Symrise’s new portfolio uses AI to crack the code of ancient recipes for new taste balancing ingredients
09 Apr 2021 --- Symrise is harnessing AI to discover novel flavor modulating ingredients in a plethora of plant varieties. With this technology, the German supplier has looked into decoding 40,000 ancient Chinese recipes to identify new potential materials with taste balancing capabilities.
This project aids the expansion of the flavor house’s newly unveiled symlife portfolio of ingredients, designed to help masking undesirable notes like bitterness or astringency while improving mouthfeel, juiciness and fruitiness, building umami or adding further sensations.
By carefully optimizing a product’s overall flavor profile, symlife helps manufacturers close the taste gap of products with reduced sugar, salt and fat content.
“Taste perception follows a complex process involving many multisensory interactions,” Leif Jago, junior marketer of global marketing flavor division at Symrise, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
Any change in the food or beverage matrix influences these interactions, resulting in a taste gap that ultimately affects consumer preference, he notes.
“For instance, sugar reduction may lead to a loss of sweet perception, mouthfeel and body, a decrease in overall taste intensity, as well as revealing bitterness or astringency.”
“Also the use of ingredient replacers like sweeteners can result in different taste dynamics and the addition of off-notes, such as the later onset or lingering tastes,” he adds.
Decoding ancient Chinese recipes
Symlife’s overall target is to identify and optimize better tasting plant extracts or substances that will allow for healthier formulation of foods, while balancing tastes.
This flavor discovery platform involves the computer-aided data mining of ancient Chinese historical knowledge about botanicals.
“We use AI to decode ancient Chinese recipes, under the umbrella name SimLeap – an acronym for Sweet and Bitter Modulating Compounds Leveraging Ancient Prescription,” says Jago.
SimLeap combines different areas of expertise from its consortium comprising Symrise, Charité Berlin university and chemical company Bicoll.
“Search and cluster algorithms go through this digital data pool to identify potential materials with taste balancing capabilities,” details Jago.
After analyzing the respective botanical raw materials, Symrise sensorially verifies appealing tastes, through its proprietary LC Taste liquid chromatography program.
The company employs gentle processes, such as its SymTrap and SymBrane methods, to isolate and enrich key natural taste materials.
Bridging industry with academia
Symrise is regularly collaborating with academia and research institutes in different business areas to develop its taste balancing solutions. The company draws on in-house selection, breeding and cultivation to identify new, natural taste balancing raw materials.
“We use a unique, combined approach of sensory studies, computational methods, molecular biology-based cell studies as well as human intervention studies – such as nutritional studies measuring blood sugar levels – to learn about and improve sweet taste of sugar-reduced applications,” says Jago.
In the context of symlife, the company conducts extensive research in collaboration with Christian Doppler Laboratory (CDL) Vienna to understand mechanisms of sweet taste and signaling.
Symrise has also entered a similar partnership with Wageningen University, in the Netherlands, to develop a biological “artificial tongue.”
“The new method can accelerate the identification and characterization of potential tastants or taste modifiers from complex mixtures such as botanical extracts in much shorter time,” Jago details.
This concept of modeling human sensorial perceptions has been similarly piloted by scientists screening for counterfeit alcohol with AI and by Edlong’s food technicians studying consumer preferences for dairy flavors.
Collecting from side streams
The symlife platform supports the circular economy by developing natural taste balancing materials from side streams, and investing in backward integration and cultivation.
“The solutions contain various ingredients depending on the desired effect and application,” notes Jago. “They come from many sources.”
“Also, they can come in many formats and we use various production processes, depending on the application. So, it will be difficult to name one source, format or production process.”
In recent developments, Symrise has revamped its online platform for aroma raw materials. The Ingredient Finder on at the company’s website provides all the necessary information about its aroma molecules for various flavors.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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