Heightened emphasis on health and wellness is accelerating the shift in consumers’ eating preferences and behaviours, with more becoming increasingly conscious and discerning in choosing products. Healthier alternatives to dairy, protein, fats and sugar continue to experience an uptick in demand.
But the determining factor has ceased to be just health and nutrition. Consumers are looking for more nutritious foods and drinks that they will also enjoy and would want to consume again. Finding that balance between health and taste has, therefore, become top of the agenda amongst many manufacturers, both finished product and ingredients suppliers alike.
Global leading taste and nutrition company Kerry hopes to contribute to finding an answer to one of today’s most pressing food and beverage challenges with nutritious yet tasty solutions. The company is even adding sustainability to the equation. Harnessing its expertise in food science and manufacturing technology, Kerry’s Tastesense helps manufacturers create delicious products that are also nutritionally optimised and good for the environment.
Speaking at the ASEAN Food & Beverage Ingredients Summit hosted by Ringier Events on 12 November 2021, Mr Harsch Koshti, marketing director Taste Technologies Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa for Kerry, said: “A product has to taste good, look good, do good and be good for the planet. Only when all these factors come together can a product truly satisfy consumer needs. That’s difficult to achieve, but with continued innovation and hard work, that goal can be reached.”
Harsch Koshti, marketing director Taste Technologies Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa for Kerry
Formulating healthier beverages that taste right
Kerry is well aware of the crucial role taste plays in winning consumer following and defining the success or failure of a food or beverage product.
“We’ve been monitoring and mapping market trends for many years, and we continue to see taste as being the top purchase driver even as value for money rises in consumers’ priorities list,” shared Koshti.
Kerry’s Tastesense family of natural flavour product solutions helps manufacturers create beverages with optimised taste and nutrition. The taste modulators use flavours based on FEMA GRA and EFFA-approved flavouring ingredients. While fairly neutral in taste, the modulators manipulate overall taste perception, taste impression and flavour profile to improve overall sweetness, intensity and mouthfeel, mask bitterness and off notes, and boost sensorial perception of food or drink.
Tastesense works on five dimensions – sweetness, mouthfeel, masking, salt and sensation – to deliver nutritionally optimised and delicious products. It builds or brings back sweetness while creating the body or improving the syrupy, fatty and or creaminess effect depending on the application. It also masks off-notes, especially when working with protein-based or plant-based dairy beverages that have soy, nut or grain tastes. Further, it works on the tingling, cooling and heating attributes, creating that tingling sensation experienced with carbonated soft drinks and even low-calorie alcoholic beverages.
“Tastesense is 100 percent natural and can be added in dosages as low as 0.05 percent. To provide manufacturers with flexibility and allow them to use the taste modulators for different products, Tastesense can be added in liquid or powder form,” Koshti said.
Suitable for use in beverages, dairy, snacks, plant-based products, bakery, dressings and sauces, the Kerry Tastesense modulation portfolio comprises Tastesense Sweet, Tastesense Salt, Tastesense Mouthfeel and Tastesense Masking.
The Tastesense Sweet range allows manufacturers to lower sugar to meet nutrition targets but still retain the sweetness, taste, texture and overall mouthfeel that products get from sugar. Besides the balanced and clean taste experience it provides, Tastesense Sweet lessens the off-notes resulting from the use of high-intensity sweeteners such as stevia and sucralose. Tastesense Salt solutions, meanwhile, reduce salt by up to 50 percent while still delivering the salty and umami taste perception.
Tastesense Mouthfeel addresses the texture problems created with the reduction of sugar, fat or salt. The solutions can be used independently or with other Tastesense products. For products where the use of ingredients such as proteins, mineral, vitamins and natural and artificial sweeteners results in undesired off-notes such as astringency, bitterness, metallic taste, acidity and chalkiness, Tastesense Masking is ideal. It masks off-notes to deliver a balanced taste with a clean aftertaste.
Kerry Tastesense allows beverage manufacturers to reduce sugar in their products by as much as 30 percent without compromising overall taste and making the product feel and taste diluted because of the drop in sweetness and mouthfeel resulting from the cut in sugar content. Tastesense Sweet builds back sweetness while the Tastesense Mouthfeel restores the mouthfeel. “The flavour modulators help bring back the delightfulness without compromising clean label. The declaration would still be natural flavour,” shared Koshti.
