Improving the Taste, Texture, and Nutritional Value of Meat Alternatives

Gilbert Verschelling, Director of Business Development and Innovation for Savory at DSM Food Specialties gave a talk recently on plant-based Meat Alternatives: how to improve the taste, texture, and nutritional value of meat alternatives at the  Virtual 16th Plant-Based Foods & Proteins Summit Europe 2020 that took place on 13-14 October. Gilbert provides a summary of his talk and explains how DSM can help companies tackle the most common challenges in the creation of meat alternatives in terms of taste, texture, and mouthfeel.

Would you give us a summary of your presentation at the summit?

As meat alternatives become mainstream, future consumer needs will move beyond just compelling taste and texture and demand holistic nutritional profiles and clean label solutions for these plant-based proteins.

I’m taking the opportunity to discuss this key market development with the group attending the summit to see what are their thoughts.

We all understand that this will require a superior understanding of the nutrition science involved (both in terms of how a plant-based product can be fortified and what that means for the end consumer). This ultimately leads to empowering meat alternative producers towards the front of pack claims and product superiority.

What an opportunity! However, crafting a winning recipe for meat alternatives poses food & beverage producers with a complex challenge. They need to deliver the authentic taste and flavor, and texture and mouthfeel consumers demand, while at the same time providing an appealing nutritional profile, and keeping salt levels manageable.

What are the main challenges in the creation of meat alternatives that suit the demand of the consumers nowadays?

Today’s discerning consumers are not content with compromising on a product’s sensory profile simply because it is plant-based — they expect an authentic and appealing taste, texture, and mouthfeel from start to finish. They desire plant-based options to contain mineral, musky, charry, ‘umami’ flavors that are typically associated with meat products, as well as the typically juicy and succulent mouthfeel that animal fat brings. According to DSM’s research, 62% of US consumers would consume meat alternatives more if products had a ‘better’ taste.

However, meeting these consumer demands is challenging for manufacturers of plant-based products.

  1. Getting the taste and texture right

For example, the formulation of plant-based protein can impart undesirable flavor off-notes that detract from a consumer’s eating experience. For instance, pea protein can bring vegetal ‘green’ notes, while soy is often related to more ‘beany’ notes. Meanwhile, emulating the desired ‘chewy’ texture of meat without the oils and fats naturally present in animal products is complex.

  1. Improving the nutritional value

Health continues to be a key influencer of consumer buying behavior worldwide. 60% of respondents in DSM’s survey said they will actively seek more added vitamins over the next three to five years, as they take a more proactive approach to their wellbeing.   For many individuals across the globe, meat forms part of a balanced diet, as it is a rich source of protein, vitamins, and other micro- and macronutrients. Unfortified meat alternatives, however, typically have a lower nutritional value than traditional meat products – and consumers are taking note. In fact, a recent study found that people consuming plant-based alternatives recognize that they are missing out on valuable vitamins and minerals when adopting ‘elimination diets’.  For the growing number of health-conscious consumers that are looking to make changes in their lifestyle, this could prove a barrier to the consumption of meat alternatives.

  1. Managing sodium levels

Meat alternatives often rely on salt to achieve authentic umami, meaty flavor, and chewy, juicy mouthfeel.  But concerns are rising worldwide about high salt levels in consumers’ diets. World Health Organization (WHO) member states have agreed to reduce the global population’s intake of salt by a relative 30% by 2025, as part of measures to help improve overall consumer health and wellbeing.  Reducing sodium levels, while addressing consumer needs for taste, texture, and nutritional value can therefore be challenging for manufacturers of plant-based products.

How do you, at DSM, tackle these challenges? 

DSM is well-positioned to facilitate our customers to create value in this fast-growing space. We offer a unique breadth of solutions to help F&B companies tackle these challenges and delight discerning consumers. From umami-packed savory taste ingredients, through fermentation-derived and naturally extracted gelling and texturizing ingredients, across efficiency-boosting enzymes, to vitamins, nutritional lipids, and other essential micronutrients, and (soon) high-end plant proteins.

We back up our product and ingredient portfolio with deep technical application science and biotech, sensory and flavor know-how. Meanwhile, our industry expertise and insights, and market-focused R&D and innovation capabilities, help our partners anticipate emerging and future needs. Read more

About the Speaker

Gilbert Verschelling is Director of Business Development and Innovation for Savory at DSM Food Specialties. In this role, Gilbert is driving new growth areas for savory, supported by new innovations and applications. He also leads the Meat Alternatives platform across DSM.

Gilbert has over 25 years’ experience in R&D, product development, and innovation. Prior to joining DSM, he built extensive experience in various fast-moving consumer goods categories, both for retail as well as food service. He holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from the Technical University Eindhoven. Gilbert is passionate about developing smart solutions together with customers to make food even more tasty and healthy.


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