Sprinkling science over taste

Sprinkling science over taste

11:54 AM, 25th May 2017
Sprinkling science over taste
Biotech Flavour is nothing but bringing nature and science together to create a healthy flavouring alternative. © Advanced Biotech

Label savvy consumers, demanding for ‘clean labels’ will constantly keep food scientists work on making food tasty yet cheap, convenient yet healthy. And that’s where biotechnology comes into picture to transform mouth-watering calorie laden delicacies into healthy alternative - a perfect merger of taste and science. So, will the future of food be ruled by Biotech Flavours?  

By Debarati Das

Eating Tasty and Eating Healthy are two food options that never really go together. However, this neither stops consumers from checking the labels for healthy ingredients nor the food scientists from sprinkling a dash of naturalness in your packet of favourite chips.

Most flavours in display on the shelves of a supermarket can be broadly segregated into Natural and Synthetic. But then, there is also a third category, called the Biotech Flavours, which is fast becoming an accepted alternative in the flavour business.

Biotech Flavour is nothing but bringing nature and science together to create a healthy flavouring alternative using fermentation for extracting flavour from its source using micro-organisms and special enzymes. So, your Coke will be sweeter with less sugar and your fries will still taste heavenly with good fats.

In recent times, biotechnology has witnessed an increasingly important role in the development of flavours. Initially, enzymes were used for developing of flavouring compounds but with the advancement in technology, biotransformation of flavour compounds can be achieved. These compounds are accepted as natural flavours and are considered safe unlike flavours produced with the help of chemical synthesis which are not considered eco-friendly.

Due to the increased demand for natural flavours, experts believe that biotech flavours have the potential to replace some of the natural flavours in future, which can be manufactured within a controlled environment and at a lower cost. However, to succeed in the biotech flavour market, a flavour supplier would have to control the entire production chain, from raw materials to product protection.

“In the future, availability of natural raw materials will be a major factor in the food business with fast exhausting natural resources. For eg, the production of natural vanilla is not huge and the market demand is drastically increasing due to the increased consumption of desserts and beverages where vanilla is an integral ingredient. This demand cannot be met if synthetic vanillin does not compensate it. Shrinking resources are also making these raw materials very expensive. Using biotechnology, not only can we use it in the field level to increase the overall yield of crops but also extract maximum amount of flavour with better isolation,” said Vaibhav Agrawal, managing director, Norex Flavours Private Limited.

Previously, this method was only used for single-molecule flavour chemicals, but newer advances aim to produce complex chemical structures that are similar to natural botanical extracts or essential oils. 

Market Reach

Using biotechnology, one can not only reproduce all kinds of flavours including sweet, salty and savoury but can also produce healthier food products. Hence, companies can effectively use biotechnology to reduce or control the amount of sugar and salt in food without altering the taste.

The global biotech flavour market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11 percent during 2016–2024 to become a $2,092.2 million market by 2024, forecasts Persistence Market Research (PMR). With consumers becoming more health conscious, the demand for biotech flavour market will mainly be driven by the need for healthy food with natural ingredients.

Many countries including Europe and North America are accepting biotech flavour compounds as natural given the rise of health concerns and various government regulations across the globe.

North America held the largest market share in the global bio-tech flavour market in 2016, and is anticipated to increase at a CAGR of 11.1 percent by 2014, said PMR. The APAC region also expected to witness exponential growth in future. India too is a potential destination for the growth of biotech flavours.

“A huge amount of research is being done in this area especially in the government bodies in India, they are still largely at the academic level and commercialisation of biotech flavours is yet to happen in India in a big way,” said Sitaram Dixit, chairman, Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI).  

Key Drivers

Biotech flavours are increasingly being used in dairy products, beverages, confectionery, non-dairy ice cream and bakery items. Technological advancements are further enabling manufacturers to develop new biotech flavour at lower cost and this is positively helping manufacturers to deal with high raw material prices.

Globally too, there has been a gradual acceptance of biotech flavours among the consumers as biotech enables manufacturers to make food healthier by adding healthy fats, omega-3, saturated fat, less sugar and salt content, etc.

Bio-tech flavour also provides numerous health benefits including enhancement of antioxidant levels, reducing the risk of metabolic disease including obesity and diabetes. This is one of the key drivers of this market where consumer are eager to consume bio-tech flavour based food and beverages over natural and artificial flavour.

“Beverage, confectionary and seasoning category are growing in a big way, but savoury has been growing exponentially lately due to the rising obesity and diabetes issues. Food products in this category are witnessing a huge change,” said Agrawal.

While food and beverages segments register the fastest growth, the exponentially growing market for ready-to-eat food and ready-to­-drink beverages have given the much needed boost to the biotech flavours market.

The application of biotech flavours has also begun in the nutraceutical segment, although still in its introductory phase, this segment is also expected to see significant growth in future in products such as protein bars, energy powder and drinks etc.

“Biotech flavours are similar to natural which uses enzymatic reactions instead of synthetic ingredients making it a biological route to extract flavours. Biological route is by far better than synthetic route. However, since biologically obtained flavours are twice as expensive as synthetic, the viability of these products decreases in the market. For this manufacturers have to cut down the cost by cutting corners ultimately compromising on the quality of the ingredients, raw materials, etc. making the product equally harmful as synthetic ones,” said Dixit.

“Cost will be the key driver of this industry. If these flavours can be manufactured and marketed at an economical price equivalent to synthetic flavours, then consumers will immediately shift over to biotech products. Also, with time as the technology comes out of laboratory and gets commercialised, manufacturers will be able to make products at a cost that will be acceptable by the consumers,” he further added.

Also, since bio-tech flavour has no added artificial compound added to it, the shelf life of these products is less as compared to natural or artificial flavours. The average shelf life of bio-tech flavours are around six months to one year only. Numerous research is going on to overcome this challenge and increase the shelf life of various flavour and boost the growth of the global bio-tech flavours market.

Recently, biotech firm, Evolva teamed up with Paris-based FCI to expand its European sales, marketing and distribution of sourced citrus ingredients, nootkatone and valencene. Nootkatone, which is extracted from the bark of the Nootka cypress tree, is a molecule that gives a distinct aromatic scent to grapefruit. This is a high-purity ingredient is free of environmental contaminants and with a traceable and reliable supply chain based on fermentation. Valencene is a flavour and fragrance made from orange peel. Traditionally, one million kilogramme of oranges extract one kilogramme of valencene. Evolva extracts it by fermenting the natural aroma molecules making it more sustainable.

“The European market for F&F ingredients is well known for its high standards, particularly for use in personal care, food, and beverage products. We see growing demand for ingredients like Evolva’s nootkatone and valencene, and are confident that they will fit well into our portfolio of high-impact chemicals and high added-value molecules,” said Philippe Faucher, managing director, FCI.

The food industry constantly needs to keep changing with changing consumer demand. And if science can bring in the element of health in food, there will no thinking twice before picking up an extra box of ice cream.

© Chemical Today Magazine

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