Overcoming the Challenges in Creating Delicious Vegan Products

Consumers are very clear that they want clean labeling, reduced salt, less sugar and a host of other “better for you” elements in their foods and beverages. They also are firm about not wanting to give up taste or texture to achieve those goals. The vegan subset of consumers is equally passionate about what they eat and drink and is even more focused on achieving great taste and mouthfeel without stepping outside of their strict dietary requirements.

A recent article in Baking & Snack magazine dove into the challenges of creating vegan products. Sensient Innovation Scientist Meg Jurcan and Chief/Master Flavorist, Innovation, Darrel Terry lent their expertise and insights on how flavor extracts can help manufacturers capture, or grow, a vegan audience.

“There are a variety of challenges bakers face when reformulating baked goods to be vegan,” Jurcan said. “For flavor replacement, the biggest challenge is when an unexpected flavor appears because of nontraditional ingredients being used. It also can be difficult to make these products appear the same as your traditional products, and it’s also challenging to maintain moisture in the bakery product over time.”

The stabilization issue can be solved with stabilizers and other functional ingredients, Jurcan explained, but a vegan reformation also can present issues with unwanted beany or metallic notes, depending on the protein source. Flavor masking agents conceal those off notes, and Sensient’s offerings can all be labeled as natural flavors, Terry added.

“What we do is develop a flavor that contains those kinds of components,” Terry said. “For example, salt replacement enhancers to increase salt perception, as well as overall flavor enhancement. Another example is dairy-free or dairy butter flavors, which can give the overall perception of dairy being present when it is not. Commonly with these types of products, a level of creamy mouth coating is achieved as well.”

Sensient offers a wide and growing palette of flavor-masking options for vegan products, covering the range from fruity and savory to dairy and butter. They can be used in the following ways:

  • Vegan Meringue: Masking flavors can cover any bitter off notes.
  • Vegan Buttercream: Make up for a lack of creamy mouthfeel and dairy flavor with a dairy-free butter flavor that also recreates mouthfeel properties.
  • Vegan Cheesecake: Plant-based cheese bases often come with a bitter and astringent taste. A masker can help remove that and result in a more traditional tasting product.
  • Vegan Puff Pastry: A dairy-free butter flavor can provide added mouthfeel.
  • Vegan Cake: Plant-based protein egg replacers can result in off notes, which a masker can reduce.

Vegans are used to swapping traditional ingredients for plant-based ones. They know what they want, and they are always pleased when they are met with products that do more than change out ingredients. Sensient’s flavorists have the answer with natural masking products that add taste and feel to otherwise bland and off-tasting vegan alternatives to traditional foods and beverages. Contact us to see what we can create together!