The sensory experience of eating a cheeseburger is complex.
The aromas that flood your olfactory bulb while the burger is on the grill, the visual appeal of adding your favorite condiments, that first juicy bite; your senses are in overdrive. A burger is an American classic. For those of us who have had one, we have an expectation of what one should taste like.
Humans eat a lot of meat. In 2021 alone, the global consumption of beef and veal was estimated at just over 71,000 tonnes.* Due to a variety of factors (animal welfare, health and wellness, environmental awareness, etc.), many of us are searching for plant-based alternatives to traditional meat. Regardless of our motivation for decreasing animal-based protein consumption, we still expect to have a similar sensory experience with plant-based alternatives.
Food technologists, product developers and sensory scientists partner together to develop plant-based protein foods that perform as well as their animal counterparts. Food scientists use a combination of reaction flavors, herbs, spices and colors to create new products. Information comparing plant- and animal-based protein are generated from descriptive analysis using highly trained sensory panelists.
Below is an initial evaluation of 80 percent ground beef compared to two commercial plant protein products. The results show these commercial plant protein products lack the meatiness of traditional ground beef. They also have cooked vegetable, soy, starchy, cardboard and smoky notes not found in ground beef. This is where Kalsec’s superior products are used to improve the flavor profile of plant protein products, either by enhancing the meatiness or eliminating the cooked vegetable and starchy flavors.
Initial evaluation of 80 percent ground beef compared to two commercial plant protein products.
Once successful new products are developed, consumer studies give us an idea of how well the product would perform in the marketplace. Kalsec created meat-type flavors many years ago, but with the recent heightened consumer interest in plant-based proteins, we have been improving and optimizing those legacy products. We conducted an acceptability test using internal Kalsec employees (consumers of or concept acceptors of plant-based protein) for two chicken-type flavors. Consumers were asked to compare 2 flavors: Natural chicken-type flavor (the legacy product) and the optimized version of the legacy product to a commercially available plant-based chicken flavored patty and to rate the acceptability. Version 2 of the Kalsec chicken flavor was perceived as acceptable and gave the product developers a baseline for further improvement.
Acceptability test to compare 2 flavors: Natural chicken-type flavor (the legacy product) and the optimized
version of the legacy product to a commercially available plant-based chicken flavored patty.
An optimized flavor is ready for spiraling opportunities with customers. As an ingredient company, Kalsec gains unique and valuable insight from customers when we involve them throughout the product development cycle. Revisions are made and additional internal sensory testing is conducted based on our customer’s feedback. Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies conduct consumer tests to gather feedback on preference, liking and purchase intent. Consumer testing is essential for understanding how new products will perform and compete against competitor products.
Since 2010, global meat (beef, veal, pork, poultry and sheep) consumption increased by 41,000 tonnes.* This increase puts enormous pressure on the earth’s natural resources. Kalsec’s meat flavors for plant-based protein products will be crucial in aiding CPG companies’ abilities to feed that growing population, and sensory testing plays a vital role during the product development cycle and in crafting an authentic experience for consumers to enjoy.
Hungry for more information on how Kalsec can give plant-based proteins the flavors consumers crave? Our website is bursting with flavor-forward culinary inspiration. Visit our plant-based protein page to learn more.
*OECD (2022), Meat consumption (indicator). doi: 10.1787/fa290fd0-en (Accessed on 17 June 2022)