The trend towards natural flavours has been escalating, not least because the incoming flavour regulation sets out specific definitions for natural flavour terminology. Using flavours ‘from the named food’ is considered about as natural as can be.
To develop its new tomato flavour range, which can be labelled simply as ‘natural tomato extract, Omega Ingredients “has taken the natural flavour out of tomatoes then fractionated it into four different components with different flavour characteristics,” managing director Steve Pearce told FoodNavigator.
The four tomato variants it is offering are cooked tomato; fresh, ripe tomato; juicy tomato, and a highly concentrated intense tomato extract.
Pearce explained can be used not just to create tomato flavours, but to enhance tomato intensity and savoury notes. This is particularly the case with the highly concentrated version, which can be used to enhance the savoury impact, “almost acting like a flavour enhancer”.
“We have added nothing, and taken away as little as possible,” he said, adding that they are made using a gentle, low temperature process.
The extract be used directly by food manufacturers in products such as tomato juice and pizzas. Omega Ingredients has developed a microencapsulated version which is especially suitable for foods that are cooked, as it protects the volatile notes. The encapsulated cells are broken when the consumer chews the product, releasing the flavour into the mouth.
Pearce suggested that the tomato extracts could be used not only in the tomato sauce, but also in the dough base.
When the tomato flavour is used in a paste application it can enhance the tomato flavour, Pearce said. This can bring cost reductions as it means less whole tomato needs to be used to make a noticeable difference in the product quality.
Some of Omega Ingredients’ customers are flavour companies, and the tomato extract could be used to help them develop flavours that meet the exacting criteria of natural flavours under the new flavour regulation.
Pearce said it is not only useful for tomato characteristics, but chemically-speaking the cooked tomato note is high in dimethyl sulphide, an extremely volatile flavour molecule that occurs widely and is an important component in flavours such as asparagus, pea and seafood, but which is expensive to obtain naturally.
Omega Ingredients, which was founded 9 years ago, has used the same fractionating process to develop flavours from a range of other fruit, including passion fruit, apple, strawberry, orange, lemon, lime, blackcurrant, raspberry and pear.
It typically works with fruit processors, putting to use the waste material that they would throw away but which is high in volatiles that can be extracted, and developing individual relationships means it can guarantee quality.
“It’s nice to have a relationship where you are the sole user of that particular source.”
The company also works with international suppliers to it can source its raw materials. This means that when tomatoes are not available in the UK, say, they can be sourced from southern Italy or from South America.
“It is important to have that option, as it keeps us going all year and means we can supply ingredients when they are not in season.”
Nonetheless, Pearce encourages customers to think ahead about their needs. “We impress on them that these products do grow on trees and bushes, and it can be quite awkward if they come and ask for them six months after the season.”