If you ask most people to name their favorite food or beverage and describe the flavor, you will likely get a reply based on the five basic taste senses: bitter, sweet, salty, sour and umami. But science indicates that our food and beverage experiences rely on even more factors than the five basic tastes. In reality, we use a wide range of sensory elements in the way we experience food, including taste, aroma, texture and “Kokumi,” or mouthfeel.
Food scientists are increasingly exploring the experiential factors in our favorite foods beyond the five basic tastes and developing innovative new ways to deliver a reliable, rich flavorful experience in food and beverage products.
Many of the world’s top food and beverage brands are challenged with delivering a consistent experience. The goal is to ensure the sensations of flavor, taste and characteristics are ideal and true to the original recipe – but this presents a major challenge during production. The moment a food is harvested or produced, it typically begins declining in taste, so an extra flavor boost is required to better define a more delicate flavor note. Often the nuances of flavor complexity are lost during large scale production and needs to account for shelf stability, frozen storage, cooking flavor loss and other factors.
How can brands deliver a consistently rich flavor and ideal taste experience in food and beverage products, regardless of the scale of production?
One of the world’s top flavor companies has solved that challenge with cutting-edge technology. This year, T. Hasegawa USA – the California-based subsidiary of global top 10 flavor & fragrance company T. Hasegawa Co. Ltd. in Japan – introduced Boostract™, an innovative new technology for adding or enhancing kokumi in food and beverages, in to the North American market.
Originally identified in Japan, the effect of kokumi (which translates to “rich taste” in Japanese) is the amplification of mouthfeel and depth of flavor in certain foods. Kokumi increases the richness of taste while maintaining balance between different flavors.
“The effect of kokumi is best demonstrated in the difference between skim milk and whole milk,” said T. Hasegawa’s, senior flavor chemist, Austin Luft. “Skim milk is generally known for its thin, watery consistency, but whole milk – with its higher fat content – provides a more luxurious experience. Whole milk is more satiating and craveable than skim milk because of the richness and enhanced mouthfeel. The flavor is the same, but the tasting experience is entirely different. That’s kokumi in effect.”
Developed over a two-year period as a natural flavor modifier to add or enhance kokumi, Boostract is an exclusive food technology from T. Hasegawa that aims to revolutionize the way we experience food and beverage products.
Boostract technology is achieved through three different mechanisms utilized by T. Hasegawa, which can be used alone or in various combinations:
- Extraction technology extracts and concentrates the ingredients for Boostract from a wide variety of natural food materials.
- Enzyme technology increases the amount of sugar and amino acid through enzymatic treatment.
- Thermal reaction technology produces Boostract by refining aromas and polymers through high temperature thermal reactions, creating elements for rich taste.
“We developed this technology over the last 18-months and introduced Boostract in 2021,” said T. Hasegawa’s VP of research & development, Jim Yang. “T. Hasegawa is the leader in this technology and our customers are already showing major interest. We have received great feedback from our customers in early testing, and many of these customers are already planning future products to include Boostract.”
Food and beverage companies are just beginning to learn the benefits of where Boostract can enhance kokumi and much more in their products. As a flavor modifier, Boostract can augment any savory food with an increase in fatty, satiating flavor richness, such as bolstering the rich, comforting flavor of a roasted chicken soup or lending an authentic beefy flavor note in plant-based meat alternatives. T. Hasegawa’s flavor chemists have also studied the capability of Boostract as a masking agent.
The cooking process for many foods inherently results in a slight loss of flavor. Boostract can help replace these lost flavor notes and help restore the full, rich taste of that food item. Boostract can also enhance the kokumi effect in sauces and dressings, such as thousand island and ranch flavors, to give a better creamy texture and mouthfeel experience. “We see the potential for Boostract in all kinds of products in the future, and not just the traditional savory dishes associated with kokumi,” said Jennifer Ma, manager of culinary applications technology at T. Hasegawa. “Since it’s also an effective masking agent, Boostract can help eliminate unwanted flavor notes in confectionary products and ‘functional gummies,’ while boosting the desired flavors in protein bars, ice cream products and more.”
One of Boostract’s other hidden talents is its ability to boost the sweet characteristics of fruit notes – making citrus taste fresher, heightening a delicate raspberry flavor in a frozen dessert or highlighting the distinct note of an exotic tropical fruit in a beverage. The possibilities for flavor enhancement are endless.
According to T. Hasegawa’s manager of beverage applications technology, Jeanene Martinez, Boostract is quickly becoming a staple in the development of new beverages, especially in the sports nutrition and coffee categories.
“Most sports nutrition beverages are protein-based, so the need for enhancing kokumi is already important for these products,” explained Martinez. “But the protein formula can often leave a bitter aftertaste, so Boostract solves both these issues. Even for powdered whey protein beverage products, Boostract can deliver a better mouthfeel and mask the bitter protein flavor notes.”
“Since Boostract is so effective at masking bitter flavors, it’s proven to be quite effective in the coffee and tea categories –for reducing bitterness in products like cold-brewed nitro coffee and Ready-to-Drink fruit teas, but also adding a richer flavor and kokumi to coffee creamers, espresso-in-cream beverages and more,” added Martinez.
T. Hasegawa plans to expand its Boostract product offering to other food and beverage categories. Currently available in both liquid and powder form, in both Dairy and Non-Dairy formulations (as universal flavor modifiers), the Boostract lineup will soon be joined by a tomato-based product that will increase kokumi in a wide range of products. Other Boostract versions are currently in development, including Vanilla, Chocolate, Coffee, Tea and Seafood varieties.
“While Boostract isn’t the first product designed to add kokumi, all previous versions are yeast-based, so they aren’t as clean-labelled as Boostract,” explained Luft. “In the future, Boostract can be organic certifiable. As we continue down our development path, we’re just beginning to understand the possibilities of this innovative product.”
Food and beverage brands who are looking to take their product to the next level of flavor can explore the possibilities of Boostract by contacting T. Hasegawa USA at www.thasegawa.com or by calling (866) 965-0502.