INTERVIEW: Kombu Seaweed Powder to Serve as a Natural Umami Alternative

635966527849401692yamaguy.jpg

19 Apr 2016 --- Netherlands-based Yama Products has expanded its range to include a new seaweed powder, based on the Japanese kelp named Kombu. The Kombu powder, with its light color and strong Umami properties, is suitable for, for example, stocks, savory flavor enhancement, sauces and ready meals. The product is described as being 100% natural, vegetarian, non-GMO and allergen free.

Chih-Sung Ma, Managing Director of Yama Product (pictured) tells FoodIngredientsFirst: “The Japanese consume a bouillon made from Kombu, called Wakame. Sea kelp is a natural source for a vegetarian base note. In Europe, we would use meat and meat bones and cook them into a broth. In Japan they use sea kelp: Kombu. It is said that in Japan, Kombu has a tradition of being used for over 4,000 years.”

Click to EnlargeYama describes itself as being a specialist in the area of Umami, offering Japanese products, sauces and technical ingredients. With a manufacturing plant for high viscosity sources in Holland, they offer a full range of Umami ingredients. Existing products include WBR 210, an oven-roasted soy sauce, Springarom RCK, an allergen free, natural yeast extract with a chicken flavor profile and NFE-PN, a fermented wheat-gluten sauce with a high glutamate content. A family company since 1966, Yama is specialized in, among others, customized food solutions, while serving as a distributor for BioSpringer and Ajinomoto, as well as being an exclusive Kikkoman soy sauce distributor. The mid-size company with a solid and steady annual growth of 10% is active in the food industry, restaurant, wholesale and retail markets.

With this new product offering, Yama is following the trend towards natural ingredients. “The market is changing, in the last 50 years monosodium glutamate (MSG) has been a constant issue, coming and going every five years or so. We have always been a promoter of MSG, because it is a natural amino acid which is produced in Europe. We find it strange that there is such an antipathy towards MSG,” Ma says. The naturally-grown Kombu is described as having many different amino acids. It therefore offers a wider spectrum of applications compared to MSG, a fermented sugar form converted into glutamic acid and then with salt into MSG. “Yeast extract is a natural ingredient and has a slightly different functionality from MSG. This Kombu extract has a different function again from both yeast extract and MSG. So we consider them as being complementary to each other.”

The seaweed is cultivated in and sourced from open seas in South Japan. “We have tried to find a manufacturer who is very knowledgeable of how Kombu has to be grown, at what age the Kombu should be harvested, and so on. We have tried to find the right quality in age, determining at what thickness the Kombu has a certain amount of amino acids,” Ma says. The savory flavor is obtained by cooking the Kombu in water for several minutes. It is then concentrated, ground, sterilized and turned it into a powder. 

The Kombu powder’s natural positioning provides a valuable market opportunity for Yama. “This Kombu powder presents a new generation of food ingredient, having salt reduction properties as an application and providing a flavor enhancement system coming from the naturally present glutamic acid.” Ma explains that the last five years have seen a growing trend towards negative opinions around E-numbers, which are considered to be less healthy. “Now, we offer a new alternative, which is allergen free and natural. What you see is what you get. With this Kombu powder, we are following up on the trend in the market by being able to offer natural ingredients.”

As this powder is created purely from seaweed, Ma says there are no regulatory considerations, such as novel foods to consider. For now, Ma says they will market the product to small- to medium-sized producers of marine-type products, such as fish soup, salmon paté and tuna burgers. “These companies are in a way more open, faster, with an eye on culinary flavor solutions and declaration. Rather than large multi-nationals who have a much longer list and procedures for new ingredients,” Ma says. Seafood products are the most suitable for enhancement through this product. “It has a certain profile of the ocean. To enhance a chicken nugget, for example, would not be suitable. So we stick to the savory flavor industry, the spice companies and spice blenders and mainly fish-oriented ready meal producers.”

By Liesbeth Thijssen & Robin Wyers

To contact our editorial team please email us at editorial@cnsmedia.com

Related Articles

Food Ingredients News

Alginate-based casings: Hydrosol solution can address plant-based demands

11 Feb 2019 --- Stabilizers innovator Hydrosol has developed a new casing solution based on alginate for various sausages, whether meat or plant-based. SmartCasings, which are suitable for hot dog, currywurst or salami stick, are presented as “a small revolution in sausage-making.”

Regulatory News

Organic green light for red colors: IFF’s Frutarom Division secures certification for annatto extracts

08 Feb 2019 --- Frutarom Natural Solutions Ltd., a division of International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (IFF), has received organic certification for its natural annatto color. The ingredient was granted organic certifications from both the US Department of Agriculture and The European Organic Certifiers Council. The move comes amid rising consumer demand for fairtrade, sustainable and organic products.

Food Ingredients News

Kröner-Stärke: “Organic farming is a key driver in creating sustainable structures”

07 Feb 2019 --- European starch producer Kröner-Stärke is reacting to consumer concerns over sustainability and transparency in the food chain with an enhanced range of organic starches and gluten, as well as texturized proteins. According to Kröner-Stärke, the starches are designed to allow food producers to extend their organic product ranges while also guaranteeing the integrity and reliability of key supply chains.

Food Ingredients News

The Year of the Pig: How China's "consumption upgrade" is spurring innovation

06 Feb 2019 --- The annual celebrations for the Chinese New Year have officially begun, with 2019 being the “Year of the Pig” and the festivities, of which food is a large component, typically lasting around two weeks. FoodIngredientsFirst takes a look at some of the key market and consumer trends driving growth in China’s food industry and what opportunities there are for suppliers in the world’s most populous country with a rapidly-growing middle class and an accelerated trend of “consumption upgrade.”

Food Ingredients News

Unilever Q4 sales miss expectations, full-year profits bolstered by “stand-out year for ice cream”

31 Jan 2019 --- Unilever has reported lower-than-expected Q4 sales, which were affected by flat volume growth in developed markets. In the company’s first set of results under the reign of new Chief Executive Alan Jope, sales rose by 2.9 percent and there was an increase in profits for the full year, which stood at €9.8 billion (US$11.21 billion) in 2018 compared to €6.5 billion in 2017.

More Articles