Creating the Perfect Plant-Based Product

By Emily Yee, Sr. Innovation Associate, Flavors Innovation

Veganism is no longer reserved only for the hippest of hipsters and greenest of green goddesses. A new consumer identifier of flexitarian is taking shape, as more consumers are incorporating plant-based foods into their diets; and they’re also demanding more from these products.

These consumers value health, the environment, transparency and especially don’t want to sacrifice taste. They want plant-based burgers that “bleed”, dairy-type cheeses that melt like the real thing, and desserts that are so decadent you can’t even tell it was made mostly from plants.

But where do manufacturers even begin the development process to enter the market? Here are some guidelines to get started:

Decide what you want to make.

Meat, seafood, or dairy? More specifically, what type of meat, seafood, or dairy is the ideal target? Is it chicken, beef, or pork? Shrimp or fish? Cheeses and spreads, or creams and sauces? What form will the analog take – patties, links, ground, shredded, strips/tenders, nuggets, sliced or melty? Selecting a market product as a gold standard can answer these questions and subsequently help focus the development on a single target.

Choose your proteins.

After defining the ideal target, it’s time to select the protein source for the application. There are plenty to choose from that offer a wide range of textures, such as soy, pea, mung bean, lentil, vital wheat gluten, and many more. When evaluating proteins from vendors, it’s imperative to know which of their products perform well in the specific application being developed. This is key because plant-based proteins can vary greatly; not just between different suppliers, but also within a supplier’s product line.

Get Inspired.

Time to get cooking! The inspiration for development work from online recipes might be surprising. The vegan community is rather diverse, so browsing around the internet for popular vegan recipes like meatballs or chili con queso as a starting point for a base formulation is great way to get started.

Add flavor and extracts as needed.

Once the base formulation looks and feels like the target, it will still need help to meet the correct taste profile. Try adding flavors and extracts. If the target flavor is a complex culinary note, try adding flavors and extracts. Reaction flavors, HVPs, and yeast extracts are great taste solutions, especially for meaty, savory-type application. Depending on the formulation, liquid compounds, dry blends, or spray dries can all be part of the solution. 

Finish it off with maskers and enhancers.

Once the formula is set, it’s possible there are still lingering off notes due to the protein source used. Masking or enhancing solutions can be used to create a more well balanced overall flavor experience. Maskers can help reduce off-notes like bitter aftertastes or astringency, and enhancers can lift already existing positive flavor attributes to give the consumer a purer, more authentic taste experience.   

Discover what we can create together. Contact us for more information.