Kerry: Umami and kokumi combination breaks new ground in savory flavors

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages / Lisovskaya
©GettyImages / Lisovskaya

Related tags: Kerry group, savory flavors, Umami taste, kokumi

Umami, referred to as the ‘5th taste’ in the culinary world (in addition to sweet, sour, salty, and bitter), and kokumi, characterized as a ‘taste enhancer’ that heightens and lengthens flavors, could be the next winning savory flavor combination in packaged food, says global ingredients supplier Kerry.

“Brands can break new ground”​ by harmonizing umami and kokumi flavors to “deliver authentic, complex tastes,”writes​Kerry Group business development director (yeast specialties) Kay Marshallsay, PhD in a new insights article on the firm's website.

“Brands delivering products in the savory category can win consumer preference by striking this balance and synergy between umami and kokumi. To do so, the attributes and intricacies of umami and kokumi combinations must be understood at a molecular level and applied through cooking technique and ingredient selection,” ​noted Marshallsay.

Understanding umami and kokumi

“Although it’s only been discussed by scientists in recent years, using umami to optimize taste is a practice firmly rooted in cooking tradition,” ​said Marshallsay.

Umami tastes in cooking are predominant throughout regions of Asia including Japan, Indonesia, and South Korea, noted Marshallsay.

According to Kerry, umami taste is associated with naturally occurring amino acids and peptides, such as those in meat, dairy, and vegetables.

The naturally present amino acids in yeast extracts appeal to the taste receptors and are a natural way to boost taste, said Marshallsay.

“Due to the many varieties of yeast extracts that are available, each should be considered for its specialized culinary attributes and layered onto a recipe as if working with a palette of yeast extracts—almost like you’re painting different colors but from a taste perspective,”​ Marshallsay explained.

“This allows for the tuning and tweaking of umami and kokumi to create a consumer preferred solution that is clean label, sustainable, and cost-effective.”

Developing umami-kokumi flavor solutions

Alexandre Matos, technical director of taste for Kerry Latin America added, “Within the realm of umami and kokumi, we pull from all areas – from our 95 global flavorists, our extensive natural extraction and distillation know-how, and our global technologies and raw materials. From there, we can combine extracts, yeasts, top-notes of flavors themselves, flavor modulators, biotechnology, and more to deliver a wide range of types of umami and kokumi configurations with different combinations, traits, and intensities.”

According to Marshallsay, using specific sensory and taste lexicon created just for umami and kokumi is important to the flavor development process.

“We’ve developed our own language around the umami and kokumi space with unique terminology and descriptors. This allows our teams and our customers to articulate and differentiate between the full spectrum of umami and kokumi effects and characteristics,” ​said Marshallsay.

Kerry noted that it is currently exploring new ways to introduce ‘umami-kokumi’ into new product development.

“Our knowledge and understanding about this interplay between umami and kokumi is developing at pace, driving constant ideation and innovation. We’re aligning resources and fixated on striking an umami-kokumi balance to deliver authentic, complex, multidimensional, preference-driving taste in the most memorable way possible,” ​added Rajesh Potineni, vice president of taste innovation, sensory and analytical sciences for Kerry North America.

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