A new taste modification platform from Wild Flavors claims to allow manufacturers of savory goods to add the distinct umami flavor - and mouthfeel - to their products.
Launched globally last week, SavorCrave is suitable for use in products such as soups, sauces, meat marinades, frozen entrees and seasonings.
It is the latest addition to the firm's line of flavor modification technologies, and claims to add back the "often missing sensation of umami" into foods and beverages.
According to the firm, the new ingredient does not add a characteristic flavor to a product; instead it enhances and intensifies flavors, while at the same time adding full-bodied mouthfeel characteristics.
This allows for its use in 'healthier' versions of products, which contain reduced levels of sugar, fat and salt.
"This type of product often has certain sacrifices to taste or texture. SavorCrave could contribute to rounding those out, by helping better-for-you products gain back some of those lost attributes," said Marion Dalacker, Wild's US director of market strategies.
The two main market drivers behind SavorCrave are this continued 'health and wellness' angle in the food industry, as well as an "explosion" of ethnic cuisines, which are often very grounded in the umami flavor, Dalacker told FoodNavigator-USA.com.
To scientists, umami is the taste of many different amino acids, or the building blocks of protein. But to a consumer, umami has been shown to contribute a full-bodied taste to products, as well as a distinctive aroma and mouthfeel.
Although umami taste receptors were only confirmed six years ago by researchers at the University of Miami School of Medicine, from a culinary perspective the umami taste is not new. Fermented fish sauces and intense meat and vegetable extracts have been valued in world cuisines for more than 2000 years.
According to Jacqueline Marcus, chair of the Culinary Nutrition Program at Kendall College, Chicago, this inexplicable taste sensation can highlight sweetness, lessen bitterness and counterbalance saltiness. Indeed, proper use of the taste could even contribute to a 50 percent salt reduction without compromising consumer acceptance, she said.
In addition, recent research indicating that children who say they 'hate' vegetables may be overly sensitive to bitter tastes also suggests another possible role for umami.
In Western foods the umami taste comes from bouillon (originally formulated by the Swiss flour manufacturer Julius Maggi), which gives a similar meaty flavor to Asian dashi.
According to Wild, its new umami flavor can be easily blended with other dry ingredients. The product contains no glutamic acid, which, together with monosodium glutamate (MSG), is often used as an umami taste activator.
SavorCrave is heat stable for processing such as retorting or baking, and is also available in kosher and halal versions.
In the US, the product can be labeled as a 'natural flavor', said the firm.
Other possible uses under examination for the product include certain sweet applications that have a 'non-sweet' component to them - such as mango. It could also be suitable for crossover sweet and savory flavored products, such as honey roasted peanuts.
In the beverage sector, the firm said its product would be particularly suitable for vegetable/fruit drink combinations.