Umami is one of the five taste sensations detectable by humans, together with sweet, bitter, salty and sour. It is the taste quality associated with several amino acids, especially the amino acid L-glutamate.
Symrise already has some unami flavours in its portfolio, but Matthias Hille, category manager of the savoury business unit at Symrise explained to FoodNavigator.com that none is as concentrated as the new ingredient. Whereas a standard umami flavour would be added at a level of around 0.12 per cent in a gravy, for instance, the new Symlife Umami can be used at 5 parts per million (ppm).
“The major advantage is that in its diluted format can be as a direct MSG replacer,” said Hille. Some consumers are inclined to avoid MSG, as they have a negative association of it.
Symlife Umami can be added to other flavourings sold by Symrise to give a boost to the umani perception, such as chicken flavour or other less concentrated umami ingredients. He explained that dosing the ingredient one gram at a time via pipette is not feasible for industry, which prefers to work with 25kg bags.
Aiming for positive list
Symrise’ R&D team spent three years working on Symlife Umani. While it is already being employed by some manufacturers of savoury products in Asia Pacific and has FEMA GRAS (generally recognised as safe) status in the US, it is not yet permitted in the EU.
Hille said it is on the evaluation list of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), with an opinion expected by the end of this year. “We don’t expect big challenges,” he said. Once the opinion is granted, the ingredient is expected to be added to positive list of permitted flavours under the new flavouring regulation.
The company is already communication about the development to customers, however, due to the long lead time for trying it out in their products.
The umani flavouring is produced by a symthetic process. It was developed after the R&D team identified a unique perception from raw material, and carried out structure performance tests to identify the molecules responsible for that perception. The scientists then worked together with the flavourists to recreate the quality.
Hille said they have been “able to prove this ingredient is also working directly on the receptor in our mouths”.
While umami is closely associated with Asian cuisine, Hille predicts that the tide away from using MSG in products means Europe could be just as big a market for the new flavouring as Asia.
Symrise is not the only firm aiming at MSG replacement. Givaudan said last year that it has discovered molecules associated with umami as part of its TasteSolutions programme, by analysing “traditional fermentation processes, cooking techniques and artisanal ingredients” from around the world. This research, as well as its research into taste perception, forms the basis for its new clean label ingredients.
In 2007 US-based Wild Flavors, too, launched a new taste modification platform called SavorCrave that was claimed to allow manufacturers of savoury goods to add the distinct umami flavor and mouthfeel to soups, sauces, meat marinades, frozen entrees and seasonings.
Yeast extracts have targeted the umami space as weel, although Hille said Symrise’s new concentrated flavour could have cost advantages. It is still exploring this proposition, but depending on the kind of yeast extracts, the application and the dosage level Hille reckons the saving could be in the region of 15-20 per cent.