Culinary Science: Liquid Seasonings For Authentic Ethnic Flavour Profiles

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Taste is always a crucial factor that determines whether a consumer buys a product. With such importance, it is vital that food manufacturers can provide the taste that consumers want. By Kathleen Koh, managing director, Asia Pacific, Kalsec.

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Taste is the main reason a consumer purchases a food and beverage. While consumers continue to enjoy the taste of many standard flavours, such as onion and garlic, they are becoming more adventurous and looking for bolder and spicier flavours in their foods.

Ethnic foods with more complex and sophisticated flavour profiles are on the rise; however, it is the authenticity of these flavours that remains an important factor in consumer satisfaction.

With this focus on authentic flavours and dishes, the demand for specialised retail ready-to-eat meals, soups and appetisers has resulted in a need for spice blends that can mimic the authentic profile of various flavours and dishes.

Developing authentic flavour profiles can be a challenging task for product developers. One of the biggest challenges product developers face is finding a way to provide specific spice and herb flavour profiles without the difficulty of using dehydrated or dry spices and herbs.

While many home cooks enjoy the challenge of using spices and herbs to create the right flavour profile in a homemade meal, it is much more difficult to create that same profile time and time again on a large scale in a food manufacturing plant. Liquid seasonings offer many solutions to these and other challenges.

Liquid Seasonings— A Positive Solution

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Liquid seasonings, often referred to as oleoresins, are defined as oil-dispersible, lipid-based, solid or semi-solid resins possessing the full organoleptic character of the natural spice. Spice and herb oleoresins (liquid seasonings) have been an integral component in the processed food industry for more than 60 years.

Makers of prepared foods and food ingredients rely on liquid seasonings for consistent, natural and reproducible flavour, aroma and colour. Using liquid seasonings instead of ground spices offers many advantages:

1. Superior microbiological status

Ground spices are well known for their poor microbiological status. Oleoresins have lower microbial counts due to the production methods used.

2. Immediate fresh, clean flavour delivery and consistency

Liquid seasonings deliver immediate flavour impact and need no time to rehydrate, making them ideal for use in products with either short or long production times. Note that an ingredient supplier should maintain controlled extraction methods to guarantee liquid seasonings that provide consistently clean, fresh flavours.

3. Ease of use in the factory

Clumping and caking challenges traditionally associated with the use of ground spices are solved when using liquid seasonings. Liquid seasonings are easily incorporated into most food product processing methods.

4. Function beyond flavour

Liquid seasonings have natural beneficial and functional uses that can be harnessed and controlled by a knowledgeable supplier. For example, the enzymatic activity of ground spices can cause problems in the consistency of sauces, whereas liquid seasonings are an ideal alternative as the enzymes have been deactivated.

Additionally, a smoother sauce texture is achieved when using liquid seasonings in place of ground spices. The concentrated liquid seasonings reduce the volume of spice needed in finished sauces, therefore interfering less with consistency.

Blends As Building Blocks

In addition to all of those benefits, one of the biggest advantages of using liquid seasonings is the ease of combining several seasonings to create a blend with a specific flavour profile.

For example, a hot dog blend may contain a mix of coriander, nutmeg, capsicum and black pepper in one liquid seasoning. Having a consistent flavour profile simplifies the process for the product developer.

Working with an ingredients supplier that has a full range of spice and herb extracts, combined with the technical and culinary expertise to assist in the development of a specific flavour profile can make the product developer’s job much easier.

Food manufacturers can then quickly develop line extensions in soups, sauces, dressings, condiments, snacks, meat and poultry, and prepared meals. An experienced supplier can provide you with a full range of blends such as:

  • Asian — Chinese 5-Spice, Kimchi, Kung Po, Satay, Szechuan, and Tom Yam
  • American — BBQ, Cajun, Frankfurter, Pizza, and Steak Sauce
  • Indian — Curry, Garam Masala, Korma, Madras, Tandoori, and Tikka
  • Latin American — Adobo, Ceviche, Chimichurri, Enchilada, Fajita, Limon con Chili, Salsa Verde, and Taco
  • Mediterranean — Harissa, Moroccan, Pepperoni, Spicy Marinara, and Tzatziki

Cooked Flavour Profiles

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Beyond flavour blends, creating authentic cooked flavour profiles as liquid seasonings adds another dimension to satisfying consumer desires. As technology expands, consumers are gaining more knowledge about new and exciting foods and flavour profiles from around the world.

Cooking shows and easy access to online recipes and descriptions of ethnic foods have increased the demand for food processors to provide authentic ethnic flavour profiles in their food applications.

Staple flavours such as onion and garlic are easy enough to work with and continue to be a main component in many ethnic foods, including Asian, Latin America, and Indian. However, just adding onion or garlic to a blend can often fall short of imparting the many complex flavours consumers are seeking.

Product developers can now rely on select suppliers to provide ingredients that deliver authentic cooked flavour profiles, such as sautéed, caramelised, toasted and roasted onion, and garlic liquid seasonings. As consumers embrace ethnic cuisines in new ways, cooked flavour profiles can add another layer of complexity to traditional dishes.

The liquid seasonings are also an easy way for a developmental chef to achieve a signature flavour profile in a large scale setting with the benefits of reduced prep time and flavour consistency.

Development of these flavour profiles should begin with a culinary staff identifying the gold standard by actually cooking using traditional culinary techniques such as those mentioned above. Then, it is important to utilise a trained sensory panel to evaluate each of the gold standards to isolate and define the distinct flavour characteristics and balance.

Using the completed sensory analysis as a guide, a flavour chemist can then create a liquid prototype, building in the unique gold standard characteristics. Working closely with the sensory panel, an applications team then gets involved to begin testing and evaluating each flavour in real world applications to see how it performs against the gold standard.

After many hours of collaboration between the various teams, the result is an optimised flavour that delivers the profile the product developer expects in their finished food application. Using a team of trained sensory panellists to qualitatively and quantitatively evaluate your products during the development process assures the best solution.

Reliability A Key For Suppliers

A reputable and experienced liquid seasoning supplier can work with product developers to find the best possible replacement for ground spices and can guide them through the potential challenges encountered while making the switch to liquid extracts.

Working with a supplier who has cross-functional teams of culinary chefs, application and analytical scientists, flavourists and sensory experts is one of the best resources available to product developers.

The first step to ensure a quality functional ingredient is to select a supplier who provides ingredients that meet the utmost quality standards. A critical component to this is selecting a supplier that oversees the selection and sourcing of quality raw materials.

Be sure the supplier utilises consistent, reliable processing methods in the manufacturing of their ingredients. Combining raw material selection expertise and technology with careful attention to processing conditions creates effective ingredient solutions for customised applications.

An ingredients supplier should be more than just a raw material source; they should also be a partner in helping clients overcome challenges and understanding how their ingredients perform in various applications.

A supplier should have the resources and knowledge available to work collaboratively on specific projects. By discussing factors such as processing parameters, ingredients in the formulation and labelling restrictions, product developers can ensure that their supplier finds a suitable option to ground spices.