Natural umami flavours are a clean-label alternative to MSG, says Bell

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

 © iStock/Lisovskaya
© iStock/Lisovskaya

Related tags Glutamic acid Monosodium glutamate

Umami flavours can be a natural alternative to the not-so-clean-label monosodium glutamate (MSG), says Bell Flavours and Fragrances, as it launches six natural umami flavours including three yeast-free formulations.

The range includes six flavours, all of which can be listed on pack as a natural flavouring. Allergen-free, palm oil-free and certified halal, they are suitable for a range of savoury applications such as soups, sauces, ready meals, meat, snacks or seasonings.

Three of the flavours are based on a yeast formulation while, in response to rising requests for yeast-free flavours coming notably from Western Europe, three are yeast-free “This is crucial for some manufacturers,” ​Agneta Hoffmann, marketing specialist for savoury ingredients at Bell Europe, told us.

Available in water-soluble powder form, the flavour profiles are “complex and strong”, ​she added. The six natural flavours differ in taste – some have a more brothy note, while others have a meaty or vegetable impact – but again, without creating a specific top note. All flavours deliver a round, full note while also creating good mouthfeel.”

Last week, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published an opinion setting maximum safe levels for six glutamate food additives​, and called on the European Commission to rethink the permitted levels that are allowed to be added to food. Authorised levels are particularly needed for food categories that contribute the most to overall exposure through dietary intake, such as soups and broths, sauces, meat products, seasonings and condiments, it said.

A Commission spokesperson confirmed to FoodNavigator it will consider setting maximum levels​ that manufacturers can add to food.

Hoffman would not reveal how much glutamic acid the flavours contain, citing intellectual property reasons, but did add: "[We] want to be totally in-line with any restrictions regarding the content or safe levels of MSG and glutamic acids. With our new development of clean label umami flavours we can give an answer to this concern, as our products are a natural alternative to MSG, for example.”

Umami derives from the Japanese words umai​ – delicious – and mi​ – taste.

Umami is defined as the taste of salts combining glutamate​ (basically found in foods like tomatoes, onions, seaweed, soy sauce or shrimp), inosinate​ (mainly found in meat products) or guanylate​ (which occurs in foods like truffle or dried oyster mushrooms).

The umami taste is perceived all across the tongue, increases salivation and also lingers for several minutes, which is believed to be the reason why it impacts the aftertaste of foods.

“Umami can be considered a secret ingredient that partners, layers, balances and acts as a flavour catalyst to synergistically make a dish or a product more interesting and desirable,” ​said Bell.

“Umami-rich ingredients contribute to a savoury taste for increased flavour impact, acceptance and preference and therefore may help provide the “missing links” in recipes by rounding out and heightening the flavour of foods and closing gaps in taste by balancing the overall taste impression.”

In this way, umami can reduce the need for salt meaning it has become a useful sodium reduction tool favoured by food manufacturers.

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