Givaudan looks for satisfaction beyond sweetness

Givaudan has been developing new flavour ingredients in response to the global drive towards sugar reduction, prompted by ongoing health concerns around obesity and diabetes, and growing consumer interest in lighter, more refreshing and less sweet taste experiences.

Marissa Barnes, head of global marketing at Givaudan, says, “There is a group of consumers who are looking for things that are less sweet to begin with. They cut orange juice with water or put lots of ice with soda to dilute the sweet taste. But if you just reduce the sugar, you don’t end up with a product that has the same impact, and you lose complexity.”

Henning Hartnacke, regional commercial head flavours, EMEA adds, “In this age of consumer health, replacing sugar with sweeteners is no longer something they see as a healthier choice. Also from a legislatory and regulatory point of view, there is a push to help consumers make good choices through government sugar taxes and traffic light systems. Consumers don’t want to see a big red dot on the packaging as it’s seen as unfavourable.”

However, formulating less sweet products that have the same appeal as fully sweet ones is a challenge that requires more than simply subtracting sugar.

Givaudan’s new approach combines the use of a new proprietary sensory language, novel ingredients, and deep understanding of sweetness and satisfaction to deliver up to 50% reduction in sugar while maintaining consumer preference.

The company has been working with forward-thinking chefs to find new ways of creating a less sweet but fully satisfying taste. Using inspiration from the Michelin-starred chefs, the Givaudan team looked for what was delivering ‘satisfaction beyond sweetness’, and from there were able to identify the non-typical natural ingredients and techniques to create new flavour profiles that were so good, the sugar wasn’t missed.

At a recent tasting event in Amsterdam, Michelin-starred chef, Thomas Bühner, formerly of restaurant La Vie in Osnabrück, Germany, presented his experiments using some rather unusual vegetables to give sweetness to ice cream: celeriac, and onion.

Starting with an ice cream made with no sugar at all, Chef Thomas used onion and celeriac to give flavour and texture to the ice cream instead of a high-performing sweetener. Of course, this product tasted awful, but as so much taste comes through smell, nose clips were used to focus on the sweetness and complexity of the mouthfeel – just don’t take the nose clips off.

Andy Daniher, head of exploration, says, “Normally we wouldn’t look for taste in something that had such a strong aroma, but by using the nose clips we’re able to really focus on the taste attributes and decouple the distracting aroma.”

By finding ingredients that give sweetness as well as the desired texture and complexity of mouthfeel, Givaudan then goes into the labs to drill down into what molecules in the celeriac or onion are creating these effects.

Rather than using traditionally sweet ingredients like figs or apples, Daniher says, “We were looking for the naturally occurring molecules in a recipe that add the sensations that sugar brings, besides sweetness.”

Through analysis of the products created by the chefs, the desired molecules were identified and the products recreated in an attempt to produce the same taste as the original created by the chef. If this has been achieved, then a new flavour ingredient has been discovered.

At the end of the tasting, two consumer concepts were presented: a 50% reduced sugar orange drink and a peach yogurt drink. Both contained less sugar than traditional recipes, and used the flavour profiles Givaudan had discovered to create a sweet natural taste but also a good texture.

On a food label, these molecules – of which up to 60 could be used to create one flavour – will be listed as ‘natural flavours’.  – Kat Skeates

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