Japanese ingredients for healthy, delicious food

Published: 04-01-2016, | Member: Mitsubishi Corporation Life Sciences Europe

High potency Torula yeast extracts can be used to reduce the salt and fat content of food products. This is one of the interesting ingredients Mitsubishi Corporation Life Sciences (MCLS) is introducing on the European market. In the fall of 2015, MCLS opened an application laboratory and customer service center in the Dutch city of Amstelveen, where it works on applications for yeast extracts, amino acids and natural flavorings.

Yolanda Werner, Vice President R&D at MCLS Europe, is delighted with the modern equipment, kitchen and offices in Amstelveen. In January 2016, the company’s distribution activities will be moved from Mitsubishi International GmbH in Düsseldorf, Germany to the Netherlands. At this time, also the company’s other products including sweeteners such as crystalline maltitol (used for sugar replacement in confectionery, bakery & dairy applications) and texturants such as carrageenan will be handled from the Amstelveen location.

Over the past few years, Mitsubishi Corporation, MCLS’s Japanese parent company, has made major investments in life sciences. MCLS consists of three divisions, each focusing on a distinct area of research: food tech, yeast extracts and other food specialties, such as sweeteners and texturants.

Mitsubishi Corporation is a Japanese multinational active in practically all industries. It employs 72,000 people worldwide and has an annual turnover of 64 billion US dollars, 25 billion of which is food-related. Mitsubishi’s food ingredients business has a turnover of 1.2 billion dollars a year.

Japanese products European food
“MCLS has chosen to run its European operations from Amstelveen, close to Schiphol Airport,” says Werner. “Our application lab in Amstelveen is where we test applications of Mitsubishi ingredients for the European market. Japanese products are not all equally suitable for European consumers. Subtle differences in taste and preferences, and the availability and choice of ingredients and different legislation means that re-formulations and local recipe development is essential.”

MCLS is traditionally strong in yeast extracts. They are all-natural, free of artificial additives, halal and kosher. MCLS uses Torula yeast strains, while in Europe, mainly baker’s yeast- and brewer’s yeast extracts are produced. After World War II, Torula was initially cultivated on wood liquor, a by-product of paper production, as a source of protein for human consumption. These days MCLS cultivated on glucose.

In 1987, Kohjin was the first to market 20% I+G yeast extract (umami nucleotides present in fish and mushrooms as well). Later, Kohjin developed two other Torula strains: one strain containing a high level of glutamic acid (umami amino-acid) and one rich in glutathione (3-peptide with a special flavor and health benefits).

Low sodium
MCLS’s yeast extracts are highly concentrated, so manufacturers can use them in small doses that do not affect the overall taste of the product. Rather, the extracts enhance desirable tastes like saltiness, umami, sweetness and fattiness, and/or mask bitterness, sourness and off notes. Werner says this is known as taste modulation. “In our application lab, we develop new applications in close collaboration with our clients. We study which applications our products are suitable for and in which dosages.”

One of Kohjin’s yeast extracts turns out to have a beneficial masking effect, Werner explains. “Various sodium replacers use potassium, which has a bitter taste. One of our yeast extracts is capable of masking that unpleasant potassium taste. It also works in sweet products where sugar has been replaced by high intensity sweeteners, where it gives body, and makes it taste more like normal sugar. ”

Another yeast extract can be used to reduce costs. “A small amount is enough to enhance another taste considerably. By adding this yeast extract, you can reduce the amount of expensive ingredients, like chicken extract,” says Werner.

“Two years ago, we launched Ajirex NH. This yeast extract has a high peptide content and generates a creamy mouthfeel. It’s excellent for application in yoghurt or low-fat ice cream. But there’s more. It also enhances the anthocyanin color of fruit. It makes strawberry juice pinker and blueberry juice bluer. It gives sugar-free sodas a fuller mouthfeel. Moreover, this ingredient is non-hygroscopic, which makes it very practical to use,” says Werner.

“The Japanese have very refined tastes. They also have more words to describe how something tastes. In Europe, we know the five basic tastes, including umami, but in Japan there’s also ‘koku’, a combination of taste, aroma, mouthfeel, complexity, harmony and lingering. Actually, the way your food looks determines to a large extent whether you’ll enjoy it. The same goes for sound. A crispy, crunchy chip tastes better. At MCLS, we understand how that works. And we’re putting that knowledge to good use,” concludes Werner.

MCLS plans to expand its R&D activities in Amstelveen, initially the focus will be on yeast extracts for savory as well as sweet applications, amino acids and natural flavorings. Later, the focus will include applications for other ingredients, such as sweeteners and hydrocolloids.

Mitsubishi Corporation Life Sciences Europe