October 9, 2023, by pczmj

Will meat alternatives ever taste as good as meat?

This post is by Professor Ian Fisk, Professor of Flavour Science at the University of Nottingham.

When we are asked to think of the flavour of meat, we might come up with its characteristic aroma during cooking. However, the overall flavour that we perceive is very complex and is a mix of multiple sensory attributes; its aroma (e.g. roasted smell), its taste (e.g. savoury) in addition to its texture (juiciness, chewiness) and a range of other external factors. These ultimately interact to produce the flavour of meat that many of us learn to enjoy.

But to keep enjoying meat as a protein source, we need to think of other sustainable ways to cater to the larger global population.

Replicating the complex mix of stimuli in a non-meat (i.e. alternative protein) system is very challenging and whilst significant developments have been made, the flavours of many alternative protein products that aim to replicate meat simply don’t achieve this ambitious goal. Consequently, many consumers experience a flavour gap, this disparity between their expectation of the flavour of meat and the flavour of the alternative protein products they buy leads to reduced consumer liking and a direct impact on repeat purchase.

In the production of meat analogues containing alternative proteins, flavours are typically generated through either the direct addition of flavour-active ingredients, (e.g. encapsulated flavour systems or precision fermented lipids) or through the addition of a range of food extracts that when heated together generate a flavour that is similar to cooked meat. However, due to the large number and high cost of potential precursors and the complexity of thermal flavour generation reactions that occur during cooking, the resultant flavours for many products are simply not the same as meat.

Our work is aimed at developing flavour systems for alternative protein food products that meet consumers expectations of taste and flavour. We achieve this through advanced analytical insights, new approaches to flavour development and advances in food processing techniques.

Professor Ian Fisk leads The International Flavour Research Centre (IFRC), with a range of extensive flavour chemistry characterisation tools located in two top 100 Universities (the University of Nottingham and the University of Adelaide). He works to understand, control, and optimise flavour generation reactions and to stabilise and deliver unique high-quality meat flavours for alternative protein systems and complement these tools with advanced statistical (AI/ML) approaches to design future meat flavours that aim to surpass consumer preference of meat products.

At the University of Nottingham, we are pioneers and leaders in the field of flavour generation and release kinetics. We believe that this unique approach will underpin the success of future flavour systems for alternative proteins. Future flavour solutions are likely to move towards more natural flavour ingredients developed using precision tools whilst embracing new and advanced food processing approaches. Through our close alliance with some of the largest plant based / alternative protein companies, we are already leading the way in bridging this gap to ensure the best possible consumer experience.

Professor Ian Fisk (IFRC-Director) and Mui Lim (IFRC- Senior Technician) demonstrate real-time flavour evaluation of alternative proteins during consumption within the International Flavour Research Centre.



To find out more about the international Flavour Research Centre you may follow this link: http://nott.ac/flavour


Posted in Alternative ProteinsFood ResearchTech Platforms