Science

IFF Partners With Unilever and Wageningen University to Address Alt Meat Flavor Challenges

International flavor and fragrance producer IFF has announced it will be collaborating with Unilever and the Netherlands’ Wageningen University and Research (WUR) to address flavor challenges associated with plant-based meat.

Plant-based proteins can sometimes have beany or bitter off-notes, which manufacturers of meat alternatives usually mask with other flavors. However, this may result in undesirable aroma characteristics.

As part of a four-year project, IFF and Unilever will explore how flavors bind to protein molecules, with the aim of developing new flavoring strategies to improve the sensory qualities of meat alternatives.

“Our mission is to understand and improve flavor quality in plant-based meat alternatives by unravelling the intricacies of protein interactions, to investigate flavor loss and elevate the overall flavor profile,” said Neil Da Costa, lead scientist of global product research at IFF. “This joint commitment aligns with our shared goal of improving consumer eating experiences and fostering positive change within the plant-based food industry.”

© IFF

“Very important”

IFF, Unilever, and WUR say they are committed to transforming the global food system by making sustainable, delicious plant-based foods more accessible. IFF already provides various plant-based solutions, and partnered with MycoTechnology in 2022 to co-develop alternative proteins.

Unilever offers a wide range of plant-based products — including The Vegetarian Butcher‘s meat alternatives and dairy-free Magnum ice creams. The company recommends plant-based diets for public health and sustainability, and aims to achieve €1.5 billion in sales from plant-based products by 2025.

WUR has been a hotspot for alt protein research for some time, and recently helped natural foods supplier Kalsec establish a new Savoury Product Innovation Centre of Excellence in the Netherlands’ Food Valley region.

“Moving to a more plant-based diet is very important for our health and for the planet,” said Manfred Aben, head of science and technology for nutrition and ice cream at Unilever. “Technology is a key enabler for us to create plant-based products that have the same great taste and texture as animal meat but have a lower environmental footprint. We always strive to improve our products and satisfy our consumers’ changing needs and preferences. This research partnership will enable us to understand and control how flavors work to create superior plant-based meat products.”

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