Sensory Solutions for Plant-Based Meat Analogues

Say Aloe to the Plant-Based Meat Revolution

It seems every day brings a new article on the motivations and progress of the plant-based meat analogue market.

yellow-warning-text

Saying “everyone is doing it” would inevitably be a logical fallacy, but there are a great deal of companies that are investing and innovating in this space to convince me otherwise.

green-bg-product

Whether motivated by dietary lifestyle, environmental sustainability, health aspirations or animal welfare, half of meat alternative buyers ate MORE meat alternatives in the past year and nearly 40% ate LESS animal meat (Numerator, 2019). Consumer demand not only continues to fuel growth in this category, but also the ability to patent meat substitute products makes the category highly attractive to investors.

However, the sensory component of developing visually appealing and great tasting meat analogues with acceptable mouthfeel presents a potential barrier to enter this market—these are highly technical and challenging products for food scientists.

Lettuce Innovate Simply without Compromise

For many R&D working on plant-based meat analogue products, the task at hand is creating an alternative that looks, tastes, and smells just like the real thing. “The goal for Impossible Foods was to have an uncompromisingly delicious meat without using animals,” said founder, Patrick Brown. Collaborating with ingredient suppliers like Sensient who have extensive experience in creating turn-key, natural sensory solutions that are compatible and stable offers a huge technical advantage to both small and large companies innovating in the plant-based meat space.

In order for product developers to give their end consumers a delicious, plant-based meat experience without sacrifice, it’s important to understand how consumers arrive at the decision of deliciousness. While 52% of consumers indicate taste as a key driver of purchase intent, it’s actually more important for repeat purchases (Mintel, 2019). Visual appeal is what’s critical for initial purchase, because consumers first eat with their eyes, and then move onto the other senses like smell, taste, and mouthfeel.

five-senses

In fact, ingredients like natural beef flavor or natural griddled bacon flavor are not as simple as the way they “taste”, because other senses like sight can dominate consumers’ interpretation of “taste”, especially when the product does not “look” like how it should “taste”.

Understanding this relationship between the senses and how ingredients like natural flavors, colors, and taste technologies all work hand-in-hand to help consumers arrive at the decision of “delicious taste” is very important knowledge for product developers of any category, especially plant-based meats trying to mimic the experience of animal protein.

A Holistic Solutions Approach to Plant-Based Meat Development

Sensient approaches sensory solutions for plant-based meat analogues as a consumer would experience the product, starting with their eyes.

emoji-eyes

SIGHT: PLANT-BASED MEAT ANALOGUES THAT LOOK RADISHING

The visual aesthetics of plant-based meat analogues vary on a few things…

turkey-leg

Type of animal meat being mimicked

pea-pod

Shade of the starting base material

eyelid-logo

Visual preference

To maintain a simple, plant-based ingredient statement, food color from botanical sources is the obvious option, and luckily, there are solutions available to address the three variables mentioned above.

VISUAL PREFERENCE

RAW PINK/RED AND COOKS TO BROWN

cooked-raw-meat

SOLUTIONS(S):

Blend of pH-stable red and brown botanical juices

EXAMPLE:

Sensient’s highly concentrated beet juice and cost-effective Sienna™ fruit juice blend

VISUAL PREFERENCE

RAW PINK/RED COOKS TO BROWN BUT CENTER REMAINS PINK

cooked-raw-meat-2

SOLUTIONS(S):

Blend of pH and heat-stable red and brown botanical juices

EXAMPLE:

Sensient’s heat stable SupraRed™ beet juice and cost-effective brown Sienna™ fruit juice blend

Sensient’s heat-stable SupraRed™ beet juice and standard highly concentrated beet juice

VISUAL PREFERENCE

RAW PINK COOKS TO WHITE

cooked-raw-meat-2

SOLUTIONS(S):

Blend of pH-stable red and white/opacity botanical juices

EXAMPLE:

