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Research inspired by 40,000 recipes

Climate & Good corporate governance

One of the major health problems globally is excess weight, which can lead to diabetes, cardiovascular illness, heart attacks or strokes. Many countries have passed laws to reduce the amount of sugar, fat and salt in foods. Most consumers support these laws but, at the same time, they don’t want to lose out on taste. That’s why Symrise has developed a broad portfolio of natural taste-balancing solutions – the flavor solutions for reduced-­sugar products alone have a market potential of some USD 1.1 billion by 2023. Symrise researchers combine centuries-old knowledge with digital methods in order to track down these ingredients.

The challenge

In the past few years, Symrise has developed a higher number of natural taste-balancing solutions compared to other companies in the industry that are predominantly based on renewable natural raw material sources. In creating these, the company’s researchers and developers are faced with two challenges. For one, they have to identify natural flavoring substances that can close the taste gap that appears in reduced-sugar food products – that is no simple task. Even though 25,000 of the world’s approximately 400,000 known natural flavoring substances are available at least in small quantities in natural substance libraries, only a few dozen of those are currently considered taste balancing. The second challenge lies in the combination: Although there is a relatively low number of substances, there are countless different ways to combine them. The right mixing ratios and correctly processing the ingredients are key here.

The solution 

For a long time now, Symrise has been systematically researching plant-based products that have been described in the literature as taste-balancing or pleasant-tasting. The researchers identify and test possible candidates, and they also check whether they could be sourced or cultivated responsibly. The company found a surprising source of inspiration for these ingredients during a cooperation with the German-Chinese company BiColl and the Institute of Chinese Life Sciences (ICL) at the Charité in Berlin. Supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the scientists of the joint project SimLeap combed through around 40,000 old Chinese recipes for ingredients to improve taste. To this end, the original written works were scanned and now lie – translated into modern Chinese – in an electronic library at the ICL. With the help of linguistic methods and artificial intelligence-based search engines, the researchers discovered potential botanic raw materials, recipes and methods that could be used to reduce or improve undesired tastes in traditional recipes. Based on this, BiColl and Symrise manufactured extracts that were then tested using the patented high-temperature ultra-performance liquid chromatography method “LC&nspb;Taste®” for taste-modulating properties. The outcome was a variety of novel flavor solutions that balance out and improve tastes naturally and that make an important contribution to a healthy diet with less sugar, salt and fat.

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