Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery was able to talk to Kathy Legatos, senior principal scientist, applications development, Ajinomoto Health & Nutrition North America, about Ajinomoto's Savorboost K yeast extract, and how it works in snack applications.

Liz Parker: How does Ajinomoto’s Savorboost K product deliver kokumi (richness/complexity) to savory products? 

Kathy Legatos: Ajinomoto Health and Nutrition’s Savorboost K is a yeast extract delivering kokumi, meaning “rich taste,” through the presence of the reduced form of glutathione. Aging cheese, which typically has a nutty or smokey flavor, includes components derived from proteins that develop during the aging process. Our food scientists found that glutathione is one of those components developed during aging, and the addition of glutathione by itself can help deliver that familiar aged and rich note to cheese without having to undergo the aging process. All of our Savorboost products deliver kokumi, creating richness, roundness, and complexity to savory products. 


LP: What kokumi research was necessary before the product could be launched? 

KL: Ajinomoto began research to understand the Kokumi effect in the 1980’s, when it was recognized that ingredients like onion and garlic deliver a richness and complexity to foods beyond the typical taste, flavor and aroma of the onion and garlic themselves. This research identified certain peptides that deliver this effect, such as glutathione. We then identified yeasts that could naturally produce glutathione during their growth phase and developed yeast and yeast extract products that may be used as ingredients in food applications where kokumi may deliver benefits. 


LP: How does Savorboost K change the taste of snacks? 

KL: Kokumi adds a sense of complexity and richness to a dish, similar to the way cheeses and wines age and improve over time. The addition of Savorboost K imparts a richer and long-lasting flavor that fills the entire mouth and makes other foods taste and feel better by enhancing sweet and salty flavors in snacks. For example, chefs and foodservice manufacturers can change the character of a mild young cheddar or an American cheese to an aged cheddar character, or can impart a similar richness to seasoning on crackers, chips, crisps, puffs, and other snacks.  


LP: How does it enhance flavor/texture, and also lower food costs? 

KL: Kokumi heightens flavor elements and synthesizes flavors, creating a highly satisfying mouthfeel, which enables product developers to reduce the amount of sodium and create a healthier product that still tastes delicious and appeals to consumers. The enhancement qualities of kokumi eliminate the need for excess ingredients, such as garlic, soy sauce, and black pepper, for example, creating a more cost-friendly product. Savorboost K is best suited for use in cheese-based snacks or seasoning, as it can be incorporated with a processed cheese or spread and deliver the aged flavor that is typically found in expensive cheese. For example, we’ve found that Savorboost K works well in a macaroni and cheese sauce for a cost-down application, as chefs can dramatically reduce the amount of cheese used in the sauce while still delivering a cheesier flavor and aroma and a thicker feel to the sauce.  Another option is that a less costly cheese may be used in the formulation whose character can be enhanced by Savorboost K to mimic the quality of a more costly cheese ingredient.

Related: Cheese snacks category strives for better-for-you options