Umami Leads the Way in Creative Savory Ingredient Development

January 15, 2016

CHICAGO—Umami is a well-known term coined by Japanese researchers to describe a savory richness in foods that comes from the amino acid, glutamate. While there are plenty of standby ingredients like salt and soy sauce that boost salty and savory flavors, today’s product developers are tinkering with these common ingredients to turn them into new and unexpected food applications. In the January issue of Food Technology magazine published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), senior associate editor Karen Nachay writes about the new ways food technologists are incorporating umami flavors into foods.

Sea Salt
Sea salt is produced through the evaporation of sea water and has found favor among product developers both for its flavor and texture and with consumers who believe it’s less processed than table salt. Product developers are combining sea salt with other flavorful umami ingredients like espresso beans, green tea, curry powder, maple syrup and smoke to give salt an unexpected layer of flavor. One company is using salt from the Red Sea combined with extracts from tomato, shiitake mushrooms and seaweed. All these foods have a high amount of compounds that elicit umami taste to create liquid ingredients that can reduce sodium by 45 percent and replace mono sodium glutamate (MSG) in many processed meat applications.

Asian Sauces
In Asian cuisines, fish sauce, soy sauce and oyster sauce are key flavor enhancers that are high in savory compounds that work in conjunction with salt to elicit umami taste. Long cooking times with these sauces product rich, meaty flavors such as in stew or soup. Soy sauce can be added to many non-Asian applications like cheese items, snack foods, dried meats, frozen meals, salad dressings, gravies and baked goods to develop craveable foods that meet consumers clean label expectations. Katsu sauce made with a combination of apples, onions, tomato paste, soy sauce; and teriyaki sauce, made with soy sauce, vinegar, sweeteners and seasons not only provide savory flavors to foods but also a bit of sweetness.

Vegetable Powders
While ingredients like MSG and yeast extract are rich in umami compounds, some consumers are not fans of these “unfriendly” ingredients. For that reason some manufacturers have used ingredients like mushrooms and umami-rich vegetables to produce different types of umami powders that can be used for clean-label development. One company has created an umami dust seasoning of blended and dried porcini and shiitake mushrooms, aromatic vegetables, tomato powder, dried chilies, miso powder and salt to be used for meat applications, fish, or incorporated into products like soups and stews. These types of powders can also be used to eliminate some of the added sodium in these products.

Read the article in Food Technology here

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