By Jason Mittelheuser, Technical Business Development
Flavor systems can be powerful tools. Oftentimes when we are looking to reduce off-notes in products with functional ingredients, we can typically reduce our perception by simply using the correct flavor or flavor system. Here are a couple of approaches that I suggest looking at during product development.
Our initial reaction to anything we are about to eat or drink is to smell it. This holds true for dry mixes as well that need to be hydrated before consuming. The issue is that functional ingredients, like fish protein, have their own characteristic aroma that could be off-putting.
You don’t want your end consumer to smell their new functional product in anticipation of an indulgent aroma – and come away with the smell of fish. You know it well – the overall experience is essential for repeat purchase.
That’s why it’s important to use a highly aromatic flavor that will reduce our perception of the off-note and make the product more appealing. The use of plated flavors or secondary flavors can help achieve this. Secondary flavors containing high volatiles – like banana, or citrus – are also highly aromatic. That’s why they can be perfect secondary flavors in something like a strawberry-flavored drink. A banana flavor can be used low enough that the end consumer will characterize the flavor as strawberry, but due to the sweet, highly aromatic nature of banana flavors, it will help counter off-aroma from base ingredients like fish oil or pea protein.
Sometimes your best bet is to work with the unwanted taste rather than against. In some situations, it is possible to use a flavor or flavor system that complements that inherent off-note of a functional ingredient. For example, one might describe pea protein as having an earthy, nutty taste. One approach a developer can make to reduce the off-notes would be to use nut flavor to help compliment the flavor of pea protein.
Flavor insertion entails having a good understand of the functional ingredient and developing a list of descriptors. For example, some common descriptors for soy protein include, beany, green, & bitter. Let’s zero in on one of those: green. Know that soy protein has inherent green notes, you’ll need to avoid a flavor with green notes. If strawberry is under consideration, I would against a true-to-fruit strawberry flavor (which can have green notes) and I’d suggest a a jammy/cooked strawberry flavor instead. A true-to-fruit strawberry will have green/fresh notes that could possibly through your flavor system off-balance once it is added. A jammy/cooked strawberry will have lower-to-no green notes in it. You are essentially using the taste attributes of soy protein to ”complete” the green/fresh character that you need.
If you’re contending off-notes or unwanted aromas in your product, please know that you have options. Whether providing pleasing aroma, congruent profiles or suitable profiles – flavor systems are powerful tools in your toolbox.
Jason works within FONA’s beverage team as Technical Business Development, where he focuses on delivering business growth and technical results for customers. He started at FONA in 2009 and has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry/bio-chemistry from Northern Illinois University. Jason is a regular presenter at Flavor University, where he helps food professionals from all walks understand the science behind their flavor.