Formulators’ knowledge about the interplay between umami and kokumi taste themes is expanding industry’s toolbox of solutions, particularly in the fermented foods space. Manufacturers working with cultures, enzymes, probiotics or yeasts highlight diversifying applications across global markets, driven by the sustained gut health trend.
Suppliers speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst underscore that, more than ever, consumers attuned to clean label positionings view fermentation as a natural and authentic process.
“Fermentation is a trusted, age-old process that has been used for centuries to produce and preserve foods,” says Jacques Georis, fermentation sciences director at Kerry.
“It is the oldest biotechnology and it is rightfully experiencing a revival due to increasing awareness of the health benefits fermented foods offer as well as for their unique taste profile.”
A recent report by the Good Food Institute shows that globally, fermentation companies devoted to alternative protein received more than US$274 million in venture capital funding in 2019 and over 58 percent more in the first seven months of 2020, US$435 million – even as COVID-19 disrupted global markets.
Evolution of fermented food tech
Traditional ethnic foods are rapidly growing from artisanal to industrial scale using largely undefined fermentation technologies, highlights Morten Boesen, global product line manager cultures at DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences.
“Examples of this are dosa, injera, kimchi and tempeh. With growing consumer interest in mature markets for these types of foods, these segments are steadily industrializing,” he continues.
As the gut health trend rises in global prominence, fermented NPD is sweeping across international markets.
“A few that spring to mind are Newhope Dairy from China that recently launched a new yogurt with 3D embedding technology to protect probiotics and which claims to help maintain a balanced intestinal micro-environment,” Boesen highlights.
“Another interesting example is the series of Actimel Fruit & Veg Cultured Shots that were recently introduced in the UK. These shots contain a blend of fruits, a vegetable, cultures and vitamins to support the immune system, but are also free from added sugar and low in calories.”
As a final example, Chobani made its first foray into the plant-based yogurt sector with a coconut and oat-based range of spoonable and drinkable products.
“The new vegan-friendly, dairy-free line is said to contain natural ingredients, billions of probiotics, live and active cultures and features less sugar than rival plant-based alternatives,” says Boesen.
Fermentation is not considered new by any means, having dominated the condiments category with kimchi and gochujang leading the charge in previous years. In contrast, a sweet shift in fermentation is now anticipated by flavor house Symrise.
Balancing act of umami and kokumi
The complex, rich and succulent taste sensation of a savory product are a result of well-balanced umami and kokumi tastes, highlights Georis.
“Umami is a key foundation for any savory taste experience, due to the presence of naturally occurring amino acid and glutamic acid, found in all savory proteins,” says Kay Marshallsay, Kerry’s business development lead of fermented ingredients taste.
“You can achieve umami taste by simply formulating with yeast extracts, in addition to cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms or meat.”
Kokumi, meanwhile, is pegged as a “more allusive” characteristic. “Kokumi is achieved by slow cooking, aging or long fermentation process,” explains Marshallsay.
“Bringing the Kokumi sensation to the industrial food space is a challenge. Kerry has analyzed thousands of peptides to find the perfect Kokumi solution.”
Kokumi notably emerged as a buzzword in NPD this year as the growingly popular Japanese concept denoting “heartiness” or “mouthfullness.”
“Balancing umami and kokumi wouldn’t be possible without an in-depth understanding of fermentation and, within that, yeast,” continues Georis.
When looking at challenges in the manufacturing processes of fermented foods such as yogurt or cheese, bacteriophages are counted as one of the biggest potential challenges for producers, particularly in the dairy space.
“Bacteriophages are viruses that attack the lactic acid bacteria needed to produce yogurt or cheese,” says Boesen at DuPont.
“To avoid significant damages to a dairy production, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences has collaborated closely with the dairy industry to combat phages and develop robust solutions with phage resistance in both fresh-fermented and cheese applications.”
DuPont’s technology and innovation team has developed multiple proprietary technologies for robust culture development.
Meanwhile, the company’s global phage technical service center is touted as having one of the most extensive libraries of phages and information on how to mitigate the risk of phages.
Health-elevating fermented food tech
Fermentation innovation is also setting a new food trend based on promoting healthier foods.
“There has never been a better time to create new food and beverages incorporating probiotics,” details Georis at Kerry. “We are experiencing a leap in demand for our GanedenBC30, a well-researched, spore-forming probiotic.”
GanedenBC30 recently secured gut health claims in Australia and New Zealand. With a naturally protective outer layer, it can survive most processing conditions and the digestive system, allowing for more innovative F&B applications.
“For example, GanedenBC30, is being used in many new exciting applications including granola, for which few probiotic strains are suitable,” Georis remarks.
Tea bags are another application for GanedenBC30, which overcomes the traditional challenge of temperature-sensitivity in probiotics exposed to boiling water.
“Backed by over 25 published papers, research shows GanedenBC30 can help support digestive health, immune health and support protein utilization,” says Georis.
This enables manufacturers to add science-backed probiotic benefits into applications that already have a healthy halo but may not be supported by a robust research portfolio.
“Take for example, kombucha, which is often perceived as providing numerous health benefits even though there are limited scientific studies to support these claims. By adding a highly stable probiotic such as GanedenBC30, manufacturers can confirm that their kombucha has the strain-specific probiotic benefits consumers want most,” notes Georis.
Fermentation explorations are indeed making a disruptive comeback, although finding the most optimal strategy still remains a predominant challenge for formulators, Institute of Food Technologists’ (IFT) specialists note – presenting new potential avenues for future innovation in this dynamic space.
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