Flavours in FoodTech: Exploring novel flavours, textures and aromas to make next-gen food taste and smell great

Flavours in FoodTech: Exploring novel flavours, textures and aromas to make next-gen food taste and smell great

By
Louise Burfitt
April 12, 2021

🍽️ What is it?

  • As the shift towards alternative products accelerates, flavour and aroma companies are reaching new heights in their quest to develop the most enticing flavours, aromas and textures for use in food products.
  • This is particularly true of plant-based proteins, which are driving innovative developments in flavours and texture.
  • But it’s not just alt meats: companies are using similar processes to reduce sugar and salt in food, without compromising on taste or texture.
  • AI-assisted flavour development is also being used to make alternative products as tasty as possible by identifying the best flavours or additives to mimic ‘the real thing’.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Flavour is the most important factor in food and drink choices, according to a report by Innova Market Insights. 
  • Plant-based protein concepts in the savoury and dairy segments - think alt milks and vegan meats - are driving growth in the novel flavours market.
  • It’s a pretty big ask to try to bring the taste, texture and aroma of traditional meat or milk or cheese to meat-free products and for decades, it wasn’t something many companies tried. 
  • But now that plant-based alternatives have found new audiences, including meat eaters, and experienced such meteoric growth, the segment is innovating in order to thrive and survive. Of those surveyed by Givaudan, 46% of plant-based meat consumers said they were looking for a ‘meaty’ taste.
  • And in an NPD Group survey, 89% of consumers of plant-based meats said they were also meat eaters. Which means convincing with accurate taste, texture and functionality is really important for plant-based producers. 

💡How did it start? 

  • The plant-based meats of today are a far cry from the bland veggie bean burgers of yesteryear. Next-gen food requires next-gen flavours - and with the conception of cultured meat and plant-based milks, the taste and texture needs to be on point too. 
  • Many of the world’s largest flavour and fragrance manufacturers are leading the charge – Firmenich, Giavudan, International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), MANE and Symrise, to name just a few. 
  • There’s also a raft of exciting startups in the next-gen flavours arena – many using fermentation or mushrooms, others concentrating on alternative sugar flavours or ways to use less salt in foods. 
  • As the market for plant-based and fermented alt meats becomes ever more crowded, companies who can offer amazing flavours that attract a broad demographic will lead the pack. So in many ways, flavour is more important than it’s ever been. 


🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • We’ve heard how important flavour is when it comes to plant-based substitutes. The Plant Meat Matters Project is proof of that: it includes notable members such as Givaudan, The Vegetarian Butcher and Unilever, in partnership with Wageningen University. The project is developing plant-based meat structuring technology to enhance the flavour and nutritional profile of alt meats. 
  • There are many challenges to creating a flavourful meat substitute - mimicking the texture, juiciness, taste and mouthfeel of a burger with plant proteins is not easy
  • Many companies are utilising the power of mushrooms. Using the roots of fungi developed through fermentation (the mycelium), startups can better afford to create scalable alternative meats. MycoTechnology Inc. is one of the leaders in this area, accompanied by Prime Roots, Mushlabs and Ecovative among others. They’re all using mycelium to create plant-based substitutes that have an improved texture and taste. 
  • Mushrooms are also being used to reduce sugar and salt in foods - MycoTechnology Inc’s much-praised ClearTaste technology blocks bitterness in food, a taste that’s usually mitigated using sugar (think adding a spoonful of the sweet stuff to take the edge off a black coffee). 
  • Big flavour multinationals such as Firmenich and IFF are also working on low-sugar (and low-salt) flavourings, to meet the demand for sweet but healthy alternative products. Startups in this area include Israeli DouxMatok, with their redesigned sugar crystal for reducing sugar in food. 
  • Novel and microbial enzymes are another crucial part of the alternative flavour market – IFF unveiled its Nurica enzyme this month, which can be used to alter the properties of dairy products. Japan’s Amano Enzyme uses biotech to create enzymes that alter the texture and nutritional properties of food, while Denmark’s Novozymes is creating umami and cheese-like flavours with enzymes. 
  • And sometimes these trends collide: Firmenich and Novozymes recently partnered to create a yogurt with 50% less sugar. 
  • In the next-gen flavour arena, AI is increasingly being used to create new products and dream up unusual flavour pairings - for plant-based products as well as other opportunities. Givaudan has launched its own AI-assisted product development tool, while startups in the digital flavour sector include Foodpairing®, PlantJammer and Aromyx.

🤷 Why

  • Much of the appetite for novel flavours comes from the millennial and Gen-X demographic, with 80% of those surveyed confirming that they actively seek out new flavours on a regular basis. 
  • As we know, the plant-based segment is a main driver of new flavour development - because a realistic taste and texture is crucial to the success of plant-based products. Getting those attributes right can persuade consumers who might otherwise be less keen. 
  • Health concerns are also a big factor. While a desire for a healthier lifestyle is a key factor in pushing people to consider plant-based options, vegan alternatives are not automatically healthier. Plant-based alternatives often have more salt but less iron and vitamins than conventional meat, so companies are racing to offer flavour substitutes with better nutritional profiles. This is also true of sweet and salty flavours - with many multinationals and startups applying lessons from the plant-based industry to this space. 
  • But most of all, it comes down to taste - to a delicious experience that consumers want to return to again and again. Research shows that customers will compromise on taste the first time they try a product, but rarely after. 
  • A survey by Givaudan found that the biggest hurdle for consumers when it came to meat-free substitutes was the lack of an authentic taste. Flavourless bean burgers might have made the cut twenty years ago, but these days it’s no longer sufficient to offer any old plant-based alternative. It has to taste, smell and feel good. 