Sensient’s highly concentrated beet juice and Avalanche™ vegetable juice blend

VISUAL PREFERENCE

RAW AND COOKED PINK/RED

cooked-raw-meat-2

SOLUTIONS(S):

pH and heat-stable red botanical juice

EXAMPLE:

Sensient’s pH and heat-stable SupraRed™ beet juice

VISUAL PREFERENCE

RAW WHITE COOKED WHITE WITH GOLDEN BROWN OUTER

cooked-raw-meat-2

SOLUTIONS(S):

Botanical whitening/opacity solution with golden brown botanical juice

EXAMPLE:

Sensient’s Avalanche™ with cost-effective brown Sienna™ fruit juice

zack-henderson

As you can see, the approach to visual aesthetics in plant-based meat analogues varies based on objectives, but with the many strides in botanical color innovation, achieving the desired appearance should not involve any compromise.

Because your brand success is ours, color solutions from Sensient also come with unparalleled technical expertise dedicated to helping you achieve the most attractive appearance to differentiate your product. Meet Zack Henderson, our residential plant-based butcher—he is all beets, no blood. You can setup a consultation with him here at any time.

emoji-eyes

SMELL: CAN’T BEET THESE AROMATICS

zack-henderson

After sight, consumers’ olfactory senses are next at bat. While the receptors for smell and taste are separate, they are certainly intertwined. Our nose contains specialized cells that pick up odor molecules to initiate a neural response, aiding in the detection of flavors.

Flavors are comprised of base, middle, and top notes. Each flavor note plays a pivotal part in the sensory success of a plant-based meat analogue. The aromatics stemming from the top note immediately enhance the overall flavor perception providing those instant “grill” “fatty” or “smoked” profiles. While the middle, reaction flavor notes of “beef” “pork” or “ham” etc. evaporate slower and stay in your mouth longer. Then, the base flavor notes are the largest and heaviest background molecules with long linger. A full taste solution comprised of all three notes is most effective in achieving that umami explosion that consumers typically get from animal meats.

emoji-eyes

TASTE: NATURALLY FLAVORING MEAT ANALOGUES LIKE A MOSS

In a 2019 Sensient Consumer Survey, over 65% stated unhappiness with the taste of their meat substitute products. Since flavor is a key driver of purchase and especially repeat purchase in the plant-based meat category, getting it right is a very important undertaking. Replicating the rich and complex flavors of animal meats can be difficult to achieve in plant-based formulations, especially since base proteins like soy, pea, mung bean, and mycoprotein impart their distinctive taste profiles. Some of these inherent taste attributes can be very displeasing, but Sensient’s toolbox of Smoothenol™ masking technologies can target and mitigate any specific off-note in a plant-based meat formula.

Additionally, Sensient has an extensive portfolio of natural and vegan savory profiles like grilled hamburger, griddled sausage, and roasted chicken where we can leverage all of our flavor components (base, middle, and top notes) to create a custom taste solution, unique to your brand. With Sensient’s extensive range of natural and vegan meat flavors, our application technologists can create customized flavor solutions to meet any desired flavor profile.

Dehydrated spices and herbs can also help round out the perfect taste by adding heat, spice, flavor depth, and sizzle to plant-based meat formulas. Our taste developers pull from our our palette of dehydrated ingredients like onion, garlic, chilis, and herbs to complete taste solutions.

We can create very distinctive and exclusive taste profiles using some of Sensient’s specialty dehydrated natural ingredients like toasted onion or roasted garlic too. No need to settle for mediOKRA!

emoji-eyes

MOUTHFEEL: SUCCULENT & JUICY LIKE THE REAL DEAL

Not only can plant-based proteins add dryness to a product, but they can also create texture issues due to the mixture of protein sources. Typically, this challenge is often solved by adding fats and oils, which can have a great impact on a product’s end nutritionals. The healthiness of plant-based analogues is already being discussed in the media, and the added fats is an easy target to demonize.

