The plant extract difference

Even before the current global health crisis, interest in plant-based ingredients and natural food solutions was surging. At the beginning of 2020, Innova Market Insights called out the “Plant Based Revolution” as one of its top ten trends of the new year.

Consumer concerns about health and wellness have only amplified the demand for foods with a natural profile. The International Food Information Council’s 2020 Food & Health Survey shows that 85% of Americans have made at least some changes in how they eat or prepare foods because of the pandemic, and 41% have increased their consumption of foods from plant sources. Plant-based ingredients and foods enjoy a certain “health halo,” with 43% of those surveyed saying that a product derived from plants would be healthier than one that is not.

Natural food solutions for today’s discerning consumers include plant extracts that can be used in a variety of applications, including cured meats. Natural plant-based extracts can replace synthetically produced sodium nitrite and other antioxidants like BHA and BHT that are commonly used to extend the shelf life of cured meats.

These plant extracts mimic the functionality provided by traditional synthetics. Celery, acerola and rosemary extracts have proven especially useful in developing natural formulations for products that appeal to consumers looking for clean-label foods.

There are some important differentiating factors to keep in mind when evaluating plant extracts on a functional basis as well as from a cost and efficiency standpoint.

Celery: Creating quality “uncured” meats

Relatively low levels of nitrite-rich celery powder can be highly effective in creating “uncured” meats with the distinctive color, texture and flavor consumers expect with cured meats. Celery is naturally rich in nitrates, and celery juice, when fermented, yields nitrite that is essentially the same from one celery powder or juice to the next.

However, two key considerations can make one celery-based solution preferable to another.

First, the concentration of sodium nitrite in celery can vary, so it is important that ingredient suppliers routinely test the celery they process to determine nitrite levels, then standardize to ensure a consistent dose of the active component in the end product. Corbion standardizes its Verdad®Avanta CS30 high-quality, celery solution with sea salt as needed in order to consistently deliver 30,000-35,000 ppm of sodium nitrite to the product.

Also important is the amount of organic material present in the ingredient. Processing differences among manufacturers can lead to varying amounts of plant material in celery-based products. Generally, more organic material content means a darker ingredient color. Celery ingredients with less organic material content tend to be lighter in color and are less prone to discoloration problems, allowing greater flexibility and efficiency in the injection process.

Acerola: Know what you’re paying for

Acerola is a cherry extract that acts as a natural antioxidant and cure accelerator in meat applications. It provides excellent color stabilization and is a rich source of natural vitamin C.

Corbion’s acerola is authenticated using carbon dating to confirm its natural properties. This gives processors assurance that the ingredients they are using are genuinely natural.

Acerola from Corbion is created using sustainable sourcing standards and practices. Ratings by third-party experts, such as the Ecovadis Gold Sustainability Rating received by Corbion in 2019, can provide an objective assessment of a supplier’s commitment to sustainable practices.

Rosemary: Concentration is key

Carnosic acid, a phytochemical found in rosemary extract, is another natural antioxidant that works exceptionally well in meats, extending the shelf life of meat by slowing the oxidation process and delaying rancidity.

To learn more about natural plant extracts and how they can be used in meat products – and other food products – download a new white paper at