Clumps in Haskapa powder

Clumps in Haskapa powder

Look on Haskapa’s website, or our Amazon shop, and you will find several hundred of 5 star reviews about our 100% natural freeze dried haskap berry powder.  We are proud to read how we have a very loyal customer base who love our product.  We know that anyhow because so many customers, including many nutritionists, repeat purchase every month.  Even so, our reviews are not quite perfect.  Read on to understand why.

Most of Haskapa’s reviews tell us about great taste, lovely colour, breakfast smoothies, overnight oats, health issues and lots more besides - nearly all positive – do please peruse them for yourselves.  I write  ‘nearly’, because there is one more challenging issue that occasionally recurs, which a few of Haskapa’s customers evidently think is a problem, clumps in the powder. 

This blog is about clumps, a topic that perhaps you might think we would prefer you did not mention, but in my opinion is a bit of an elephant in the room that has to be acknowledged.

So readers…its my favourite meal of the day, breakfast time.  I reach for my pouch of Haskapa, rip open the top, and delve in with my spoon ready to sprinkle powder on my overnight oats.  Oh, oh, clumps!  What do I do?   

Nobody eats more Haskapa than me, so occasionally this has really does happen, although hardly ever. 

First obvious question.  Is my clumpy powder safe to eat?  To answer that, don’t take my word for it.  Instead listen to Andrew Skinner, Haskapa’s food safety consultant.  Andrew, with 40 years experience in food safety, tells us that soft clumps in the powder are perfectly safe, especially if they are easily squashed back into powder.  This is good enough for me.  In all the pouches I have opened I have yet to encounter the clump which I could not easily crush back into powder, simply using my teaspoon.

Then what causes these soft clumps?  Is it excessive moisture?  Haskapa spends a lot of time and money moisture testing the powder, both during production, packing and in storage.  We can assure you that the results never indicate excessive moisture, even on pouches containing clumps. 

Andrew tells us low moisture is an excellent indication that the clumps are safe to eat.  He goes on to say;

“Haskap berries, are a fruit. Fruit naturally contains a sugar called Fructose (the fruit sugar). Fructose is the sweetest sugar that we encounter in nature. Fructose is a basic ketone-mono-saccharide (one of the simple sugars) that is present in many plants (including haskap berries).  Fructose is usually present alongside naturally occurring glucose, which is a di-saccharide and will usually be bound together within the structure of the fruit.

Fructose is what we call a ‘Hygroscopic’ substance, which means that it will readily absorb moisture from its surroundings. Haskapa takes many steps to minimize the moisture in the product, but because the fructose is so good at absorbing moisture - even the smallest amounts from the air -  it may from time to time form small clumps or lumps. These are quite natural and do not affect the food safety of the product in any way.”

Andrew continues to tell us about

“… an interesting fact: Fructose has such an incredible ability to absorb the moisture from any air around it, that if you left a few small lumps on a plate on the kitchen benchtop, after several days or even weeks, it could actually absorb enough moisture from the air, to dissolve in its own absorbed water!  So all in all, its quite natural and perfectly harmless.”

As Andrew says, Haskapa takes great care to minimize the risks.  These include a very high specification of pouch material, using air and humidity controlled facilities for producing and packing the powder, popping a silica insert into each 100g Haskapa pouch, sending long haul dispatches in air sealed containers, and always storing the product in a cool, dark environment.

Andrew tells us that clumps are a common problem in the powdered food industry  “…they even have a technical name for it, ‘caking”.  He goes on to explain “…we could add something called an ‘anti-clumping’ agent, but that would defeat the very principle of what Haskapa is all about: producing pure, wholesome products with nothing added or taken away!”   Andrew goes on to say that even rock solid clumps are safe to eat. He has come across this phenomena in the past, but actually its incredibly unusual and not worth discussing here.

What can customers do if their pouch is clumped? 

Well, easiest answer is nothing.  Andrew confesses that he loves the clumps.  “I spoon them on to my oats and eat them whole.  My mouth takes great delight in crunching into these little taste bombs that explode when you bite into them, as Haskapa’s delicious berry flavour bursts out, overwhelming my tastebuds with sherbet like tanginess.” 

Okay, not everyone feels that way.  So, if you are not like me and prefer free flowing powder, and your pouch feels a bit hard before opening it, just very delicately press it with a rolling pin or gently exert pressure using a heavy flat object.  You will feel the clumps easily break down so that by the time you open the pouch you have free flowing powder again.  After usage, always be sure to reseal the pouch very tightly, and store in a cool, dark, dry cupboard.  Better still, get hold of a Haskapa storage jar and keep it in that.  The screw top is a perfect storage solution.

Meanwhile at Haskapa, we continue to respond to the occasional clumpy comment in consumer reviews by constantly seeking more ways to prevent the issue from happening in the first place.  Our pouch manufacturer works with us experimenting on new configurations for the packaging materials, and our transport operatives have innovated with more effective solutions when moving pouches from place to place.  Gradually we think we can reduce clumping to an even more occasional occurrence, but it will take time and further experimentation.

Naturally, we worry every time a customer is unhappy, whatever the reason.  We try to be extremely flexible with customer service, so if for any reason you are not happy with your Haskapa pouch we will exchange it, or in extreme circumstances refund the price.  I can’t readily recall that anyone has ever asked for a refund, but we have occasionally had to exchange a pouch.  We are a fast growing brand and we want happy customers, so we are more than willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that we please, so our valued customers come back for more.

In return we ask you to keep writing the 5 star reviews so more and more consumers get to read about and taste Haskapa superfood powder, very occasionally with clumps, but always with a delicious berry taste and great berry colour.   Most of all, do tell us what you think about the clumps, and whether you are with me in liking them or would prefer your Haskapa to always be clump free?  I really look forward to hearing from you.
Simon Fineman, co-founder.