The collaboration, which began in April last year, was set up to work towards the discovery, development and commercialization of novel flavor ingredients to enhance the taste characteristics of soy proteins.
Now Mark Zoller, Senomyx’s chief scientific officer and executive vice president of discovery and development, said: “In relatively short order, we worked with Solae’s scientists and determined the components of soy protein responsible for its bitterness, identified the bitter taste receptors activated by these components, and discovered potential new ingredients that modulate the receptor response in our assay.”
Bitterness is a particular problem for soy products and food manufacturers use a variety of techniques to mask undesirable tastes such as adding sugar, fat or salt to a recipe.
It is hoped the bitter blockers, which are ingredients that are incorporated into the food, will better modulate and control bitterness in certain soy-based products and as a result, improve the nutritional value of foods by allowing manufacturers to add more protein and use less sugar, salt and fat.
A spokeswoman for Senomyx told FoodNavigator-USA.com that they could not provide examples of the potential new ingredients because they were still in the early testing stage.
Nor was there a timescale for commercialization, as the spokeswoman added: “We are still investigating which components are responsible for the bitterness. The goal is to keep all of the components and to add a new flavor ingredient that reduces the bitterness”
However Solae said they were one step closer to identifying the systems that could help it enhance the flavor profile of soy protein and it expected the partnership to drive new innovation opportunities for the company and its customers.
Miguel Angelo de Oliveira, Solae vice president of new business development, added: “The partnership with Senomyx will yield significant opportunities to enhance and advance soy protein’s profile and role in food products.”
Soy protein is used in a wide variety of products, including energy bars, breakfast cereals, infant formula and beverages.
The companies expect to develop novel soy protein flavor enhancers and taste modulators using Senomyx’s proprietary taste receptor-based assays and screening technologies.
Under the licensing agreement, Solae will have exclusive worldwide use of the flavor ingredients in virtually all categories of foods and beverages that contain added soy protein.
Solae will fund the discovery and development of these flavor systems, and Senomyx will be entitled to certain milestone and royalty payments based on sales of Solae products containing any flavor ingredients developed under the agreement.
The taste challenge
Other companies are also making strides in masking off tastes.
In March, one year after signing a R&D deal with Givaudan, RedPoint Bio patented the use of its technology for discovering ways to modulate the way the human body detects taste.
Redpoint Bio, told FoodNavigator-USA.com at the time that the company had discovered novel compounds that can specifically inhibit or enhance TRPM5 – the pathway that transmits the 'taste' of food to the different taste cells for each of the three basic taste qualities; sweet, bitter and savory.
TRPM5 inhibitors were under development as bitter blockers which were expected to be useful in oral pharmaceutical formulations and in foods with bitter tastes, such as processed soy and cocoa. However they were not expected to be commercialized for about two years or more.
Earlier this year Symrise introduced a new series of flavor masking tools which it claimed were effective "in overcoming bitter, burning, astringent, chalky, salty, metallic tastes and a host of other off-flavors and off-notes."
The German-based firm said that they could be used for caffeine, green tea, proteins, soy, sweeteners, cacao, as well as other "problem ingredients".
Comax Flavors and nutrition provider FutureCeuticals also recently announced that they would be collaborating to help deliver better tasting healthy formulations combining functional ingredients and flavors.