Speaking exclusively with FoodNavigator-USA, Markus Beba, VP of sales & marketing for NTC, said: “Our products are newly developed, cost-effective flavors that can mask negative attributes like sour taste, astringency, and so on, in order to drive consumer preference without impacting the pH-value of the food product. Hence the food safety is not compromised.
“Furthermore, it is derived from a vegetarian plant source and will be declared globally as a natural flavor.”
The development comes in response to the common food problem of acidity. Acidity reduces bacterial growth and is therefore important for food preservation. Food manufacturers have either to add organic acids or use a process that reduces the pH, like fermentation of yogurts. However, the downside of acidity is that consumers do not necessarily like the taste.
To counter this, manufacturers add sugar and other ingredients, but such an approach adds cost, calories, and to the number of ingredients on the label. Another consideration is that by adding these ingredients it impacts the pH-value of the food product, and increases it to a level that may no longer be safe.
Dr. David Johnston, VP Innovation, explained that, while the biochemical mechanism underpinning sour taste is not fully elucidated, there is mounting evidence that it occurs via ion channels within the taste buds on the tongue. Protons (H+) are liberated by sour substances and transported via the channels into the cells.
Working with Natural Advantage, a leader in the area of natural product development, the company separated, or fractionated, fruit that became less sour as it matures. This was based on the assumption that there must be other compounds in the fruit beyond sugar that can mask the acid.
As a result, they identified several fractions with potent acid masking properties for organic acids.
NTC describes the products as non-volatile, heat stable, Kosher, and when used at very small dosages are said to help enhance the sweetness by attenuating the negative taste impact of acid.
Importantly for food manufacturers, the products will be labeled as a natural flavor on finished food products.
Coming to a supermarket shelf sooner than you’d think
Beba told FoodNavigator that the product has already been tested with excellent results in a range of applications, including yogurts, acidified dairy drinks, salad dressings, tomato sauces & ketchup, mayonnaise, juice beverages, pickled products, and canned vegetables.
NTC has already had negotiations with big food companies, and Beba said feedback from senior R&D personnel was "unbelievable".
New dairy and dressing products with the ingredient will be launched within the next three to six months, said Beba.
“A normal development cycle would be between 12 -18 months for a ‘new product launch’ from start of the project towards a launch,” he explained, “but there is already a demand for our innovative product within ‘existing market products’ as well as most food products already contain flavors.
“Hence our product being declared as natural flavor, which makes things a lot easier, particularly for the client’s legal & marketing departments.”