Demand drives advances in natural savoury and sweet flavourings

Taking its name from the Japanese for 'delicious taste', umami is a pleasant savoury taste imparted by glutamate, a type of amino acid, and ribonucleotides including inosinate and guanylate. These occur naturally in many foods including meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products. As the taste of umami itself is subtle and blends well with other tastes to expand and round out flavours, most people do not recognise umami when they encounter it, but it plays an important role making food taste delicious. In effort to reappraise umami, Givaudan has announced that it is to conduct new and extensive scientific and culinary research into the taste through its TasteSolutions programme (Fig.1).

Combining culinary knowledge of umami, together with scientific expertise in receptor research and taste analysis, Givaudan has already developed an extensive palette of natural taste ingredients which focus on umami. This enables its flavourists to create flavours which provide a new level of deliciousness and authenticity in foods without having to rely on the addition of declarable taste enhancers.

The move to label declarations that consumers can readily recognise and understand is a trend which continues to grow in importance linked to health and wellness concerns, says the company. This translates into requests from food manufacturers who wish to reduce the number of ingredients on the label declaration to the minimum and find natural alternatives to artificial or chemical-sounding ingredient names.

At the heart of this 'clean label' movement is the desire to remove taste enhancers such as monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG is widely used in savoury and snack foods to provide an umami sensation which enhances the overall flavour intensity. Developing successful products which are not reliant on adding MSG is a significant technical challenge for food manufacturers.

Through its creation and application expertise in umami and the extensive palette of ingredients at its disposal, Givaudan says that it is providing customers with flavours that are tailored to creating the perfect umami taste profile for their product.

"It is important to understand how the balance and harmony of taste affects the eating experience," explains Matthew Walter, Givaudan's EAME group leader for the culinary centrer of expertise. "Taste is not just about commonly used enhancers such as MSG or disodium inosinate (IMP)/disodium guanylate (GMP) alone - it is a much more complex phenomenon. Understanding the contribution that other taste ingredients make and using them in the right balance is essential to creating deliciousness. The Japanese refer to this taste complexity and balance as kokumi, which is a term still poorly understood outside of Japan."

Givaudan has committed substantial resources to discovering more about umami and kokumi through its TasteSolutions programme, undertaking receptor research and sensory understanding programmes to unravel the complexities of taste. Significant effort is currently focused on how umami can be measured in terms of both its strength and its temporal effects and to distinguish between the taste characteristics of different umami ingredients.

Working with its in-house chefs and trained sensory panelists, Givaudan also focuses on understanding what makes food taste great. The company has discovered a wealth of new molecules through the analysis of traditional fermentation processes, cooking techniques and artisanal ingredients that are used in cuisines around the world to impart taste. In 2008-9, 70 per cent of the patents Givaudan filed related to taste perception and modulation.

Meats and sweets

While Givaudan is busy with its umami work, global flavour ingredients supplier Treatt has expanded its range of nature-identical speciality chemical products for the formulation of savoury flavours.

FEMA-accredited, these latest additions to the company's portfolio are designed add high impact top notes to the flavour profile of an array of finished foods. They confer an authentic and well-rounded aroma and can be incorporated at varying intensity levels depending on the desired impact.

Providing a roasted meaty odour, reminiscent of roast beef, 2,4,6-Trimethyldihydro-4H-1,3,5-dithiazine is found naturally occurring in squid, fried chicken, clam and peanut butter. It can be used at different dosage levels depending on the application. In snacks or sauces, for example, a dosage of 3-6ppm delivers a rich, meat flavour, while an intense aroma can be achieved in soups and seasonings at levels of 4-8ppm. Flavours for oils and fats require a dosage of 0.35-3.5ppm. 2,4,6-Trimethyldihydro-4H-1,3,5-dithiazine is also approved for use in China, Japan, Korea, Russia and Europe, which further enhances its global appeal.

Other products in the range include 2,4,5-Trimethyloxazole, a nutty option with green fruit tones which delivers an earthy potato-like and mushroom flavour, and 5,6,7,8-Tetrahydroquinoxaline which occurs in coffee and roast nuts and imparts a cheesy odour in bread, cheese and meat flavours. And, for tropical flavours, 2-(Methylthio)ethyl acetateis contributes tones of mustard, horseradish and wasabi at dosages between 0.01 and 5ppm.

Treatt offers over 300 speciality chemical top notes, including pyrazines, thiazoles and other sulphur, nitrogen and oxygen heterocyclic chemicals, manufactured by Endeavour Specialty Chemicals.

Its latest move follows an earlier expansion of its portfolio of Treattarome 100 per cent natural distillates with the launch of two new honey products. Honey Treattarome 9802 and Honey Treattarome 9804 deliver a sweet, honey flavour to a range of food and beverage systems without adding sugar or calories.

Wholly distilled from fresh honey, these ingredients impart an authentic, rich aroma, and provide an effective alternative to honey in sweet formulations. Each distillate confers a different nuance - Honey Treattarome 9802 offers a mild flavour profile and dark, smoky back-end notes while Honey Treattarome 9804 brings a light floral presence and delicate honey top note to flavour compositions. Both products can be used in a variety of applications particularly alcoholic and soft beverages including diet drinks, flavoured waters and juices plus bakery and confectionery applications. A minimum dosage of 25ppm is recommended.

These new distillates are water-based so are easily incorporated into food and beverage systems in the bottling plant - unlike highly viscous honey. In addition, they do not brown over time or physically interact with other ingredients in the formulation.

Meanwhile Swiss flavour firm Firmenich has extended its collaboration with San Diego-based Senomyx in the development and commercialisation of sweetness enhancers. The aim here is to reduce levels of sucrose, fructose and rebaudioside.

The two firms have worked together since early last year on the R&D, commercialisation and licensing of flavour ingredients for a cooling effect. An agreement made in November last year gave Firmenich exclusive rights to commercialise the S2383 flavour enhancer for sucralose in beverages, foods and oral healthcare products. A new agreement allows Firmenich to commercialise more sweetness enhancers for sucrose, fructose and rebaudioside.

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