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Paired to Perfection: Synergy unveils plant protein flavor range for sports nutrition category

Synergy Flavors has launched a range of flavors for plant-based protein products, including pea, brown rice, hemp, pumpkin seed and sunflower seed. The Paired to Perfection range also comprises varieties of the core sports nutrition flavors of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate.

Moreover, plant-based protein appeals to consumers who are looking to improve their health while at the same time embracing a more sustainable diet, especially as they take a more holistic approach to their health and well-being.

In addition to the re-engineered core flavors, Synergy has also created a range of trending flavors and novel combinations, such as indulgent dessert-inspired or coffee-based flavors like coffee caramel or café latte.

These flavors pair well with plant protein bases across powders, ready-to-drink beverages (RTDs) and bars.

Texture and taste create challenges
All types of proteins can have taste challenges, making flavor and application expertise critical for success in the nutrition category.

From a flavor perspective, there are several challenges to overcome when formulating with plant-based proteins, such as bitterness, lingering aftertaste and metallic or earthy off-notes, Chris Whiting, category manager at Synergy Flavors, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

There are several challenges for formulators looking to create great tasting plant-based protein products, primarily around texture and taste.

“As part of our process to develop this range, we commissioned consumer surveys in both the UK and the US to find out what users of these products viewed as the most significant taste challenge,” Whiting notes.

While there was some regional variance, both geographies highlighted texture as the biggest challenge, followed by aftertaste and then bitterness, he flags.

Selecting the right flavors
The flavor selection for this launch was driven by Synergy’s extensive research into the base plant proteins’ flavor chemical composition.

“We used a range of sensory and analytical methods (such as gas chromatography) to identify which chemicals are responsible for which key aromas,” Whiting continues.

“Once we understand why the protein tastes the way that it does, we can begin to look for complementary flavors based on chemical similarities. For example, pea protein contains several key compounds that impart roasted aromas, making coffee-based flavors an obvious choice,” he explains.

Following the insights generated by its research team, synergy developed a long list of flavors. The company put through further consumer research to select the flavors that resonated best with the consumer base.

“We also created a whitepaper on the Paired to Perfection launch, which looks in more detail at consumer preferences and the results of our research,” Whiting adds.

In August, Synergy conducted a survey in the UK and the US with consumers who had purchased plant-based nutritional products in the previous six months.

“Flavor preference varied across applications and regions, with UK consumers generally favoring berry profiles across product formats and US consumers preferring dessert and sweet brown flavor profiles,” says Sarah O’Neill, marketing manager at Carbery, Synergy’s parent company.

“These insights helped us to develop regionally specific flavors that pair well with plant protein bases and satisfy global consumer demands,” she adds.

Sports nutrition prevails
Synergy and its parent company, Carbery, have been focused on sports nutrition for many years. The company’s protein heritage has meant that sports nutrition has and continues to be a core market for synergy.

“From supporting our customers with new products such as fermented whey protein, or clinically proven hydrolysates, to identifying the next trending flavor, sports nutrition is at the heart of what we do,” Whiting affirms.

“In the last decade, we have seen a dramatic shift in the demands of the active consumer as they have become more conscious of what’s in their food, beverage and nutritional products,” he says.

According to Whiting, 2019 was something of a “catalyst for plant-based nutrition.”

Ultimately it is all about balance, he argues. “Most research still points to only around 2 to 3 percent of the population in places like the UK and the US being vegan.”

“Indeed, our survey data found that the vast majority of users of these products identified as flexitarians. Most are just looking for ways to have a more diverse diet. For consumers to continue to make these sustainable choices, we have to support manufacturers in making these products taste great,” Whiting explains.

“Our flavor creation process ensures we deliver successful products for sports nutrition manufacturers which offer more choice to consumers in this increasingly dynamic market,” he adds.

Looking ahead
Synergy plans to take on even more challenging plant protein bases and be ready to support further innovation as processing developments make plant proteins applicable in a broader range of products, such as carbonated beverages, baked goods and hot beverages.

“Given the speed at which the nutrition market moves, there will certainly be demand for continued innovation in this space,” continues Whiting.

“So far, in 2020, plant-based products accounted for 16.5 percent of all sports nutrition launches globally. With competition growing in this category, it is only logical that consumers will begin to expect a broad range of flavors, such as those on offer in traditional dairy protein product ranges.”

“Our portfolio will continue to evolve as we look to apply this method to new protein sources, to ensure we can offer impactful taste solutions to our customer base,” he concludes.

Fonte: Nutrition Insight

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