Sector News

The future of alt-dairy: Givaudan harnesses digital technologies to customize flavor profiles and predict trends

November 26, 2023
Consumer Packaged Goods

Consumer behaviors and preferences are evolving rapidly. With macro shifts in society, inflation and food supply challenges set to profoundly influence how people consume food and beverages, Givaudan is exploring what the world of dairy alternatives will look like in the coming decade.

Traditional milk and cheese products already share space with an ever-growing selection of dairy-free alternatives. But what does the future have in store for the rapidly evolving dairy alternatives business? What dairy-free products will people be eating and drinking in 2030 and beyond?

Speaking to Food Ingredients First at the Plant Based World Expo Europe last week, Igor Parshin, global marketing manager for Plant Attitude & Beyond Experience at Givaudan, tells us that the dairy alternatives category is a “key area” of company focus.

“Alternative proteins, in general, are a big scope of work for us at Givaudan. At our stand at the Plant Based World Expo, we are highlighting a number of things that relate to plant-based dairy alternatives, specifically desserts.”

“The first is our thought leadership and innovation in flavor and taste. Whether it’s finding the right flavor profile, taste modulation or flavor masking for specific plant-protein bases.”

Taste and beyond
According to Parshin, Givaudan is exploring “everything that surrounds taste.”

“We bring years of expertise, specifically in plant-based proteins and alternative proteins, and the future of those proteins,” he says. Today, Givaudan has Protein Hubs located in many areas around the globe. The most recent one opened in Sao Paulo, Brazil, just two weeks ago, Parshin tells us.

“Everything that happens in our Protein Hubs is where the magic happens. And, all the innovation we see today in relation to plant-based proteins comes from those hubs.”

The crucial thing for Givaudan is anticipating food trends and bringing these insights into the future. Parshin reflects: “The category is super dynamic and we need to be ready for what is coming up next.”

Targeting evolving ice cream needs
The dairy category overall is a long-established category that started with different alternatives. But today, for instance, it’s vital for Givaudan to make protein alternatives more widely available, Parshin explains.

“The taste, the texture, the way plant-based dairy alternatives might cook, is all part of their potential success and all of these things need to be taken seriously,” he notes.

At the Plant Based World Expo in London, Givaudan presented a soft serve ice cream innovation made with pea protein and coconut.

“The soft serve ice cream is an application a lot of consumers are familiar with,” notes Parshin. “And here, with some of our solutions, we try to create good texture and taste, and also present an enhanced nutritional proposition to make it a bit more attractive in terms of the fat and sugar content, and really present something that you would expect to see from traditional dairy ice cream.”

Once the base of an ice cream is ready, consumers often seek out a nice flavored topping, Parshin explains. “Then, we begin looking at the taste experience overall.”

“To help get to some feelings of indulgence, customers might want to add some sauces or toppings to really uplift the ice cream and make it a truly satisfying sensory experience.”

“That’s where our AromaSniff comes in,” he says.

AromaSniff is a digital concept that allows consumers to adapt, tailor and smell an aroma immediately, by using a smartphone application.

“You can change the aroma profiles of the sauces immediately and smell them before you create them and use them as an ice cream topping, for example.”

Felicity Law, UK CSI manager at Givaudan, also tells us: “AromaSniff can help in all stages of development. We can use it at the beginning of a development process with consumers, maybe in focus groups to explore new possibilities, and can use it during the development process with development technical and marketing teams where we might want to look at making blends right.” It also helps tailor recipes by identifying consumers’ likes and dislikes.

“We can also use it in quantitative research,” she notes.

“Being part of our technical digital portfolio, AromaSniff is the smallest device of all; it’s handheld, and if we adapt to one and save the request, it populates the others.”

Finding the right strawberry direction
Law explains that strawberries are the most important fruit in the dairy industry in the UK.

He adds that Givaudan looks for the right strawberry taste, profile or sweetness that works best in a specific application for its customers.

“So on our digital device, we have four different strawberry directions,” continues Law, adding that these can vary in “taste, seasonality, bitterness and acidity.”

“We can fine-tune these flavor profiles to match the exact aromas and flavors we are looking for.”

“Interestingly, we always interpret flavors in our nose,” says Law. “So, as we eat a product and we swallow, the aromas come back up into our nose and that’s when our brain recognizes a certain flavor.”

Givaudan has conducted a screening on this topic and concluded that “you can smell more things than you can taste.”

Law explains how consumers can control AromaSniff using a phone. “So, you can adapt the flavor profiles, make it sweeter or ‘more jammy’ and press play, then the aroma comes out of the device, and if you save that flavor profile, it populates all the other devices.”

“We also found that in the UK specific market, consumers like more of a raspberry/strawberry flavor than other countries, so you can bring in a raspberry tone, with the forest fruits aroma, and make it more appealing that way,” Law explains.

“So those are the things you can instantly change on your mobile app and immediately get this aroma and then we can take it as a recipe and transform it into one of the sauces that we have here and you can use it over your ice cream afterward,” adds Parshin.

“Depending on the need or the region, those expectations for certain types of flavor profiles might be different and our tool can make it super versatile and adjust as you want very easily,” he explains.

“It’s a tailored, personalized concept, which utilizes AI, and that is a huge area of development in our industry right now.”

Parshin also notes that Givaudan is “more active” in the area of digital and AI, which, in the future, he anticipates “will make our lives easier and more simple, in terms of development processes.”

For instance, rising inflation is pressuring companies to cut costs on processes like R&D and such digital tools can make these processes run smoother, he explains.

As Givaudan looks to predict future trends aligned with consumer values, exploring tools like AI and other technologies in this space will support its business and, ultimately, its customers.

The company recently partnered with Synthesis, an open data intelligence agency, “to think about the scenarios of the future.”

“Our main goal is to find out what the challenges might be and how we can prepare for them,” Parshin concludes.

By Elizabeth Green


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