When I say “fermentation”, dairy is probably not the first thing that comes to mind for someone not involved in the industry.
“Cultured” on the other hand, is a different story. For many it immediately sparks the positive association with delicious products like yoghurt or kefir.
Beyond benefiting gut health, those tiny microorganisms have an enormous impact on bringing about the taste attributes and changes in form and textures we’ve come to expect from cultured dairy.
The way these cultures interact with dairy ingredients is what gives us the unmistakable sharp, sour, or tangy notes that perfectly balance with the rich creamy characteristic of yoghurts, sour creams, buttermilks, kefirs, and more.
However, as developers look to meet rising consumer demands for authentic tasting dairy-free alternatives, better-for-you options, and more, maintaining the elegant balance and taste subtleties of the natural process often requires some help.
Creating Culture: Plant-Based Dairy
We first need to address the plant-based elephant in the room. After all, if it’s how the cultures interact with the dairy components that produce these unique profiles and products, what happens when those ingredients aren’t present?
In reality, this is one of the biggest taste and texture challenges that plant-based developers face. Not only is there no cream, milk, etc., present in the formulation, but the ingredients included, from starches to proteins, each produces their own particular taste and texture attributes distinct from dairy.
Despite the wide range of challenges these variables can present, Anne Druschitz, Edlong Corporate Research Chef, illustrates how our flavours can be crucial to helping you overcome some of these specific situations.
For example, developers might look to add cultured notes through actual fermentation or by using acid in their formulations. In the latter cases, Druschitz says, “[In these products] the tangy and sour tastes are there, but they may skew towards fruity (for instance, if citric acid is used in the formula) or vinegar-like (from acetic acid).” In either situation, she explains how using one of our non-dairy cultured flavours (yoghurt, sour cream, or even buttermilk) can build in your cultured notes, or just add a more dairy-like cultured character to round out the overall profile.
In many products like plant-based cream cheeses or yoghurts, Druschitz adds that “they sometimes can be less impactful than their dairy-containing counterparts.” Utilizing cultured flavours can enhance the intensity and taste perception to bring these products more in line with consumer expectations.
However, there are other times when products using non-animal-derived proteins can create off-notes and even off-feelings like astringency, mouth-drying, or chalkiness. For Druschitz, these situations may require a slightly more complex flavour approach, “In these instances, I find that using a cultured flavor in combination with something that has masking characteristics, such as whole milk, heavy cream, or even butter flavor, brings balance and harmony back to the taste profile.”
In addition to these numerous taste challenges, a lack of body and overall watery texture can be what holds certain plant-based products back, especially yoghurts.
In a recent article on the role of fermentation in dairy flavours, Anne Marie Butler, Edlong’s Global Director of Innovation and Development, explained how some of our flavours, if added prior the culturing process, can help improve the perception of body and mouthfeel needed for a more authentic taste experience.
Regardless of taste, texture or both, the goal is always to try and find the right balance to make your product sing, and cultured real dairy is no different.
Building Back Balance
While cultures might be the engine that makes fermented dairy run, it is the full balance of ingredients that makes up the rich, indulgent, tangy goodness that has come to characterize these products and make them so universally popular.
With that said, even with real dairy, any changes to the makeup of your product have the potential to throw off the balance of your entire flavour profile and texture.
Fat reductions, for example, will affect not only the overall indulgence of a product but also the impact and release of the characteristic cultured notes. This is where our flavours can help build back some of that mouthfeel and body, as well as restore overall balance to the profile.
On the flip side of reductions, you have added ingredients like fortifications with protein, but you also have varieties of products that end up containing a lot of added sugar.
Butler sees this as a challenge and an opportunity for a different flavour-based approach, “Take kefir, for example, there really aren’t enough flavoured options that aren’t loaded with sugar. When you put a lot of sugar in, you are messing with the acidity. Although you can build it back in with flavour, a better option might be to use flavour to add a distinctive or characterizing note without the sugar.”
She explains how leveraging Edlong’s flavours in your cultured dairy products could help you tick multiple boxes (added varieties, added functionality, etc.) all in one go, “Flavour can be a great tool for many reasons. Adding in a white chocolate flavour, for example, means you are targeting not only someone that wants yoghurt, but someone who might want to use it in a cheesecake, or something else.”
In other words, beyond bringing balance, our flavours can provide developments with unique opportunities for innovation.
A Culture of Innovation
At Edlong, we believe innovation doesn’t have to be complicated.
For example, cultured notes can create the backbone of your flavour profile, even if the product itself isn’t cultured dairy.
With a range of cultured flavours, from yoghurt to sour cream and everything in between, we can help you bring that delightful richness and bite to any number of unique and new products.
Think of an authentic yoghurt that brings to life a ready-to-eat tikka masala or sour cream notes in a snack seasoning or a cheesecake profile that wins over consumer palettes. That’s without even mentioning desserts, from ice cream to cookies/biscuits and more.
So, whether you are looking to bring your innovations to life, create cultured-type products from the ground up, or just build back balance to your product, our team of experts is here to make it happen.
About the Author: Emily Sheehan, Applications Manager, EMEA
Hi! I’m Emily Sheehan. I’m the Applications Manager, EMEA at Edlong, and my job is rooted in creating exciting new possibilities for our people and processes. It’s inspiring to reflect on how much Edlong has achieved and even more amazing to be involved in such thoughtful innovation. We enjoy pushing boundaries in food and flavour, and we welcome everyone in the food industry to join us. If you’re in need of expertise or inspiration, I’d love to collaborate and help you design flavour solutions that resonate with consumers!