As the science and understanding of taste perception develops, the industry is looking towards new ways to create natural and clean label flavour formulations that can better mimic the taste of ‘home cooked’ food.
Speaking to FoodNavigator Laith Wahbi, global product manager for taste in savoury at Givaudan explained that that recent work to understand exactly how home-cooked and slow-cooked foods differ from industrially produced products in terms of flavour profiles led the company to further investigate the complex interactions and molecular chemistry that determines how flavours form from other products over time during home cooking.
“Historically, we have just focused on salt and umami as the cornerstones [for producing savoury flavours], but the reality is that food is much more complex than that,” said Wahbi, who noted that the company has been chasing the secret behind ‘truly home cooked taste sensations’ for a number of years.
Building on the idea of developing flavours that could replicate the taste of a home cooked meal, Matthew Walter, group leader culinary application at Givaudan explained that the firm began to explore how flavour and taste complexity develops throughout a longer cooking process – something that is often lost in the fast-paced, production lines within the food manufacturing industry.
For example, the production of a meal in a home-cooking or restaurant situation will often consist of several steps and processes over a length of time, said Wahbi.
“If you translate that to the food industry, we don’t have that luxury of time anymore, it’s all about efficiency and scale,” he said.
“We’ve lost that time effect, as an industry. And although we produce foods that are comparable, we don’t truly get to see or understand what happens at a chemical level when we do that multi-step slow cooking process.”
For several years, Givaudan’s top flavour researchers have teamed up with international chefs to try and figure out the puzzle of how these more complex tastes begin to develop in order to try and re-create the process.
“By understanding what happens in that multi-step operation … and then analysing what’s missing and what we have lost [through industrial cooking methods], we can begin to create flavours to restore that missing gap,” said Wahbi.
Working with its chef’s council, Givaudan began to investigate exactly what processes and cooking techniques some of the world’s top chefs used to create ‘rich tasting’ foods. Time and time again, they found that this involved multi-step processes, long cooking times, and often cooking at lower temperatures – all of which allowed the components of the dish to react with each other and create new flavours and textures.
“These are clearly taste effects, but they are not basic tastes or aroma effects. It is in this middle ground that we have never truly explored,” said Wahbi. “When you start to explore this area, you find there is a very complex mixture of components from amino acid breakdown, fat degredation, acids, and minerals.”
“This is where we have been discovering a lot of new technology, because it hasn’t been systematically investigated to the level that we have been doing for the last four or five years.”
By understanding how this blend of naturally occurring molecules form a taste matrix, the firm believe they are now able to re-create it – without the need for hours of cooking.
“We took traditionally cooked foods, and then analysed them, and then tried to get our flavour teams to re-build it …But every time, it didn’t match, there was something missing,” said Wahbi. “When we cracked it, all of a sudden we were able to create that feeling and sensation of something that had been home cooked in what was essentially a flavour.”
“It’s not about the salt, or the MSG, or the next magic bullet ingredient. It’s about understanding what that taste matrix does, and how it integrates with the aroma, the texture, and the basic tastes,” he commented.
Indeed, the taste experts noted that once the Givaudan team had managed to recreate the complex taste matrix of slow cooked foods, there was no need to use other taste enhancing ingredients such as salt, MSG, meat powders, or yeast extracts.
“When we started to create foods in this way, we didn’t need the salt, or the MSG, or the added sugars. Because the taste was already there,” said Wahbi.