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The University of Nottingham and the University of Adelaide open new food flavour facility to research and improve sustainable plant-based food ingredients

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3 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
Ian Fisk and Nick Hazel

Image courtesy of the University of Nottingham

A $2.5M (£1.8 million) research centre for the development of flavours in plant-based foods is opening at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus in South Australia, which is an expansion of the University of Nottingham’s International Flavour Research Centre (IFRC).

Scientists specialising in flavour chemistry, food and agriculture will work together to improve the taste of vegan foods to encourage more people to eat sustainable, plant-based products.

The centre is funded by the University of Adelaide, University of Nottingham, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, as well as a significant investment from v2food, a major plant-based meat company in Australia.

Professor Rachel Burton, Head of Department of Food Science at the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, said: “The initiative will expand the research capability at our Waite campus and enable us to work on new and interesting projects in flavour chemistry and sustainability.”

The laboratories will make use of high-quality flavour chemistry tools to monitor taste improvements and to better understand how food ingredients impact our perception of flavour.

The scientific team will explore how to enhance the taste of alternative proteins, meat-free substitutes and healthier types of plant-based products that are already on the market.

A new post-doctoral and PhD position will make up a part of the facility’s new research team.

Professor of Food Chemistry and academic lead for the International Flavour Research Centre, Ian Fisk commented: “Due to the globally interconnected nature of our food supply chain, we need to work together to identify sustainable alternatives in our diet to ensure a safe, reliable supply of high-quality nutritional foods that consumers enjoy.

“Sustainable healthy diets require a rethink of food ingredients and crops, new agricultural and food production processes and novel packaging systems and new routes to market.

“Ultimately this is how we go about a step change for diets and more sustainable eating habits.”

The facility will use a variety of analytical tech tools to help them decipher flavours. One of them, MS-Nose, functions like an artificial nose and measures aromas during the eating process.

Fisk added: “Flavour is a combination of the aroma (smell), and the taste of a food. When you interchange food ingredients or materials such as reducing fat, sugar and salt or replacing meat proteins with plant proteins, there are a series of highly complex flavour questions that need to be answered.

“These include how to ensure that nutritious plant-based meat alternatives generate an equally appealing flavour during cooking, and how to ensure that when part of a complete meal, they are a viable alternative for those who regularly consume meat.

“These are some of the challenges we will be exploring within our team.”

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