A study by scientists at the University of Reading published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture examines how taste can be improved through the use of umami instead of salt and/or MSG. The hypothesis driving this study was whether the use of natural ingredients rich in umami taste compounds could increase the perceived umami taste of a meat product to a level equivalent to that of direct MSG addition at 0.5% (w/w). The researchers began by measuring five specific umami taste compounds in a wide variety of natural ingredients and incorporating them into minced meat formulations during cooking. The ingredients used were yeast extracts, tomato, fermented soy products (soy sauce and soybean paste) and shiitake mushroom extract. A sensory profile of the taste-enhanced meat samples was obtained and correlations between perceived sensory attributes and umami compounds in the final products were investigated. The final objective was to explore the liking of the enhanced meat samples by older and younger volunteers and determine whether their liking was affected by differences in perception attributable to age-related changes in taste detection thresholds. Four of the seven cooked meat products developed had a significantly higher content of umami-contributing compounds compared with the control. All products, except those containing MSG or tomato puree, were scored (by trained sensory panellists) perceptually significantly higher in umami and/or salty taste compared with the control. Consumer tests showed a correlation of liking by the older cohort with perceived saltiness (ρ = 0.76). Hence the researchers conclude that adding natural umami-containing ingredients during the cooking of meat can provide enhanced umami and salty taste characteristics, leading to increased liking by some consumers, particularly those with raised taste detection thresholds.
RSSL’s Functional Ingredients Laboratory can analyse products for monosodium glutamate.