👀 Who? (29 companies in this space)


📈 The figures

  • The market for food flavours is currently worth $16.4 billion and is projected to grow to $20.7 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 4.8%. 
  • And the plant-based protein market, specifically, will be worth $15.6 billion by 2026. 

🍄 Case study: MycoTechnology Inc. 

  • MycoTechnology Inc. is a US-based functional ingredients manufacturer that uses the roots (mycelium) of fungi to create food products. 
  • Headquartered in Colorado, the company raised $39 million in Series D funding last year to expand its better-for-you ingredients platform. 
  • Although the company is beavering away at multiple projects, it’s best known for its ClearTaste flavour-blocking ingredient, which can be added to food products to remove bitterness and reduce sugar. 
  • ClearTaste, which is made with mushroom extract, can thus help improve the taste of coffee, sweeteners and plant proteins, among other things.
  • It’s FermentIQ (formerly known as PureTaste) plant protein ingredient has also attracted attention: it can be used to enhance the flavour of plant-based alternatives. This is a neutral-tasting protein made using pea and rice proteins, which then undergoes fermentation using shiitake mycelium. 
  • It can be deployed in healthy snacks like energy bars or used to add texture in plant-based meats. There, it can also help to offset the off taste sometimes associated with pea protein products. And what’s more, it’s super high in vitamin B12, making it a particular hit among vegans who can be prone to deficiency.  
  • Cost has been one of the biggest factors limiting growth for MycoTechnology Inc. - and its competitors - but the company has found a way to use fruit and vegetables that would have gone to landfill as a growth media, reducing their costs by 90%

🇨🇭 Case study: Givaudan 

  • Swiss multinational flavour and fragrance manufacturer Givaudan is the biggest company of its kind, so it makes sense that the 126-year-old company is also leading the way in creating convincing flavours in the plant-based meat sector.
  • Givaudan is also using its research power to discover low-sugar, salt and fat options to support the healthier choices increasingly desired by consumers. 
  • Their aim is to make products that bridge the gap between incredible and desirable flavours and a nutritious profile. For plant-based meats, that means producing flavours with a really ‘meaty’ taste and mouthfeel, but without the health cons associated with conventional meat.
  • As a member of the Plant Meat Matters project, Givaudan has been instrumental in developing shear cell technology. This innovative process aims to recreate the whole muscle structure of meat, to improve the taste, texture and mouthfeel of plant-based substitutes.
  • While alternative beef and chicken flavours were an initial focus for the Swiss multinational, they’re increasingly focused on recreating seafood and pork
  • Givaudan’s Global Director for Front End Innovation Alexandre Bastos believes the future of flavour development will only strengthen the ‘less is more’ focus: ‘It is all about the next generations of solutions that enable less sugar, less fat and specially less salt. Solutions that enable a smooth replacement of those commodity items without compromising the consumer experience.’
  • Bastos also predicts that emerging startups in plant-based proteins will drive growth ‘in the short and mid-term’. He also notes emerging alternative ingredients as one to watch: ‘Like the ones derived from fermentation - these will certainly drive growth in the future, assuming they are able to overcome regulatory challenges and scale up effectively.’
  • For Givaudan, plans to accelerate its plant-based flavour arm continue - later this month, in collaboration with Bühler, they’ll open The Innovation Centre for Plant Based Food in Singapore. This full-service hub for innovation will continue their work on flavours, aromas and textures for plant-based substitutes, with a particular focus on Asia-specific plant-based foods

👍 The good

  • This massive segment is dominated by multinationals, but there’s lots of room for startups to innovate too. And the continuing popularity of plant-based foods means there’s plenty of material to work with. Plus, there’s a clear path for acquisitions.
  • Improving the nutritional profile of foods through novel flavours can only be positive for health. This applies to flavours developed for use in plant-based substitutes, as well as low and no-sugar, salt and fat options. 
  • One of the criticisms of many alternative foods - whether sugar-free cookies or vegan burgers - has been how little they mimic the real thing. For some, that doesn’t matter, but others really crave the taste of the ‘original’ even when eating a substitute product. New innovations in taste and texture - as well as scents - are allowing alternative products to come up with more lifelike, realistic substitutes. 
  • What’s more, AI-assisted flavour development tools can also efficiently pinpoint the best ‘alternative’ flavours for a particular substitute, choosing from a database of hundreds of options much more quickly than a human could!

👎 The bad

  • As we learned from the example of MycoTechnology Inc., startup costs and investment can be high - which can limit new entrants to the field. Securing adequate funding is crucial, but the size and breadth of the plant-based substitutes market means there are plenty of investors to entice. 
  • Consumer reluctance to new flavours, particularly among older demographics, is another mountain to climb. But experts recommend combining fresh flavours with familiar ones to make hesitant customers more comfortable trying something new. 
  • Technical issues related to flavour development can still prove a limiting factor. When manufacturing plant-based proteins, flavour can get lost and refuse to release properly, leading to a boring taste experience that consumers won’t be keen to repeat. 

💡The bottom line

  • In the years to come, flavour innovation is certain to remain a fundamental piece of the food and drink development puzzle. Plant-based flavours will continue to be a key growth area, with base ingredients widening to include those from microbial and aquatic sources. 
  • Consumers are also likely to become more demanding as they become more familiar with novel flavours - particularly when it comes to additives and nutrition. Flavour companies will have to balance consumer preferences with manufacturing and cost constraints - and the successful ones will get that balance just right.
  • It’s not all bad news that this segment is currently dominated by a handful of multinationals - instead it creates an open opportunity for startups to get acquired when the time to exit arrives.
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🍽️ What is it?

