6th August 2021 Author: newprotein staff writer
Motif Is Working with Dental and Automotive Experts to Bridge Sensory Gap of Plant-Based Meat
One of the issues that the alternative protein industry is facing is price parity between plant-based and animal meat. The gap is gradually closing though, thanks to better technology and larger production volume.
Another parity that is proving harder to reach is 'sensory experience'. Except for few products, eating a plant-based burger, sausage or nugget is not quite the same as real meat. And while vegans and vegetarians will find this acceptable, the remaining consumers will need a much more similar experience, if they are to buy plant-based meat and dairy alternatives consistently.
There are many aspects that contribute to sensory experience: bite, texture, taste, creaminess, and gooiness just to name a few.
Food tech has made a lot of progress in many of these aspects, but one that is particularly hard to crack is astringency. The Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition defines it as "a tactile taste felt as a dry, rough feeling in the mouth and contraction of the tongue tissue, [...] and a combination of three tastes: drying (the lack of lubrication or moistness), roughing (the rough texture in the mouth) and puckery (the drawing or tightening sensation)."
Astringency is normal in foods like coffee, tea, and wine. Indeed, it’s what gives them their signature taste. In meat alternatives made from soybeans, peas or mycoproteins, however, it creates a puckering feeling that you wouldn’t find in real meat.
Motif Foodworks has taken up the task of solving this issue once and for all. The Boston-based food-tech company uses science, technology, and consumer insights to understand how plant-based ingredients work and create better products.
The starting point of the research is the underrated role of saliva in the whole eating experience. "One of the food industry's long-standing research blind spots is the impact of saliva lubrication on how we perceive taste and texture," says Stefan Baier, Motif's Head of Food Science.
As this is quite similar to the function of oil in an engine, Motif took a completely novel approach: “We’re bringing together oral biology and dental experts at King's College London with automotive and mechanical engineers at Imperial College London to study the physics of what happens in the mouth during chewing," says Baier. The goal is to uncover new data-driven insights to inform better tasting plant-based food formulations.
"So much about the impact of saliva on taste is still unknown, largely because it's a challenging substance to study in an experimental setting," says Guy Carpenter, Professor of Oral Biology at King's College London.
"Motif's unique partnership approach to basic scientific research has allowed us to apply lessons learned from our work on the physics of oil in engines to the food science world, uncovering commonalities between fields that have not worked together historically," says Thomas Reddyhoff, senior lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London.
To learn more, visit Motif's website: madewithmotif.com
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Date Published: 6th August 2021
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