The Dutch company has capitalised on its recent acquisition of First Choice Ingredients to enhance solutions aimed at helping manufacturers deliver authentic cheese-like taste experiences to end consumers.
Dairy alternatives are disrupting the US$720bn dairy market. But future innovation is needed to improve the taste, texture and health credentials in this sector, which DSM called one of the category’s biggest challenges.
While many analysts suggest the sales trajectory in the overall category is levelling out, the plant-based cheese industry is still growing – increasing in retail value by around 9% each year, according to Euromonor. This steady growth is attracting a lot of interest from traditional dairy and specialized plant-based brands with 388 plant-based cheeses launched in 2021 alone, according to Mintel data.
But formulation challenges often result in products that lack the typical complex, intense, and unique dairy-like taste, aroma and texture profile desired by consumers adding plant-based alternatives to their diets. For brands to stand out and succeed in this growing category, DSM said, they must overcome these formulation challenges to give consumers products that more accurately mimic their traditional dairy choices.
The company’s latest portfolio includes dairy-type flavours and concentrates from DSM’s acquisition of First Choice Ingredients as well as texture, nutrition and colour solutions that enable producers to deliver authentic, dairy-like taste experiences, it revealed. It claimed the new portfolio supports the creation of plant-based alternatives that more accurately replicate the properties of consumer favourites like sliced gouda and cheddar, shredded mozzarella, parmesan and cream cheeses.
Creating the right flavour profile with the typical, intense and unique dairy smell and flavour is a challenge in the plant-based cheese category. DSM’s new portfolio enables taste complexity to be layered through a series of four steps, it explained. First of all, masking agents are used to cover off-notes from raw materials used that can overpower traditional cheese flavours. Next, yeast extracts build the basic savoury foundation. Once the savoury base flavour is complete and off-notes are masked, process flavours impart typical lactic tones which give the unique dairy taste profile.
Finally, specific plant-based cheese top notes complete the desired robust, complex, dairy-like flavour. Together, these yeast extracts, masking agents, process flavours and top notes provide the product with a signature savoury taste direction and umami flavour – meaning less salt is required in the formulation, according to the company.
Flexible, sliceable, meltable and shred-able cheeses
Gellan gums, hydrocolloids, pectins and blends form the second critical pillar of DSM’s new plant-based cheese portfolio and aim to help create compelling texture and mouthfeel.
The functional properties of gellan gum are 'highly suitable' for improving plant-based cheese texture – from flexible and soft like mozzarella and young gouda, to hard and brittle like parmesan, it said. Using a patented technology, the gellan gum – in combination with the application's starches and proteins – improves the slicing and shredding qualities of the plant-based cheese as well as its texture and bite.
Helping to bridge the nutrient gap
Plant-based cheese is often low in vitamins, minerals and protein when compared to dairy-based cheese.
DSM’s nutritional premix blends of vitamins and minerals intend to help bridge the gap, allowing producers to include micronutrients such as vitamins A, B2 and B12 as well as calcium, iodine, selenium and zinc – all prevalent in traditional dairy products.
Authentic visual appeal
Consumers meanwhile expect their plant-based alternatives to mimic the shape and colour of their dairy counterparts. DSM’s beta-carotene solutions add authentic colour to plant-based cheeses, it said. Depending on the plant-based cheese variety, colour solutions ranging from yellow to orange can be blended to give that authentic appeal from the first look on a supermarket shelf.
“This new portfolio for plant-based cheese can really help producers take a big step toward pleasing the palates of today’s sophisticated consumers,” said Andre de Haan, Business Director Cheese at DSM comments. “Consumers are asking more of their plant-based alternatives and plant-based cheese has – until now – presented a significant challenge in crafting complex flavours with a familiarly cheese-like texture. It’s been very encouraging to see the reaction to our plant-based cream cheese, mozzarella, gouda and parmesan prototypes.
"We are already looking ahead at the next steps in helping brands and products develop further. Using our traditional dairy expertise, our teams are hard at work developing solutions for more varieties of plant-based cheese as well as improving its nutritional profiles to be even more in line with traditional dairy products.”