. The benefits include a low moisture content optimal for cereals, textural diversity, excellent color contrast, and a value-added ingredient.

Debbie Singleton, owner of Debbie's Famous Granola, Niceville, FL, uses dried cultivated blueberries in her Country Berry Granola. This product won in the aisle-by- aisle competition at the 1992 NASFT Fancy Food Fair in San Francisco. The low moisture content works extremely well in granola. Their product is sweetened with honey and fruit juice, and the berries absorb some of the excess moisture from the sweeteners so that the endproduct is moist and flavorful. The dried blueberries also provide an exceptional color contrast between the soft tones of the grains and nuts and the dark blue color of the blueberries.

Confection consumption increases

Per capita confection consumption is expected to increase almost 5% this year to a level of almost 21.4 lb. Even during recessionary times, consumers traditionally continue to eat "sweets." Upscale confections with rich chocolate covering and containing exotic fruits continue to be best-sellers. Dried cultivated blueberries can provide low moisture, unique flavor, and compatibility with chocolate and yogurt coatings.

Marich Confectionery Company, Watsonville, CA, recently introduced a panned dried blueberry confection. It consists of dried blueberries coated with chocolate and a freeze-dried blueberry and blueberry-flavored pastel coating. The dried blueberries are easy to work with in formulating the candy. According to Mr. Marinus van Dam of Marich Confections, the dried blueberry confection is one of the most successful products Marich has ever introduced.

Bagels and pastries, too

Blueberries have always been very popular in bakery goods from muffins to pies, and the availability of dried blueberries has only increased the application opportunities. Attributes of dried cultivated blueberries for baked products include no rehydration prior to usage, ease of usage, piece identity, avoids bleeding, remains intact after processing, provides textural diversity, excellent color contrast, and concentrated flavor.

Offering blueberry bagels as one of a line of 17 different flavored bagels, Mr. Mike Youson, owner of 3 Men In A Bagel Bakery, Ltd., Victoria, BC, claims that the blueberries remain intact in the end-product with no bleeding problems. Their bagels are mixed, boiled, and baked. A combination of fresh or frozen blueberries are used to provide color in the bagels and dried blueberries are added for piece identity. The dried blueberries require no rehydration prior to adding directly into the prepared doughs.

Brendt Rogers, pastry chef at La Brea Bakery, Los Angeles, CA, reported that he uses dried blueberries because they hold up very well during the mixing and baking processes. They provide a nice textural diversity and can offer a unique texture if dried and fresh are used in combination. Dried blueberries are available year-round and a concentrated flavor source.

Additional information on Dried Cultivated Blueberries is available from the Cultivated Blueberry Group, 712 NW 4th St., Corvallis, OR 97330.
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Publication:Food Processing
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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