  • As the shift towards alternative products accelerates, flavour and aroma companies are reaching new heights in their quest to develop the most enticing flavours, aromas and textures for use in food products.
  • This is particularly true of plant-based proteins, which are driving innovative developments in flavours and texture.
  • But it’s not just alt meats: companies are using similar processes to reduce sugar and salt in food, without compromising on taste or texture.
  • AI-assisted flavour development is also being used to make alternative products as tasty as possible by identifying the best flavours or additives to mimic ‘the real thing’.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Flavour is the most important factor in food and drink choices, according to a report by Innova Market Insights. 
  • Plant-based protein concepts in the savoury and dairy segments - think alt milks and vegan meats - are driving growth in the novel flavours market.
  • It’s a pretty big ask to try to bring the taste, texture and aroma of traditional meat or milk or cheese to meat-free products and for decades, it wasn’t something many companies tried. 
  • But now that plant-based alternatives have found new audiences, including meat eaters, and experienced such meteoric growth, the segment is innovating in order to thrive and survive. Of those surveyed by Givaudan, 46% of plant-based meat consumers said they were looking for a ‘meaty’ taste.
  • And in an NPD Group survey, 89% of consumers of plant-based meats said they were also meat eaters. Which means convincing with accurate taste, texture and functionality is really important for plant-based producers. 

💡How did it start? 

  • The plant-based meats of today are a far cry from the bland veggie bean burgers of yesteryear. Next-gen food requires next-gen flavours - and with the conception of cultured meat and plant-based milks, the taste and texture needs to be on point too. 
  • Many of the world’s largest flavour and fragrance manufacturers are leading the charge – Firmenich, Giavudan, International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), MANE and Symrise, to name just a few. 
  • There’s also a raft of exciting startups in the next-gen flavours arena – many using fermentation or mushrooms, others concentrating on alternative sugar flavours or ways to use less salt in foods. 
  • As the market for plant-based and fermented alt meats becomes ever more crowded, companies who can offer amazing flavours that attract a broad demographic will lead the pack. So in many ways, flavour is more important than it’s ever been. 


🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • We’ve heard how important flavour is when it comes to plant-based substitutes. The Plant Meat Matters Project is proof of that: it includes notable members such as Givaudan, The Vegetarian Butcher and Unilever, in partnership with Wageningen University. The project is developing plant-based meat structuring technology to enhance the flavour and nutritional profile of alt meats. 
  • There are many challenges to creating a flavourful meat substitute - mimicking the texture, juiciness, taste and mouthfeel of a burger with plant proteins is not easy
  • Many companies are utilising the power of mushrooms. Using the roots of fungi developed through fermentation (the mycelium), startups can better afford to create scalable alternative meats. MycoTechnology Inc. is one of the leaders in this area, accompanied by Prime Roots, Mushlabs and Ecovative among others. They’re all using mycelium to create plant-based substitutes that have an improved texture and taste. 
  • Mushrooms are also being used to reduce sugar and salt in foods - MycoTechnology Inc’s much-praised ClearTaste technology blocks bitterness in food, a taste that’s usually mitigated using sugar (think adding a spoonful of the sweet stuff to take the edge off a black coffee). 
  • Big flavour multinationals such as Firmenich and IFF are also working on low-sugar (and low-salt) flavourings, to meet the demand for sweet but healthy alternative products. Startups in this area include Israeli DouxMatok, with their redesigned sugar crystal for reducing sugar in food. 
  • Novel and microbial enzymes are another crucial part of the alternative flavour market – IFF unveiled its Nurica enzyme this month, which can be used to alter the properties of dairy products. Japan’s Amano Enzyme uses biotech to create enzymes that alter the texture and nutritional properties of food, while Denmark’s Novozymes is creating umami and cheese-like flavours with enzymes. 
  • And sometimes these trends collide: Firmenich and Novozymes recently partnered to create a yogurt with 50% less sugar. 
  • In the next-gen flavour arena, AI is increasingly being used to create new products and dream up unusual flavour pairings - for plant-based products as well as other opportunities. Givaudan has launched its own AI-assisted product development tool, while startups in the digital flavour sector include Foodpairing®, PlantJammer and Aromyx.

🤷 Why

  • Much of the appetite for novel flavours comes from the millennial and Gen-X demographic, with 80% of those surveyed confirming that they actively seek out new flavours on a regular basis. 
  • As we know, the plant-based segment is a main driver of new flavour development - because a realistic taste and texture is crucial to the success of plant-based products. Getting those attributes right can persuade consumers who might otherwise be less keen. 
  • Health concerns are also a big factor. While a desire for a healthier lifestyle is a key factor in pushing people to consider plant-based options, vegan alternatives are not automatically healthier. Plant-based alternatives often have more salt but less iron and vitamins than conventional meat, so companies are racing to offer flavour substitutes with better nutritional profiles. This is also true of sweet and salty flavours - with many multinationals and startups applying lessons from the plant-based industry to this space. 
  • But most of all, it comes down to taste - to a delicious experience that consumers want to return to again and again. Research shows that customers will compromise on taste the first time they try a product, but rarely after. 
  • A survey by Givaudan found that the biggest hurdle for consumers when it came to meat-free substitutes was the lack of an authentic taste. Flavourless bean burgers might have made the cut twenty years ago, but these days it’s no longer sufficient to offer any old plant-based alternative. It has to taste, smell and feel good. 

