Reinventing dairy: Edlong addresses plant-based dairy, expands flavor capabilities in “permissible indulgence”

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10 Sep 2018 --- To meet the ever-changing demands of consumers, more and more creative vegan alternatives are showing up on supermarket store shelves and restaurant menus. Even if some consider veganism to be a somewhat niche approach to eating, awareness and social drivers behind this trend, such as the growing demand for eating healthier and more sustainably, have pushed more into the mainstream.

For the majority of consumers who are vegan or vegetarian, there are now layers in which consumers are choosing from, such as different plant-based preferences, including, lactose-free, egg-free and dairy-free. For the majority of consumers who prefer to eat this way, typically millennials, manufacturers and food producers, must respond in ways that will make these consumers repeat a purchase. In response to these trends, The Edlong Corporation (Edlong), which has traditionally been associated with dairy flavors, is expanding its portfolio and creating flavors that can be used across many plant-based dairy alternatives. 

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Beth Warren, Edlong’s Chief Commercial Officer, notes that The Taste of Dairy Reinvented is for companies around the world who are looking to bring the character and taste of dairy to plant-based applications. “For vegan applications, we see a real need for the typical dairy tastes and flavors, but of which are specific to plant-based products,” she says. 
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According to Warren, there has been a very strong growth trend with new product development across all food segments in plant-based applications over the last few years, most notably in the US, Canada, UK, Europe and most recently, Mexico. 

“The trend for plant-based products has changed. The majority of the population has migrated more aggressively towards including plant-based products in their diet and they want more variety when doing so. Frequently, these consumers don’t want to sacrifice flavor profiles and the overall taste that they already know and love,” explains Warren. 

“Historically, vegans might have sacrificed on flavor because they were culturally committed to the values of being vegan. Nowadays, the broader population is more interested in trying new foods in different formats and varying the types of protein that they consume.”

Warren believes that Edlong’s flavor portfolio and the fact that they are “one of the only companies in the world specially dedicated to the taste of dairy and dairy free flavors,” is a testament to how the company offers the taste of authentic dairy flavors to a range of plant-based portfolios. 

When it comes to dairy alternative beverages, most European consumers are not looking for a milk-like taste. They actually enjoy and want the plant-based protein flavors to come through, as it does in almond and rice milk, according to Warren. 

“We do have to be careful about which flavors are ultimately desired by the population of consumers and those geographies. In the US market, the natural dairy character of milk that people were experienced within their childhood drinking is frequently desired. It often suggests that these consumers want the character of the dairy profile but they want a milk alternative – whether it is lactose-free products or a dairy alternative product,” she states. “We have a full portfolio of flavor profiles that are often interchangeable based on the consumer need.” 

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For many of today’s health-minded consumers, they want to experience luxurious mouthfeel, but they also want to feel good about what they are eating and often, this relates to a plant-based product, says Warren. “Dairy-free flavors enable us to offer this for these platforms,” she adds. “Recently we have created Vegan Meringues from Aquafaba as well as Dairy Free Truffle bites with increased protein levels and indulgent taste.”

“Indulgent trends are significant. Research studies have shown that many consumers want a sweet treat at some point of the day, a ‘permissible indulgence’ makes them feel better about their choice. For example, our plant-based butter and cream flavors offer a richness and rich dairy mouthfeel rather than just the basic profile of a butter or cream flavor.”

For Warren, the complexity of this topic is “more complicated than we first thought.” 

“Most formulators don’t look for functionality that comes with a flavor or ingredient. But we have seen that you need a more functional mouthfeel and character as well as a taste in flavors. In beverages, often flavors are used as top notes and what we see now is that it’s almost reversed, this needs to happen earlier in the formulation process because you might need to layer the flavors to get the same or similar attributes that real dairy carries,” she explains.  

“Masking off-notes is necessary for some plant-based proteins, and now there are many opportunities for layering other flavor profiles, such as creaminess, or an authentic cheese flavor, to be able to have that same dairy taste profiles,” she continues. “One of the biggest trends for us is the layering of different flavors and what they can offer functionally.” 

The ultimate goal is to get these plant-based products to taste similar, or very close to that of real dairy, according to Warren. 

But it does come with its challenges: “Understanding the plant-based protein that you are using is essential. Some require a different set of tools in terms of optimizing the flavor profiles. The first challenge is matching the protein source that Click to Enlargeyou want to use and then optimize the flavor and mouthfeel profile to fit that of the end product. This often means that layering, as well as masking, can build the indulgence that you are looking for,” claims Warren.  

“The other challenge is that of the actual processing and heating conditions. It is important to know where, how, and how much time it will take to recreate the desired finished product.” 

“Overall, it’s an inspiring area for us to be involved in. Consumers across the world want additional options in plant-based proteins and they don’t want to sacrifice on taste. That is where our capabilities come in. As an industry, we need to ensure that we don’t approach these formulations the way we did traditionally and we must step up to the challenges that we face for plant-based proteins.”

Warren believes that this innovative area will present growth opportunities across the world in double-digits for these types of applications. “For Edlong, it’s an opportunity that is unique and it’s a chance for us to differentiate our expertise while presenting extensive portfolios to our customers and authentic, distinct dairy taste to consumers,” she concludes.  

By Elizabeth Green

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