Natural flavor maskers

by Jeff Gelski
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Getting rid of aftertastes or bitter notes in a food or beverage may challenge formulators. Yet in the solutions may lay labeling opportunities. Flavor-masking agents often come from natural sources and thus may be labeled as natural flavors.

Sources may have an exotic appeal. Naturex recently introduced Kemfe, a flavoring ingredient extracted from the Thaumatoccus daniellii fruit that grows wild in the west African rain forest. Kemfe improves, enhances and balances a variety of taste profiles, according to Naturex, and it also works effectively as a bitterness masker. Kempe is stable up to a pH of 7 or more, said Justine Lord, business manager of NAT taste for Naturex, which is based in Avignon, France, and has a U.S. office in South Hackensack, N.J.
“It should not be considered solely as a masking agent,” Ms. Lord said. “It should be considered and is declared a natural flavor in the U.S. It enhances the total taste of a product, modifying and rebalancing taste to improve the total taste delivery. This includes reducing the perception of off-tastes and bitterness.”
After the Thaumatoccus daniellii fruit is harvested, the edible part of the fruit is frozen. Naturex then extracts the flavoring ingredient through water extraction.

Naturex also extracts its Talin (Thaumatin) ingredient from Thaumatoccus daniellii. Talin’s use as a flavor masker includes masking the aftertaste of some high-intensity sweet-eners, including those extracted from stevia plants, and reducing bitter notes associated with potassium chloride, which is used in sodium reduction strategies.

Masking the aftertaste of stevia-based sweeteners is also a benefit of natural flavor masking technology systems in the Smoothenol range from Indianapolis-based Sensient Flavors L.L.C., said Jim Sheperd, business director of beverage solutions. The masking agents are built around proprietary systems that are designed with natural flavor extracts and natural aroma compounds, he said. Natural flavor fractions are combined with natural aroma compounds to create customized flavor systems capable of interfering with specific taste-receptor sites, Mr. Sheperd said.

“For example, when working with products that contain stevia, through careful design of these flavor systems, it is possible to block the ability of bitter compounds from stevia to lock with bitter taste receptors,” he said. “By blocking the receptor site, no bitter signal can be transmitted to the brain. Through this mechanism, there is no detection of bitterness.”

Symrise, Teterboro, N.J., has built a global masking portal where developers have access to information on masking molecule thresholds, combinatorial effects of various compounds and flavor congruency models, said Donna Rosa, senior director of the consumer health business unit for Symrise. Flavor-masking solutions may be found in the company’s SymLife Mask brand.

Certain fractions from citrus oils work well for masking, Ms. Rosa said. She added grapefruit has been used as a congruent flavor with bitterness and lemon may mask off-notes that occur at the early onset of taste.

“Complex blends gener-ally give a better overall cover-age than individual flavor types,” she said.
“Symrise possesses various separation technologies that allow fractionation and recovery of key components from citrus oils and processing side-streams, which provide some novel masking raw materials. Being invested in both citrus processing and essential oil separation activities allow Symrise to access valuable proprietary masking materials.”

Flavorchem, Downers Grove, Ill., offers natural powders and li-quids that may be used as flavor maskers to block bitterness or reduce off-flavors associated with fatty acids.

Wixon, Inc., St. Francis, Wis., offers flavor-masking solutions, including Mag-nifique for Stevia. Mariano Gascon, vice-president of research and development for Wixon, said numerous foods are being reformulated to provide a better nutritional value with healthy ingredients, fewer calories, more fiber, less fat, lower levels of carbohydrates and more protein, all while maintaining the same traditional taste.
“In this market, natural flavors with a clean label is a given,” he said.

Miracle fruit may turn sour into sweet, but faces legal hurdles

Studies have shown Synsepalum dulcificum, also known as miracle fruit, may turn sour flavors into sweet ones, but its legal status may keep food and beverage formulators in the United States from using it as an ingredient.

Linda Bartoshuk, Ph.D., director of human research at the University of Florida’s Center for Smell and Taste in Gainesville, Fla., has taken part in studies on the miracle fruit. One study showed strawberries and lemons both became less sour and sweeter after miracle fruit intake.

Miracle fruit is native to west Africa, Dr. Bartoshuk said. It contains miraculin, a glycoprotein, which means a protein to which sugar molecules are bound. Miraculin binds to the tongue near sweet receptor sites. When miraculin comes into contact with acid, miraculin plays a role in inducing sweetness.

“Presumably the miraculin is bound in such a way that the sugar molecules cannot contact sweet receptors,” she said. “The function of the acid after the exposure is to change the conformation of the sweet receptors such that the sugar molecules on miraculin can contact the sweet receptors. Then a sweet taste results from the sugar.”

Mariano Gascon, vice-president of research and development for Wixon, Inc., St. Francis, Wis., is familiar with miracle fruit. He said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in a 1974 decision classified miraculin as a food additive, thus requiring a list of studies to provide safety.

“Filing for a GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe status) under those restrictions is a very expensive proposition, and to the best of my knowledge, there is not a current proposal,” he said.

He added miraculin is a heat-sensitive and pH-dependent protein, which limits its spectrum of potential uses.

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