👀 Who? (29 companies in this space)


📈 The figures

  • The market for food flavours is currently worth $16.4 billion and is projected to grow to $20.7 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 4.8%. 
  • And the plant-based protein market, specifically, will be worth $15.6 billion by 2026. 

🍄 Case study: MycoTechnology Inc. 

  • MycoTechnology Inc. is a US-based functional ingredients manufacturer that uses the roots (mycelium) of fungi to create food products. 
  • Headquartered in Colorado, the company raised $39 million in Series D funding last year to expand its better-for-you ingredients platform. 
  • Although the company is beavering away at multiple projects, it’s best known for its ClearTaste flavour-blocking ingredient, which can be added to food products to remove bitterness and reduce sugar. 
  • ClearTaste, which is made with mushroom extract, can thus help improve the taste of coffee, sweeteners and plant proteins, among other things.
  • It’s FermentIQ (formerly known as PureTaste) plant protein ingredient has also attracted attention: it can be used to enhance the flavour of plant-based alternatives. This is a neutral-tasting protein made using pea and rice proteins, which then undergoes fermentation using shiitake mycelium. 
  • It can be deployed in healthy snacks like energy bars or used to add texture in plant-based meats. There, it can also help to offset the off taste sometimes associated with pea protein products. And what’s more, it’s super high in vitamin B12, making it a particular hit among vegans who can be prone to deficiency.  
  • Cost has been one of the biggest factors limiting growth for MycoTechnology Inc. - and its competitors - but the company has found a way to use fruit and vegetables that would have gone to landfill as a growth media, reducing their costs by 90%

🇨🇭 Case study: Givaudan 

  • Swiss multinational flavour and fragrance manufacturer Givaudan is the biggest company of its kind, so it makes sense that the 126-year-old company is also leading the way in creating convincing flavours in the plant-based meat sector.
  • Givaudan is also using its research power to discover low-sugar, salt and fat options to support the healthier choices increasingly desired by consumers. 
  • Their aim is to make products that bridge the gap between incredible and desirable flavours and a nutritious profile. For plant-based meats, that means producing flavours with a really ‘meaty’ taste and mouthfeel, but without the health cons associated with conventional meat.
  • As a member of the Plant Meat Matters project, Givaudan has been instrumental in developing shear cell technology. This innovative process aims to recreate the whole muscle structure of meat, to improve the taste, texture and mouthfeel of plant-based substitutes.
  • While alternative beef and chicken flavours were an initial focus for the Swiss multinational, they’re increasingly focused on recreating seafood and pork
  • Givaudan’s Global Director for Front End Innovation Alexandre Bastos believes the future of flavour development will only strengthen the ‘less is more’ focus: ‘It is all about the next generations of solutions that enable less sugar, less fat and specially less salt. Solutions that enable a smooth replacement of those commodity items without compromising the consumer experience.’
  • Bastos also predicts that emerging startups in plant-based proteins will drive growth ‘in the short and mid-term’. He also notes emerging alternative ingredients as one to watch: ‘Like the ones derived from fermentation - these will certainly drive growth in the future, assuming they are able to overcome regulatory challenges and scale up effectively.’
  • For Givaudan, plans to accelerate its plant-based flavour arm continue - later this month, in collaboration with Bühler, they’ll open The Innovation Centre for Plant Based Food in Singapore. This full-service hub for innovation will continue their work on flavours, aromas and textures for plant-based substitutes, with a particular focus on Asia-specific plant-based foods

👍 The good

  • This massive segment is dominated by multinationals, but there’s lots of room for startups to innovate too. And the continuing popularity of plant-based foods means there’s plenty of material to work with. Plus, there’s a clear path for acquisitions.
  • Improving the nutritional profile of foods through novel flavours can only be positive for health. This applies to flavours developed for use in plant-based substitutes, as well as low and no-sugar, salt and fat options. 
  • One of the criticisms of many alternative foods - whether sugar-free cookies or vegan burgers - has been how little they mimic the real thing. For some, that doesn’t matter, but others really crave the taste of the ‘original’ even when eating a substitute product. New innovations in taste and texture - as well as scents - are allowing alternative products to come up with more lifelike, realistic substitutes. 
  • What’s more, AI-assisted flavour development tools can also efficiently pinpoint the best ‘alternative’ flavours for a particular substitute, choosing from a database of hundreds of options much more quickly than a human could!

👎 The bad

  • As we learned from the example of MycoTechnology Inc., startup costs and investment can be high - which can limit new entrants to the field. Securing adequate funding is crucial, but the size and breadth of the plant-based substitutes market means there are plenty of investors to entice. 
  • Consumer reluctance to new flavours, particularly among older demographics, is another mountain to climb. But experts recommend combining fresh flavours with familiar ones to make hesitant customers more comfortable trying something new. 
  • Technical issues related to flavour development can still prove a limiting factor. When manufacturing plant-based proteins, flavour can get lost and refuse to release properly, leading to a boring taste experience that consumers won’t be keen to repeat. 

💡The bottom line

  • In the years to come, flavour innovation is certain to remain a fundamental piece of the food and drink development puzzle. Plant-based flavours will continue to be a key growth area, with base ingredients widening to include those from microbial and aquatic sources. 
  • Consumers are also likely to become more demanding as they become more familiar with novel flavours - particularly when it comes to additives and nutrition. Flavour companies will have to balance consumer preferences with manufacturing and cost constraints - and the successful ones will get that balance just right.
  • It’s not all bad news that this segment is currently dominated by a handful of multinationals - instead it creates an open opportunity for startups to get acquired when the time to exit arrives.

