UmamiPrime contains no glutamate and delivers "strong umami taste", according to International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) which developed the product and has the proprietary patent.
Research has revealed that the human tongue has about 10,000 taste buds with five taste sensations: sweet, bitter, salty, sour and umami. This is a taste of many different amino acids, or the building blocks of protein, which contribute a full-bodied flavor to products, as well as a distinctive aroma and mouthfeel.
UmamiPrime is said to "markedly enhance the savory flavors in food while greatly reducing or eliminating the need for monosodium glutamate (MSG), autolyzed yeast extract (AYE) or hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)", which can all be used to deliver the umami sensation.
IFF Creative & Applications Director, Dr Guy Hartman, said there is a negative consumer sentiment about MSG - an additive mainly used as a flavor enhancer for foods such as soups, ready meals, fish and meat dishes - as health concerns have been raised.
He told FoodNavigator-USA.com: "Many food processors have turned to HVP and AYE because consumers tend to avoid MSG. These ingredients are also used to compensate for loss of flavor due to the general reduction of salt that consumers demand in processed foods.
"UmamiPrime can deliver an equivalent umami impact with no glutamates and at much lower sodium levels.
"It is a tool in the industrial fight to reduce sodium in food."
According to Jacqueline Marcus, Food and Nutrition Consultant at Jacqueline B. Marcus & Associates, this inexplicable taste sensation can highlight sweetness, lessen bitterness and counterbalance saltiness. She said proper use of the taste could even contribute to a 50 percent salt reduction without compromising consumer acceptance.
A body of evidence has linked excess salt (sodium chloride) in the diet to an increased risk of high blood pressure and stroke and governments have been leading salt reduction initiatives.
According to the US Dietary Guidelines, over three quarters of the salt in the average American diet comes from processed foods. Food manufacturers have been trying to lower salt content in food, including Nestle, which says it is looking at "every possibility for salt reduction".
In 1959, the US Food and Drug Administration classified MSG as a "generally recognized as safe".
Since then some academics have warned of health risks from consuming MSG. In 1992, the FDA asked an independent group of scientists - The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) - to complete a review of available scientific data on glutamate safety.
The report reaffirmed the safety of MSG when consumed at usual levels. A large dose would be three grams or more per meal. A typical serving of glutamate-treated food contains less than 0.5 grams of MSG.
However it did identify short-term reactions known as MSG Symptom Complex, which people can experience after eating large doses of MSG, particularly on an empty stomach, as well as those with severe and poorly controlled asthma.
Symptoms include numbness, burning sensation, tingling, facial pressure or tightness, chest pain, headache, nausea, rapid heartbeat, and drowsiness.
UmamiPrime comes as a powder and can be blended with any kind of powdered mixture, according to Hartman. Uses are likely to include marinates, seasoning for meat and poultry, salty snacks, soup, sauces or condiment.
It has been incorporated into IFF flavors for about three years but this is the first time it has been sold as a stand-alone ingredient, a decision that was driven by demand and increasing commodity prices.
Hartman said: "The costs of MSG, HVP and AYE continue to rise due to both increased energy prices and high demand for the flavor benefit they bring.
"The cost advantage from UmamiPrime can be significant. For example, in broth it takes just a 15-to-20- percent comparable level of UmamiPrime to achieve the same umami effect delivered by MSG and the like.
"Exact replacement values will vary depending on application, of course, but we've seen it deliver savings of more than 40 percent."
UmamiPrime is approved for use throughout North and South America, Asia Pacific, and parts of Europe. Approvals are pending in Mexico, Japan, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.