Making plant-based meat alternatives tastier

Tuesday, 16 January, 2024

Making plant-based meat alternatives tastier

IFF has embarked on a collaborative research initiative with Unilever and Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in protein-flavour interactions to address flavour challenges in plant-based meat alternatives.

In plant-based meats, plant proteins can create beany off-notes and lingering alternatives, which manufacturers mask with a combination of flavours; however, this can result in undesirable aroma characteristics.

In response to this challenge, IFF and Unilever have launched a four-year research project, working with scientists from WUR in the Netherlands. Their primary objective will be to explore the ways flavours bind to protein molecules with the goal of recommending novel flavouring strategies that elevate the sensory experience of plant-based meat alternatives.

The project targets areas within flavour compositions that hold the greatest promise for success, drawing on IFF’s research in protein purification and natural food flavouring. WUR will use advanced analytical methods to study the protein flavour interactions, while Unilever will ensure the research remains guided by consumer preferences.

Neil Da Costa, lead scientist, global product research, IFF, said, “Our mission is to understand and improve flavour quality in plant-based meat alternatives by unravelling the intricacies of protein interactions, to investigate flavour loss and elevate the overall flavour profile.”

“Technology is a key enabler for us to create plant-based products that have the same great taste and texture as animal meat but have a lower environmental footprint. We always strive to improve our products and satisfy our consumers’ changing needs and preferences. This research partnership will enable us to understand and control how flavours work to create superior plant-based meat products,” said Manfred Aben, nutrition and ice cream head of science and technology at Unilever.

Hans-Gerd Janssen, part-time professor at the chair group Organic Chemistry of Wageningen University and scientist at Unilever, said, “Working together with companies helps translate the knowledge of Wageningen University & Research into practice and for companies to contribute their valuable practical experience for us to learn from.”

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