🍽️ What is it?

  • As the shift towards alternative products accelerates, flavour and aroma companies are reaching new heights in their quest to develop the most enticing flavours, aromas and textures for use in food products.
  • This is particularly true of plant-based proteins, which are driving innovative developments in flavours and texture.
  • But it’s not just alt meats: companies are using similar processes to reduce sugar and salt in food, without compromising on taste or texture.
  • AI-assisted flavour development is also being used to make alternative products as tasty as possible by identifying the best flavours or additives to mimic ‘the real thing’.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Flavour is the most important factor in food and drink choices, according to a report by Innova Market Insights. 
  • Plant-based protein concepts in the savoury and dairy segments - think alt milks and vegan meats - are driving growth in the novel flavours market.
  • It’s a pretty big ask to try to bring the taste, texture and aroma of traditional meat or milk or cheese to meat-free products and for decades, it wasn’t something many companies tried. 
  • But now that plant-based alternatives have found new audiences, including meat eaters, and experienced such meteoric growth, the segment is innovating in order to thrive and survive. Of those surveyed by Givaudan, 46% of plant-based meat consumers said they were looking for a ‘meaty’ taste.
  • And in an NPD Group survey, 89% of consumers of plant-based meats said they were also meat eaters. Which means convincing with accurate taste, texture and functionality is really important for plant-based producers. 

💡How did it start? 

  • The plant-based meats of today are a far cry from the bland veggie bean burgers of yesteryear. Next-gen food requires next-gen flavours - and with the conception of cultured meat and plant-based milks, the taste and texture needs to be on point too. 
  • Many of the world’s largest flavour and fragrance manufacturers are leading the charge – Firmenich, Giavudan, International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), MANE and Symrise, to name just a few. 
  • There’s also a raft of exciting startups in the next-gen flavours arena – many using fermentation or mushrooms, others concentrating on alternative sugar flavours or ways to use less salt in foods. 
  • As the market for plant-based and fermented alt meats becomes ever more crowded, companies who can offer amazing flavours that attract a broad demographic will lead the pack. So in many ways, flavour is more important than it’s ever been. 


🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • We’ve heard how important flavour is when it comes to plant-based substitutes. The Plant Meat Matters Project is proof of that: it includes notable members such as Givaudan, The Vegetarian Butcher and Unilever, in partnership with Wageningen University. The project is developing plant-based meat structuring technology to enhance the flavour and nutritional profile of alt meats. 
  • There are many challenges to creating a flavourful meat substitute - mimicking the texture, juiciness, taste and mouthfeel of a burger with plant proteins is not easy
  • Many companies are utilising the power of mushrooms. Using the roots of fungi developed through fermentation (the mycelium), startups can better afford to create scalable alternative meats. MycoTechnology Inc. is one of the leaders in this area, accompanied by Prime Roots, Mushlabs and Ecovative among others. They’re all using mycelium to create plant-based substitutes that have an improved texture and taste. 
  • Mushrooms are also being used to reduce sugar and salt in foods - MycoTechnology Inc’s much-praised ClearTaste technology blocks bitterness in food, a taste that’s usually mitigated using sugar (think adding a spoonful of the sweet stuff to take the edge off a black coffee). 
  • Big flavour multinationals such as Firmenich and IFF are also working on low-sugar (and low-salt) flavourings, to meet the demand for sweet but healthy alternative products. Startups in this area include Israeli DouxMatok, with their redesigned sugar crystal for reducing sugar in food. 
  • Novel and microbial enzymes are another crucial part of the alternative flavour market – IFF unveiled its Nurica enzyme this month, which can be used to alter the properties of dairy products. Japan’s Amano Enzyme uses biotech to create enzymes that alter the texture and nutritional properties of food, while Denmark’s Novozymes is creating umami and cheese-like flavours with enzymes. 
  • And sometimes these trends collide: Firmenich and Novozymes recently partnered to create a yogurt with 50% less sugar. 
  • In the next-gen flavour arena, AI is increasingly being used to create new products and dream up unusual flavour pairings - for plant-based products as well as other opportunities. Givaudan has launched its own AI-assisted product development tool, while startups in the digital flavour sector include Foodpairing®, PlantJammer and Aromyx.

🤷 Why

  • Much of the appetite for novel flavours comes from the millennial and Gen-X demographic, with 80% of those surveyed confirming that they actively seek out new flavours on a regular basis. 
  • As we know, the plant-based segment is a main driver of new flavour development - because a realistic taste and texture is crucial to the success of plant-based products. Getting those attributes right can persuade consumers who might otherwise be less keen. 
  • Health concerns are also a big factor. While a desire for a healthier lifestyle is a key factor in pushing people to consider plant-based options, vegan alternatives are not automatically healthier. Plant-based alternatives often have more salt but less iron and vitamins than conventional meat, so companies are racing to offer flavour substitutes with better nutritional profiles. This is also true of sweet and salty flavours - with many multinationals and startups applying lessons from the plant-based industry to this space. 
  • But most of all, it comes down to taste - to a delicious experience that consumers want to return to again and again. Research shows that customers will compromise on taste the first time they try a product, but rarely after. 
  • A survey by Givaudan found that the biggest hurdle for consumers when it came to meat-free substitutes was the lack of an authentic taste. Flavourless bean burgers might have made the cut twenty years ago, but these days it’s no longer sufficient to offer any old plant-based alternative. It has to taste, smell and feel good. 

