Formulators looking to incorporate ginseng into functional food products should minimize the ingredient’s bitter and earthy flavors in order to succeed on the US market, suggests new research published in the Journal of Sensory Studies.
Ginseng is typically taken to increase energy and stamina but is also suggested to have other health benefits. However, it is also known for its bitter taste, which is difficult to mask. An earlier study looking at sensory perception of energy drinks found that panelists rated ginseng-containing drinks to be highly bitter at a ginseng level of 0.011%.
The authors of this latest study, led by researchers at the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Illinois, examined consumer attitudes to ginseng foods that already exist in the Korean market, and sought to identify food product concepts that could have market potential in the United States. Participants in the study reported a low level of initial interest in ginseng food products.
The researchers found that ‘sweetness’ and ‘ginseng chocolate’ were rated most highly by participants.
“Findings suggested that the original ginseng flavors, including bitterness and earthiness, be minimized in order to establish potential for success in the US market,” they wrote. “…There was a strong suggestion that the directions for the development of new ginseng food products should be based on preexisting product types, such as cookies, snacks, cereals, energy bars, chocolates and coffee rather than innovative or unfamiliar product types.”
In addition, the participants suggested that added sweeteners should be considered to reduce bitterness, and preferred honey over sugar or artificial sweeteners in ginseng food products. They also suggested that adding other bitter notes, such as coffee or chocolate could be considered harmonious flavors.
In order to mask earthy, musky flavors perceived to be undesirable by many participants, they suggested adding fruity, citrus, cinnamon or ginger flavors to ginseng food products.
According to Mintel data, ginseng is one of the top 10 best-selling herbal dietary supplements in the United States, but ginseng-containing products have been mostly limited to the beverage category, despite a growing functional food market.
Source: Journal of Sensory Studies
Vol. 26, Iss. 5, pp. 346–357, October 2011
“Consumer attitudes and expectations of ginseng food products assessed by focus groups and conjoint analysis”
Authors: Chung, H. S., Hong, H. D., Kim, K., Cho, C. W., Moskowitz, H. R. and Lee, S. Y