Vitality Foods initially started off with the development of plant-based stock powders to provide healthy nutritional alternatives to elderly consumers, but soon found they could also be used to solve issues faced by the plant-based meat sector.
According to the firm’s Co-Founder and Chef Sowmiya Venkatesan, although plant-based meat alternatives today have grown exponentially over the past few years,, when it comes to getting the flavour right it may be necessary to go back to the basics.
“More often than not, plant-based meat analogue companies are focusing their efforts on getting the texture of their products right in order to mimic meat but when it comes to the flavour aspects they go to major flavour houses and just get something from their libraries to use and then that is their product,” she told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“This is the point where product differentiation in the sector tends to stop – but this leaves a lot more to be desired when it comes to the flavours aspect, as making a good plant-based dish isn’t all about a singular flavour, or even just about the flavour of the meat itself.
“Consumers are going to be eating a dish e.g. a chicken stew and not just steamed chicken without any spices or flavours added, and translating the flavour of these dish is much more complex – which is where stocks come into the picture because it is made with a variety of vegetables and spices, and can provide that complex flavour which is required, far more effectively than say a chicken juice for example.”
Stocks are generally created as a powder, and the versatility aspect is high as this can be converted and used as various formats from sprinkles to liquids to demi glazes and more.
“More often than not plant-based meat firms will use it directly in the production of their products, for example at the extrusion stage, and this will generally lead to the flavour of the end product becoming more rounded, sophisticated and clean,” she added.
“This is what is needed to make the flavour translation more effective for the meat analogues, in a manner that consumers will be able to understand in context to dishes they are familiar with.
“So the school of thought is really to address this from the consumer’s point of view, and what the experience for them will be like when eating the end product.”
Moving into different regions
The flavours considered familiar and desirable when it comes to meats can be different for different regions, and the firm is planning to expand their reach to multiple markets which means a lot more work with flavour research.
“Different regions work more with different types of herbs and spices, for example in Asia we’d see a lot of root vegetables and spicier ingredients used in stocks – but the important thing is to follow how stocks are typically made in real kitchens to get than real flavour, as that is the only way to obtain the holistic flavour required,” she said.
“We already have four plant-based stock powders in our range – beef, pork, fish and chicken – and are working on market testing here in Singapore.
“Moving forward, we are also looking to grow to economies such as Japan, South Korea and Australia, and certainly will look at more product development and innovation as we continue to grow.
“There’s always a natural association between wholesomeness and products made from scratch – and as a chef that will always be a key focus for me, so the ingredients and nutrition in our products will always be from sources that are as natural as possible, even as we work towards making more convenient, B2C products such as noodles or congees.”