👀 Who? (29 companies in this space)


📈 The figures

  • The market for food flavours is currently worth $16.4 billion and is projected to grow to $20.7 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 4.8%. 
  • And the plant-based protein market, specifically, will be worth $15.6 billion by 2026. 

🍄 Case study: MycoTechnology Inc. 

  • MycoTechnology Inc. is a US-based functional ingredients manufacturer that uses the roots (mycelium) of fungi to create food products. 
  • Headquartered in Colorado, the company raised $39 million in Series D funding last year to expand its better-for-you ingredients platform. 
  • Although the company is beavering away at multiple projects, it’s best known for its ClearTaste flavour-blocking ingredient, which can be added to food products to remove bitterness and reduce sugar. 
  • ClearTaste, which is made with mushroom extract, can thus help improve the taste of coffee, sweeteners and plant proteins, among other things.
  • It’s FermentIQ (formerly known as PureTaste) plant protein ingredient has also attracted attention: it can be used to enhance the flavour of plant-based alternatives. This is a neutral-tasting protein made using pea and rice proteins, which then undergoes fermentation using shiitake mycelium. 
  • It can be deployed in healthy snacks like energy bars or used to add texture in plant-based meats. There, it can also help to offset the off taste sometimes associated with pea protein products. And what’s more, it’s super high in vitamin B12, making it a particular hit among vegans who can be prone to deficiency.  
  • Cost has been one of the biggest factors limiting growth for MycoTechnology Inc. - and its competitors - but the company has found a way to use fruit and vegetables that would have gone to landfill as a growth media, reducing their costs by 90%

🇨🇭 Case study: Givaudan 

  • Swiss multinational flavour and fragrance manufacturer Givaudan is the biggest company of its kind, so it makes sense that the 126-year-old company is also leading the way in creating convincing flavours in the plant-based meat sector.
  • Givaudan is also using its research power to discover low-sugar, salt and fat options to support the healthier choices increasingly desired by consumers. 
  • Their aim is to make products that bridge the gap between incredible and desirable flavours and a nutritious profile. For plant-based meats, that means producing flavours with a really ‘meaty’ taste and mouthfeel, but without the health cons associated with conventional meat.
  • As a member of the Plant Meat Matters project, Givaudan has been instrumental in developing shear cell technology. This innovative process aims to recreate the whole muscle structure of meat, to improve the taste, texture and mouthfeel of plant-based substitutes.
  • While alternative beef and chicken flavours were an initial focus for the Swiss multinational, they’re increasingly focused on recreating seafood and pork
  • Givaudan’s Global Director for Front End Innovation Alexandre Bastos believes the future of flavour development will only strengthen the ‘less is more’ focus: ‘It is all about the next generations of solutions that enable less sugar, less fat and specially less salt. Solutions that enable a smooth replacement of those commodity items without compromising the consumer experience.’
  • Bastos also predicts that emerging startups in plant-based proteins will drive growth ‘in the short and mid-term’. He also notes emerging alternative ingredients as one to watch: ‘Like the ones derived from fermentation - these will certainly drive growth in the future, assuming they are able to overcome regulatory challenges and scale up effectively.’
  • For Givaudan, plans to accelerate its plant-based flavour arm continue - later this month, in collaboration with Bühler, they’ll open The Innovation Centre for Plant Based Food in Singapore. This full-service hub for innovation will continue their work on flavours, aromas and textures for plant-based substitutes, with a particular focus on Asia-specific plant-based foods

👍 The good

  • This massive segment is dominated by multinationals, but there’s lots of room for startups to innovate too. And the continuing popularity of plant-based foods means there’s plenty of material to work with. Plus, there’s a clear path for acquisitions.
  • Improving the nutritional profile of foods through novel flavours can only be positive for health. This applies to flavours developed for use in plant-based substitutes, as well as low and no-sugar, salt and fat options. 
  • One of the criticisms of many alternative foods - whether sugar-free cookies or vegan burgers - has been how little they mimic the real thing. For some, that doesn’t matter, but others really crave the taste of the ‘original’ even when eating a substitute product. New innovations in taste and texture - as well as scents - are allowing alternative products to come up with more lifelike, realistic substitutes. 
  • What’s more, AI-assisted flavour development tools can also efficiently pinpoint the best ‘alternative’ flavours for a particular substitute, choosing from a database of hundreds of options much more quickly than a human could!

👎 The bad

  • As we learned from the example of MycoTechnology Inc., startup costs and investment can be high - which can limit new entrants to the field. Securing adequate funding is crucial, but the size and breadth of the plant-based substitutes market means there are plenty of investors to entice. 
  • Consumer reluctance to new flavours, particularly among older demographics, is another mountain to climb. But experts recommend combining fresh flavours with familiar ones to make hesitant customers more comfortable trying something new. 
  • Technical issues related to flavour development can still prove a limiting factor. When manufacturing plant-based proteins, flavour can get lost and refuse to release properly, leading to a boring taste experience that consumers won’t be keen to repeat. 

💡The bottom line

  • In the years to come, flavour innovation is certain to remain a fundamental piece of the food and drink development puzzle. Plant-based flavours will continue to be a key growth area, with base ingredients widening to include those from microbial and aquatic sources. 
  • Consumers are also likely to become more demanding as they become more familiar with novel flavours - particularly when it comes to additives and nutrition. Flavour companies will have to balance consumer preferences with manufacturing and cost constraints - and the successful ones will get that balance just right.
  • It’s not all bad news that this segment is currently dominated by a handful of multinationals - instead it creates an open opportunity for startups to get acquired when the time to exit arrives.

