Challenging ingredient innovation

Rachel Smith and Simon Norman, July, 2020

In recent years, the landscape of the food and beverage industry has been changing, seeing a rise in reduced fat, sugar, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan products, to name a few. As a result, pressure is continuing to grow for the food and beverage sector to reduce or replace certain ingredients in their products.

Many consumers prefer products that are healthier with a lower calorie count but expect the same flavour perception and texture properties associated with the original ingredient. Up to this point, a common approach has been the replacement with reduced calorie alternatives. However, while several artificial ingredients exist, as well as naturally sourced ingredients like stevia, which is sweeter than sugar and has no calories, this has a bitter aftertaste.

As product developers try to meet the dominant consumer trends of “clean-label” whilst still meeting low-calorie demands, we’re noticing a new development direction, moving away from sugar-replacement ingredients: Bunge Loders Croklaan’s (BLC) has recently released a new patent pending ingredient called Sweetolin. According to press releases, this is a fat system that changes the melting profile of the final product, increasing sweetness perception. BLC claims that it allows up to a 50% reduction in sugar [1]. Last year DouxMatok also launched a sugar reduction ingredient, using mucoadhesive compounds to maximise the delivery of sugar to the taste buds, increasing the time of the sugar near the taste receptors. This claims to allow a sugar reduction of up to 40% [2].

These two examples are very focused on the challenge of reducing sugar – a key consumer trend, and one complicated further by legislative agendas across the globe.

At Sagentia, we expect this product development trend to continue over the next few years. Product developers should therefore ask, “how can I manipulate the physical chemistry of my ingredients to modify the flavour perception?”

This is a challenging brief. Receptors for each primary taste are found in each taste bud. The underpinning biochemistry of the flavour sense is complicated but provides some pointers on where we can target ingredient development.

Sweetness, for example, is detected in a variety of G protein coupled receptors to the G protein gustducin found on taste buds. Incoming sugar molecules bind to the receptors, causing a conformational change in the molecule, activating the gustducin protein, which eventually leads to neurotransmitter release and the individual perceiving a sweet taste [3].

The microstructure of an ingredient could be modified to enhance the physical properties for a specified purpose in the mouth: enhancing this receptor interaction, protecting the ingredient/protein adduct from dissolving in the saliva to enhance the longevity of the effect, or increasing the dissolution rate. In each potential scenario, the effect on the taste and sensory experience of the resulting product would need to be carefully assessed and considered.

Playing with physiochemical flavour perception effects could therefore be the next big thing for the intrepid developer. We see potential for similar techniques to apply to many different types of product, not just confectionary or bakery categories: modulating savoury tastes, enhancing saltiness or umami perception, blocking bitterness, masking off-flavours, and more.

As the trend for vegan products continues, is there the potential to utilise similar techniques to create the perfect dairy-free cheese, or to better mimic the temporal flavour profile of a beef burger made with alternative proteins? At Sagentia, we believe that understanding the deep science behind flavour perception is the key to product development success – we work with the world’s most exciting companies to solve challenges relating to ingredient reduction. Please get in touch to find out more.



[3] Lindemann, B. (1996), “Chemoreception: Tasting the sweet and the bitter”, Current Biology, 6, 10, pp. 1234-1237.

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