For products that require up to 50 percent sugar reduction, Kerry TasteSensa enables manufacturers to deliver the desired taste, sweetness and mouthfeel without the bitterness, astringency or citrusy notes that are the after-effects of the huge drop in sugar content.
High-intensity sweeteners can build up the upfront sweetness but can result in off flavours or bitterness. “This creates masking challenges that can be addressed by Tastesense Masking and Tastesense Mouthfeel,” Koshti added.
Kerry Tastesense also works for beverages with zero sugar, “delivering the healthy requirement but with the look and taste of a full-sugar solution,” noted Koshti. For these applications, high-intensity sweeteners can be used, with Tastesense Masking taking care of the resulting aftertaste, Tastesense Sweet restoring sweetness and Tastesense Mouthfeel creating the syrupy taste.
“Compared with artificial sweeteners, stevia, polyol sugars and sweetener or flavour blends, Kerry Tastesense delivers on the key pillars of ease of use, clean taste, clean label and cost. Unlike the other three alternatives, Tastesense has no off-note challenges. It has a longer shelf life than certain blends and has no laxative effects like polyol sugar. It might not be as inexpensive as artificial sweeteners, which cannot be used by children, but overall it is still cost-effective,” Koshti explained.
“The natural flavouring label or declaration is also a big factor as this helps manufacturers with their clean label objectives,” he added.
The thing about sugar
The pursuit of a healthier lifestyle is driving more consumers around the world to revisit their diet, specifically intake of sugar. In the Asia Pacific, for instance, where the incidence of diabetes is high, consumers are cutting down or keeping in moderation their consumption of products containing sugar.
Countries and governments are increasingly taking a proactive stance on the issue as well. More than 35 countries now impose a sugar tax to encourage consumers to turn to healthier products and brands to make more healthy products. For their part, manufacturers are launching more products with low or zero sugar. Koshti mentioned there has been a 44 percent increase in low/reduced sugar products in beverages since 2015.
But sugar is not only a health and nutrition issue. “Sugar has an impact on the overall taste of a product. Reducing sugar does not only affect the sweetness. It increases the sourness and bitterness and reducing the mouthfeel, viscosity and satiation levels,” Koshti said.
Since the effects of cutting out or reducing sugar are multiple, Kerry noted that the solution or strategy has to be able to address the other factors in the equation.
“With Tastesense, we address the complete sweetness profile and ensure the end product is as delicious and delightful as its full-sugar counterpart,” he added.
Beyond health and nutrition, Kerry’s answer to the sugar problem doubles as a sustainability strategy.
“We at Kerry see sugar being at the centre of two of the biggest challenges facing the food and beverage industry today – malnutrition and sustainability,” Koshti said.
In addition to cutting sugar and reducing calories by up to 30 percent, Tastesense lowers carbon emissions by 20 percent and water usage by 30 percent.
The sustainability gains do not stop there. Kerry’s study reveals that replacing 30 percent of sugar with Tastesense Sweet in full-sugar European cola would mean eliminating 68 billion sugar cubes in people’s diets and cutting 1,800 billion hours of cycling. The savings on water would be equivalent to the annual showers of 11 million people. In terms of carbon footprint, this would be like taking 29,800 cars off the road for a full year.
Shaping the future of beverages
With the Tastesense family of taste modulators, Kerry hopes to provide innovative and accelerated solutions to the challenge of making beverages healthy yet tasty.
“Our vision remains to be sustainable nutrition. Our approach is from farm to farm, and we achieve that by being climate-positive, having a social impact, working with the farmers, regenerative agriculture and believing in circular economy and circular solutions,” Koshti said.
The Tastesense family of products can be used for a wide range of beverage applications, including sports and energy drinks that are increasingly becoming popular. The solutions have a shelf life of between 1.5 years and 2 years.
Kerry’s multiple manufacturing facilities around the world can handle production of the Tastesense flavour modulators. “We have a new state-of-the-art plant coming up in Indonesia, which further expands our manufacturing capability from our facilities in Australia, Europe and the Americas. With this, we want to reaffirm our customers that we truly are a globally present but locally available company and we would be happy to cater to customers' needs as close as possible,” Koshti further shared.
He noted how the evolving needs of and trends in the market continue to keep companies on their toes in order to meet consumer requirements. “One thing we can learn is that impossible is nothing when it comes to creating tasty and delightful beverages. We thought before low sugar will never be in demand, but look at how things are shaping up now,” Koshti closed.
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