🍽️ What is it?

  • As the shift towards alternative products accelerates, flavour and aroma companies are reaching new heights in their quest to develop the most enticing flavours, aromas and textures for use in food products.
  • This is particularly true of plant-based proteins, which are driving innovative developments in flavours and texture.
  • But it’s not just alt meats: companies are using similar processes to reduce sugar and salt in food, without compromising on taste or texture.
  • AI-assisted flavour development is also being used to make alternative products as tasty as possible by identifying the best flavours or additives to mimic ‘the real thing’.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Flavour is the most important factor in food and drink choices, according to a report by Innova Market Insights. 
  • Plant-based protein concepts in the savoury and dairy segments - think alt milks and vegan meats - are driving growth in the novel flavours market.
  • It’s a pretty big ask to try to bring the taste, texture and aroma of traditional meat or milk or cheese to meat-free products and for decades, it wasn’t something many companies tried. 
  • But now that plant-based alternatives have found new audiences, including meat eaters, and experienced such meteoric growth, the segment is innovating in order to thrive and survive. Of those surveyed by Givaudan, 46% of plant-based meat consumers said they were looking for a ‘meaty’ taste.
  • And in an NPD Group survey, 89% of consumers of plant-based meats said they were also meat eaters. Which means convincing with accurate taste, texture and functionality is really important for plant-based producers. 

💡How did it start? 

  • The plant-based meats of today are a far cry from the bland veggie bean burgers of yesteryear. Next-gen food requires next-gen flavours - and with the conception of cultured meat and plant-based milks, the taste and texture needs to be on point too. 
  • Many of the world’s largest flavour and fragrance manufacturers are leading the charge – Firmenich, Giavudan, International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), MANE and Symrise, to name just a few. 
  • There’s also a raft of exciting startups in the next-gen flavours arena – many using fermentation or mushrooms, others concentrating on alternative sugar flavours or ways to use less salt in foods. 
  • As the market for plant-based and fermented alt meats becomes ever more crowded, companies who can offer amazing flavours that attract a broad demographic will lead the pack. So in many ways, flavour is more important than it’s ever been. 


🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • We’ve heard how important flavour is when it comes to plant-based substitutes. The Plant Meat Matters Project is proof of that: it includes notable members such as Givaudan, The Vegetarian Butcher and Unilever, in partnership with Wageningen University. The project is developing plant-based meat structuring technology to enhance the flavour and nutritional profile of alt meats. 
  • There are many challenges to creating a flavourful meat substitute - mimicking the texture, juiciness, taste and mouthfeel of a burger with plant proteins is not easy
  • Many companies are utilising the power of mushrooms. Using the roots of fungi developed through fermentation (the mycelium), startups can better afford to create scalable alternative meats. MycoTechnology Inc. is one of the leaders in this area, accompanied by Prime Roots, Mushlabs and Ecovative among others. They’re all using mycelium to create plant-based substitutes that have an improved texture and taste. 
  • Mushrooms are also being used to reduce sugar and salt in foods - MycoTechnology Inc’s much-praised ClearTaste technology blocks bitterness in food, a taste that’s usually mitigated using sugar (think adding a spoonful of the sweet stuff to take the edge off a black coffee). 
  • Big flavour multinationals such as Firmenich and IFF are also working on low-sugar (and low-salt) flavourings, to meet the demand for sweet but healthy alternative products. Startups in this area include Israeli DouxMatok, with their redesigned sugar crystal for reducing sugar in food. 
  • Novel and microbial enzymes are another crucial part of the alternative flavour market – IFF unveiled its Nurica enzyme this month, which can be used to alter the properties of dairy products. Japan’s Amano Enzyme uses biotech to create enzymes that alter the texture and nutritional properties of food, while Denmark’s Novozymes is creating umami and cheese-like flavours with enzymes. 
  • And sometimes these trends collide: Firmenich and Novozymes recently partnered to create a yogurt with 50% less sugar. 
  • In the next-gen flavour arena, AI is increasingly being used to create new products and dream up unusual flavour pairings - for plant-based products as well as other opportunities. Givaudan has launched its own AI-assisted product development tool, while startups in the digital flavour sector include Foodpairing®, PlantJammer and Aromyx.

🤷 Why

  • Much of the appetite for novel flavours comes from the millennial and Gen-X demographic, with 80% of those surveyed confirming that they actively seek out new flavours on a regular basis. 
  • As we know, the plant-based segment is a main driver of new flavour development - because a realistic taste and texture is crucial to the success of plant-based products. Getting those attributes right can persuade consumers who might otherwise be less keen. 
  • Health concerns are also a big factor. While a desire for a healthier lifestyle is a key factor in pushing people to consider plant-based options, vegan alternatives are not automatically healthier. Plant-based alternatives often have more salt but less iron and vitamins than conventional meat, so companies are racing to offer flavour substitutes with better nutritional profiles. This is also true of sweet and salty flavours - with many multinationals and startups applying lessons from the plant-based industry to this space. 
  • But most of all, it comes down to taste - to a delicious experience that consumers want to return to again and again. Research shows that customers will compromise on taste the first time they try a product, but rarely after. 
  • A survey by Givaudan found that the biggest hurdle for consumers when it came to meat-free substitutes was the lack of an authentic taste. Flavourless bean burgers might have made the cut twenty years ago, but these days it’s no longer sufficient to offer any old plant-based alternative. It has to taste, smell and feel good. 

