Same Difference: Plant and Animal Based Meats

Aug 18, 2022Savory

Eating is a multi-sensory experience, but which comes first? Does the sound of a burger sizzling on a grill make you hungry? Does the smell of freshly baked bread from the neighborhood bakery make you want to gobble up an entire loaf? Every bite you take and whether you enjoy it or not is based on a combination of factors. Yes, the taste is critical. But so too are texture, smell and color. Apicius proclaimed, “We eat first with our eyes.” This is more true than ever in our social media-crazed society.

Did you know? In 2019, there were 344 million posts that used the hashtag, #food*?

Even if we can not agree if smell or sight is the first thing that grabs your attention, we can agree that no one wants to eat something that does not look “good”! When consumers are looking for products, they want the color of the product to match their expectations. When it does not match, this signals there could be an issue. Plant-based foods are no exception. In fact, consumers not only want their plant-based meats to look the part, they expect them to closely resemble their animal counterparts. When asked, nearly five in ten US consumers noted that color and appearance are significant factors when buying and preparing plant-based foods*.

One of the biggest challenges in creating plant-based protein burgers that mimic an animal-based burger is creating authentic color throughout the cooking process. There is an intricate balance between achieving a bright “raw” meat red color that slowly fades during cooking to a brownish-gray hue. Food technologists have tried to accomplish this using various ingredients. One of their approaches is through the use of artificial colors (red 40, Yellow 5, Blue Lake, etc.). However, artificial colors are quite heat stable, which means the bright red “raw” color remains during cooking and the “cooked” color is not achieved. In addition, artificial colors are increasingly avoided by consumers and may reduce purchase intent and adoption.

Enter nature-derived colors! In a burger-type application, we can exploit natural pigments’ characteristics in optimized and customized combinations that can achieve this color transition. Beetroot, for example, offers aBeetroot vibrant red shade, but it does not have the best heat stability, so it fades during cooking. In our Vegebrite Veggie Reds line, we have combined high-performing pigments with beetroot along with other natural ingredients from our Sense Preservation portfolio to achieve a vibrant red shade that fades to a “cooked” look during the cooking process. Depending on the protein source and other ingredients, our team of experts use technology to create specific solutions for different bases and proteins. 

Keep it there longer…naturally!

Once you have the right colors for your plant-based protein, you don’t want them to fade or change before the product gets to your customer’s plate; especially in this time of shortages and supply chain challenges. Color is critical in all stages of the process: from retail shelves to cooking in the pan to plating on a bun. Together, our Sense Preservation and Color portfolio of plant-based pigments work synergistically to achieve solutions that maintain a vibrant color shade throughout shelf life.

Did you know that vegetables and spices have properties to help?

While there are ways to increase color stability using artificial ingredients, we prefer to use the power of plants to achieve this, keeping recipes clean and simple –the way consumers like them! Plants like rosemary, spinachrosemary or acerola cherry have naturally occurring components that will keep that color from degrading and making it last longer. Our Preservation Specialists have performed studies that show our plant blends can extend the color stability in plant-based products. For instance, in one study, our Xtrablend RN extended the shelf life of the red color imparted by beetroot in refrigerated plant-based burgers, allowing for the creation of appealing products that will last longer. There are many more possibilities to explore by combining certain plants with natural colors. 

The Givaudan application team can help you in selecting and testing the color/preservation solution that is right for your product. Contact us. We can partner with you to deliver the right experience for your product, ensuring repeat purchases by your consumers. 

*FMCG Gurus research, Oct 2019

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