Consumer food trends like plant-based dairy and reduced-fat are challenging brands to replicate the satisfying taste that whole milk provides – without relying on increasingly pricey edible oils.
According to a survey by Consumer Reports, the average supermarket in North America offers over 47,000 different products. While that statistic is an astonishing number that continues to grow each year, it’s impressive to consider that an estimated 50 percent of all food and beverage products in U.S. supermarkets currently contain some form of edible oils.
What are edible oils? Harvested from plant, animal or synthetic sources, edible oils are a source of essential fatty acids that serve a range of functions in food preparation, shelf stability, flavoring, taste experience and more.
One key role that edible oils have played throughout the supermarket is that of a synthetic fat replacement for dairy-alternative products and reduced-fat foods. Edible oils such as soybean, rapeseed, sunflower and especially palm oil are prominent ingredients in a wide range of packaged foods and vegetables such as ice cream, plant-based milks, salad dressings, coffee creamers and much more. In addition to providing a poor substitute for dairy fat, edible oils are experiencing one of the most drastic price surges in commodity goods history. Over the past 18 months, the price of palm oil has surged more than 120 percent to over $1,300 per ton – drastically impacting supply costs for food and beverage brands, and ultimately one component of rising food prices for consumers.
With its dramatically rising price and inferior performance as a dairy fat substitute – why are edible oils such a mainstream component of many foods and beverages? The short answer is that edible oils are added to products to serve a very important role in the way we experience foods and beverages: simulating the rich, creamy mouthfeel we crave in dairy products.
In traditional dairy products, the natural fat particles in whole milk are equally dispersed throughout the liquid, providing a full-bodied flavor with a rich mouthfeel consistency. This full-bodied rich taste is the defining characteristic of indulgent dairy products like ice cream, coffee creamer and yogurt – but these products are rapidly expanding beyond the dairy category.
The challenge facing food and beverage brands today is replicating the familiar, satisfying mouthfeel that consumers expect in whole milk dairy products during the production of plant-based dairy alternatives, shelf-stable products or in foods with reduced natural fat content.
California-based food and beverage flavor company T. Hasegawa USA, Inc. is on a mission to solve this challenge through innovative flavor technology. Recently, the company announced the introduction of its all-natural, plant-based EmulsiTRACTTM milk colloid emulsion to the North American market. This advanced fat mimetic technology provides an effective solution for food and beverage brands that need to simulate the creaminess and rich mouthfeel of traditional whole milk in a wide range of beverages, packaged foods and dairy alternatives.
Emulsitract was initially developed by T. Hasegawa in Japan, where fresh milk is not readily available and is prohibitively expensive. When added to powdered milk as an emulsion, Emulsitract restores the creamy mouthfeel that consumers expect in a wide range of dairy products, including coffee creamers, ice cream, dressings, protein beverages, yogurt, pudding, whipped cream and a broad range of dairy-alternative beverages.
“Consumers are familiar with the rich mouthfeel that traditional whole milk fat provides, and expect these attributes in dairy-free beverages, low-fat foods and other products,” explained T. Hasegawa’s VP of research & development, Jim Yang. “Emulsitract is the result of our efforts to produce a clean-label, natural solution that still delivers the creamy richness that consumers demand. This technology is going to expand the possibilities of dairy alternatives moving forward.”
While the use of edible oils will continue to be a key aspect of food and beverage development, innovations like T. Hasegawa’s Emulsitract will reduce the total amount of edible oils required to produce many goods, while also delivering a more natural-tasting solution that better mimics the experience of whole milk dairy foods and beverages.
“Use of edible oils has long been a shortcut to simulating milk fat in certain liquid products like non-dairy coffee creamer and dressings, but Emulsitract can mimic this taste in a more natural and authentic way,” explained Holden Rouse, senior beverage technologist at T. Hasegawa USA and head applications specialist for the Emulsitract product development. “This technology offers cost-savings and other manufacturing benefits, but it also provides a better taste experience for consumers in the ever-expanding plant-based dairy category.”
The introduction of Emulsitract marks the latest in T. Hasegawa’s growing line of innovative products aimed at providing a rich, full-bodied taste experience with improved mouthfeel. Earlier this year, the company introduced BoostractTM to the North American market, which adds or enhances the effect of kokumi (or “rich taste” in Japanese) to foods and beverages. Both of T. Hasegawa’s new technologies improve mouthfeel, but Boostract is a flavor modifier that uses Maillard Reaction to convert plant-based proteins to sugars, whereas Emulsitract is an emulsifying agent that adds fatty acids to provide a creamy milk flavor profile.
In addition to improving creamy mouthfeel and providing a luxurious taste profile to dairy and dairy-alternative foods while reducing the use of edible oils, Emulsitract can offer nutritional benefits by aiding fat reduction in food and beverage products.
“This technology can significantly reduce fat in certain beverages while still delivering a full-bodied mouthfeel,” explained Rouse. “Emulsitract is capable of changing the way we approach reduced fat products, without compromising on flavor or experience.”
Food and beverage brands who are looking to take their product development to the next level of flavor can explore the possibilities by contacting T. Hasegawa USA at www.thasegawa.com or by calling (866) 965-0502.