👀 Who? (29 companies in this space)


📈 The figures

  • The market for food flavours is currently worth $16.4 billion and is projected to grow to $20.7 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 4.8%. 
  • And the plant-based protein market, specifically, will be worth $15.6 billion by 2026. 

🍄 Case study: MycoTechnology Inc. 

  • MycoTechnology Inc. is a US-based functional ingredients manufacturer that uses the roots (mycelium) of fungi to create food products. 
  • Headquartered in Colorado, the company raised $39 million in Series D funding last year to expand its better-for-you ingredients platform. 
  • Although the company is beavering away at multiple projects, it’s best known for its ClearTaste flavour-blocking ingredient, which can be added to food products to remove bitterness and reduce sugar. 
  • ClearTaste, which is made with mushroom extract, can thus help improve the taste of coffee, sweeteners and plant proteins, among other things.
  • It’s FermentIQ (formerly known as PureTaste) plant protein ingredient has also attracted attention: it can be used to enhance the flavour of plant-based alternatives. This is a neutral-tasting protein made using pea and rice proteins, which then undergoes fermentation using shiitake mycelium. 
  • It can be deployed in healthy snacks like energy bars or used to add texture in plant-based meats. There, it can also help to offset the off taste sometimes associated with pea protein products. And what’s more, it’s super high in vitamin B12, making it a particular hit among vegans who can be prone to deficiency.  
  • Cost has been one of the biggest factors limiting growth for MycoTechnology Inc. - and its competitors - but the company has found a way to use fruit and vegetables that would have gone to landfill as a growth media, reducing their costs by 90%

🇨🇭 Case study: Givaudan 

  • Swiss multinational flavour and fragrance manufacturer Givaudan is the biggest company of its kind, so it makes sense that the 126-year-old company is also leading the way in creating convincing flavours in the plant-based meat sector.
  • Givaudan is also using its research power to discover low-sugar, salt and fat options to support the healthier choices increasingly desired by consumers. 
  • Their aim is to make products that bridge the gap between incredible and desirable flavours and a nutritious profile. For plant-based meats, that means producing flavours with a really ‘meaty’ taste and mouthfeel, but without the health cons associated with conventional meat.
  • As a member of the Plant Meat Matters project, Givaudan has been instrumental in developing shear cell technology. This innovative process aims to recreate the whole muscle structure of meat, to improve the taste, texture and mouthfeel of plant-based substitutes.
  • While alternative beef and chicken flavours were an initial focus for the Swiss multinational, they’re increasingly focused on recreating seafood and pork
  • Givaudan’s Global Director for Front End Innovation Alexandre Bastos believes the future of flavour development will only strengthen the ‘less is more’ focus: ‘It is all about the next generations of solutions that enable less sugar, less fat and specially less salt. Solutions that enable a smooth replacement of those commodity items without compromising the consumer experience.’
  • Bastos also predicts that emerging startups in plant-based proteins will drive growth ‘in the short and mid-term’. He also notes emerging alternative ingredients as one to watch: ‘Like the ones derived from fermentation - these will certainly drive growth in the future, assuming they are able to overcome regulatory challenges and scale up effectively.’
  • For Givaudan, plans to accelerate its plant-based flavour arm continue - later this month, in collaboration with Bühler, they’ll open The Innovation Centre for Plant Based Food in Singapore. This full-service hub for innovation will continue their work on flavours, aromas and textures for plant-based substitutes, with a particular focus on Asia-specific plant-based foods

👍 The good

  • This massive segment is dominated by multinationals, but there’s lots of room for startups to innovate too. And the continuing popularity of plant-based foods means there’s plenty of material to work with. Plus, there’s a clear path for acquisitions.
  • Improving the nutritional profile of foods through novel flavours can only be positive for health. This applies to flavours developed for use in plant-based substitutes, as well as low and no-sugar, salt and fat options. 
  • One of the criticisms of many alternative foods - whether sugar-free cookies or vegan burgers - has been how little they mimic the real thing. For some, that doesn’t matter, but others really crave the taste of the ‘original’ even when eating a substitute product. New innovations in taste and texture - as well as scents - are allowing alternative products to come up with more lifelike, realistic substitutes. 
  • What’s more, AI-assisted flavour development tools can also efficiently pinpoint the best ‘alternative’ flavours for a particular substitute, choosing from a database of hundreds of options much more quickly than a human could!

👎 The bad

  • As we learned from the example of MycoTechnology Inc., startup costs and investment can be high - which can limit new entrants to the field. Securing adequate funding is crucial, but the size and breadth of the plant-based substitutes market means there are plenty of investors to entice. 
  • Consumer reluctance to new flavours, particularly among older demographics, is another mountain to climb. But experts recommend combining fresh flavours with familiar ones to make hesitant customers more comfortable trying something new. 
  • Technical issues related to flavour development can still prove a limiting factor. When manufacturing plant-based proteins, flavour can get lost and refuse to release properly, leading to a boring taste experience that consumers won’t be keen to repeat. 

💡The bottom line

  • In the years to come, flavour innovation is certain to remain a fundamental piece of the food and drink development puzzle. Plant-based flavours will continue to be a key growth area, with base ingredients widening to include those from microbial and aquatic sources. 
  • Consumers are also likely to become more demanding as they become more familiar with novel flavours - particularly when it comes to additives and nutrition. Flavour companies will have to balance consumer preferences with manufacturing and cost constraints - and the successful ones will get that balance just right.
  • It’s not all bad news that this segment is currently dominated by a handful of multinationals - instead it creates an open opportunity for startups to get acquired when the time to exit arrives.
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