Fortunately, there are other ways to address the lack of fattiness in plant-based meats. One way is Sensient’s Sensirome® Entice, a proprietary taste technology with a bundle of meaty benefits, including…

turkey-leg

Builds back moistness and juiciness of texture to offset dryness

pea-pod

Clean label: “Natural Flavor” declaration

eyelid-logo

Enhances meatiness, saltiness, seasoning complex, and umami taste attributes

Validation of Sensirome™ Entice in Plant-Based Meatballs

circle-graph

In studies performed by our in-house Sensory Team, Sensirome® Entice produced a softer, more cohesive, juicier, and moister texture than the blank control, enhancing overall flavor while suppressing undesirable soy protein attributes.

Brocc N’ Roll with Turn-Key-Sensory Solutions

Rather than a fragmentary approach to color and taste solutions for plant-based meat analogues, leverage Sensient’s robust suite of high-performing, natural sensory solutions for a holistic solution. Collaborating with a comprehensive sensory solution supplier like Sensient who has extensive experience in managing the compatibility and stability of complex botanical ingredient systems of natural color and flavor technologies can streamline formulation development by mitigating chances of reformulations due to ingredient interactions.

Our comprehensive development approach empowers product developers to give their consumers a delicious plant-based meat experience without any sacrifice on visual, smell, taste, and mouthfeel.

Ready to begin? Schedule an ideation session to launch our discovery together!

Related Posts

Petco to Stop Selling Pet Food With Artificial Colors, Flavors, and Preservatives

France Poised to Ban Titanium Dioxide

Skittles Internet Debate: Do All Colors Taste the Same?

Is Glow-in-the-Dark the Next Food Trend? Meet the GLO-NUT

Mothers Know Best: How Moms are Influencing the Food and Beverage Industry

How Big Food is Taking on a World of Picky Eaters

Kraft Heinz Doubles Oscar Mayer’s Marketing Budget to Promote Natural Ingredients

The Magically Colorful Unicorn Trend

A Colorful Twist on a Sweet & Salty Snack

Food Color Effect on Older Consumers

Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins Removing Artificial Colors by End of 2018

Food Color is as Important as Taste

Myth or Fact? Artificially-Colored Foods Are Bad for You

Further Concerns Over the Safety of Titanium Dioxide

Panera is 100% Additive-Free

Formulators Taking Solution-Approach to Natural

Consumers Emphasizing Ingredients on Food Labels

#TBT A Look Back at the Co-Creation of the Food Coloring Business

8 Foods You Would Never Guess Were Artificially Colored

Food Fun: Colorful 3-D Gingerbread Creations

Color of Food Guides our Brains

Naturally Coloring the Beverage Industry

Are Autumn Leaves the Next Source of Natural Color?

Food Colors Market to Reach $3.75 Billion by 2022

Spirulina Algae: Next Natural Food Trend

Why Foods That Are Blue Are Perceived As Less Natural

Big Brands Clean Up Portfolios for Consumers

Natural Colors Linked to Positive Health Effects

Many Food Companies are Cooking Up New Natural Recipes

European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Continues Research on the Safety of Titanium Dioxide

Peace, Love and Cake

A Deep Look into Spirulina: an Emerging and Popular Natural Color Source

Cakes Are Getting Colorful

Tastefully Terrifying Halloween Red Velvet Croissants

Does Mac&Cheese Lead the ‘Free-From’ Trend?

Why Wegmans Removed Artificial Colors in their Icings

Food Companies Are Not Phasing Out Artificial Colors Fast Enough for Some

Heinz Removing Artificial Colors from Pickles

Kraft Launching Jell-O Line Without Artificial Colors

McDonald’s Removing Artificial Colors from Iconic Chicken Nuggets

Natural Colors ‘Upsurge’ in 2016 Market Share

Consumers Are Influenced by the Color of their Food