Authentic flavors boost plant-based advancements, says Synergy exec
20 May 2020 --- As plant-based product launches continue to diversify, there is a rising expectation from consumers that yogurt and dessert alternatives should taste as good as dairy. With dairy flavors at the heart of Synergy Flavours business, the company is using its knowledge of complex taste profiles to create a range of tailored solutions that build indulgence and richness across a range of non-dairy bases. Meanwhile, there is increasing consumer demand for different application types. “We now see everything from fish-style products to vegan brioche and filled pastries,” Chris Whiting, Category Manager at Synergy Flavours, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
Plant-based products are increasing in popularity across many categories as consumers seek to experiment with vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian diets as part of an increasing push to consume less meat products for ethical, health and environmental reasons. “Achieving good flavor in plant-based products is therefore of high importance and is where Synergy can help customers to meet this growing demand,” explains Whiting.
According to Innova Market Insights, there has been a 21 percent annual growth of F&B launches tracked with vegan claims (Global, 2015 to 2019). Moreover, the demand for vegan food is becoming more significant, with more than one in four global consumers saying vegan alternative food launches are most sustainable (Innova Market Insights Survey Global, 2019).
“The market for plant-based meat alternative products is growing quickly,” Whiting affirms. “When mimicking meat, it is important to offer well-rounded, authentic meat flavors to help manufacturers deliver their promise of the ‘next best thing,’ The flavor of meat is greatly enhanced by the various cooking techniques used and recreating this will add intensity to a meat-free dish.”
Synergy offers a range of vegan flavors that are suitable for adding authentic flavor to meat alternatives, including cooking keys (such as seared or embered), masking flavors as well as a wide range of meat and fish flavors.
“With sales of plant-based protein also on the rise globally, we have developed a range of flavor solutions which have been specifically tailored for emerging proteins in sports nutrition products, such as pea, brown rice, hemp and pumpkin seed,” Whiting continues. “Our initial research identified that traditional ‘core’ sports nutrition flavor profiles did not pair naturally with the alternative protein sources. Using our unique flavor development process, we were able to engineer the core flavors of strawberry, chocolate and vanilla to heighten certain desirable notes and to mask undesirable ones.”
In addition to the re-engineered core flavors, Synergy has also created several novel flavors which pair effectively with plant protein bases. These include coffee caramel, banana spice, caramel apple and gingerbread. “We have invested heavily in our analytical capability to support our flavor creation team,” adds Whiting. “We also recognize that each plant-based protein has its own set of taste challenges meaning that bespoke flavor solutions are required in order to be successful. We use a range of analytical techniques to fully understand the flavor matrix of the protein source and therefore, how best to flavor it.”
The biggest challenge in flavoring plant-based proteins is masking the off-notes – particularly when trying to create a product with a more subtle flavor, such as chicken for savory, or vanilla in sweet products, notes Whiting. “Technical challenges will vary from product to product – each application type will have its own specific set of challenges. This is integral across all product categories but is particularly relevant in bakery applications where ingredients like eggs and butter contribute functional attributes,” he says.
Mapping a flavor’s “fingerprint”
Consequently, Synergy is involved in ongoing research to understand the off notes of plant-based proteins using a combination of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS), gas chromatography olfactometry (GC-O) and sensory analysis. Using these methods, the flavor experts can identify the volatile compounds present, which helps to then pair the protein base with compatible flavors that are suitable for a range of products, adds Whiting.
Firstly, descriptive analysis is used, in which trained panellists agree on flavor descriptors and individually rate different protein bases using the descriptor scales to generate an average score for each product. GC-MS methods are then used to separate and identify volatile compounds extracted from the protein base. The output (a chromatogram) depicts all the volatile compounds detected. GC-O involves a human assessor detecting aromas from the end of the GC column. As a sample is separated by GC, the assessor notes any odors they may perceive which are mapped on an olfactogram. The olfactogram and chromatogram can then be overlaid and the descriptors compared to literature in order to identify the odorants in the sample.
“Research scientists use all of the data [sensory maps and overlaid olfacto grams and chromatograms] to determine which compounds are key in characterizing the off notes of the alternative proteins. The resulting data gives our flavor creation team a ‘fingerprint’ for the flavor, helping them to identify aroma compounds which need masking,” explains Whiting.
“This process is tried and tested and means that we can provide our customers with effective flavor solutions, specifically tailored to their protein base,” he adds.
As the market for plant-based products evolves, Synergy will continue to apply its knowledge and unique process to develop effective flavor solutions for challenging plant-based protein bases. “It’s predicted that the next wave of plant proteins will include bases such as collagen, sunflower and quinoa, and Synergy’s tried and tested approach using in-house analytical and sensory techniques can be applied to any protein challenge,” concludes Whiting.
Edited by Elizabeth Green
To contact our editorial team please email us at email@example.com
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.