Industry consortium aims to improve flavor and texture of plant-based foods
A consortium comprising research organizations and companies from across the food production chain is aiming to understand and resolve flavor and texture issues related to plant-based foods. The Flavour and Texture consortium consists of Biospringer by Lesaffre, Brabender, Bunge, Danone, Edlong Flavors, Ebro Ingredients, HAS Green Academy, Ruitenberg Ingredients, and NIZO. NIZO is coordinating this consortium, which is supported by the Dutch government’s Top Sector Agri & Food initiative (TKI). The results from this consortium will improve the eating experience for plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.
The protein transition is picking up speed with more and more plant-based products hitting the shelves. Moreover, the range of plant protein ingredients for these products is rapidly diversifying, as a growing range of products based on legumes sources such as yellow pea and faba bean are joining the now well-established soy-based meat and dairy alternatives. However, plant-based products have sensory challenges such as bitterness, beany flavours or low juiciness. The Flavour and Texture consortium brings together a wide range of industry expertise to explore the origin of these sensory concerns in meat and dairy alternatives, and to develop techniques to mitigate them.
The project focuses on dry fractionated protein concentrates and wet fractionated protein isolates from yellow pea, faba bean and soybean. As a first step, the consortium is identifying the key sensory challenges in these ingredients and in various plant-based model products where these ingredients are commonly used. These model products include high-protein beverages, semi-hard cheese and hamburger patties as end applications, and textured-vegetable protein (TVP) and high-moisture meat analogues (HMMA) as intermediates. By combining sensory profiling with gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS) and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), the consortium works to identify the specific molecules responsible for the sensory challenges in each case.
“Although data analysis and interpretation are ongoing, initial results suggest that there is no universal cause for a specific sensory challenge across all ingredients and applications," commented Steven Cornet, Project Manager Plant Protein Technology. "In other words, the same sensory challenge – e.g. a beany flavor – can be caused by different (combinations of) molecules in different products, with matrix and cross-modal effects also playing an important role. Whether this means that there is no universal solution to resolve these sensory issues remains to be seen.”
The consortium is currently developing and testing different mitigation strategies that could be applied during the production of end products. These potential solutions may involve ingredient pre-processing, carefully tailored processing conditions, and masking strategies in various combinations. Results are expected in the coming months.
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