We all want our food to taste good. And the world is happy to cater to this need, whether you get your food from the grocery store or your backyard garden.
Food that tastes good and is healthy? Definitely doable, but a little harder to come by.
This need is a driving force behind companies like Unicity who aim to create products that fill in the nutritional gaps most of us have in our diets—and that don’t punish our taste buds in the process.
We accomplish this through something called flavor technology. Scientists use a variety of methods to create nutrient-packed and delicious products, which we’ll get into more detail below.
To see where flavor masking comes into play, let’s break down a protein shake. These usually include healthy fats, protein, complex carbs, and vitamins and minerals. Throw all those nutrients together as they are and you’ll get a mixture you wouldn’t willingly put in your mouth more than once.
Flavor maskers offset the bitter flavors and undesirable aftertastes caused by certain ingredients. They do this by covering up bitter tastes with other flavors, usually citrus, fruit, vanilla, or cocoa. Natural high-potency sweeteners can balance out the bitter as well. Interestingly, some buffer salts such as gluconate, citrate, and acetate can mask bitter taste too.
The easy solution to making something taste better is to just add a lot of salt or sugar. But this technique tends to do more harm than good, which is why Unicity focuses on flavor synergy instead—that is, combining flavors that enhance the flavors we like. For example, vanilla makes food taste sweeter, which eliminates some of the need for added sugar or sweetener (which often leaves an unpleasant aftertaste).
Understanding how flavors work together plays a big role in creating products that have the right blend of taste, texture, and nutrients.
Avoiding sugar and high fat is all well and good, but it comes at the cost of texture. Without it, food can seem thin and empty. Our bodies want that richness in texture; without it, we’re often left feeling unsatisfied.
Scientists have found a solution for this, too. Instead of just adding milk, cream, or non-dairy creamer, Unicity uses healthy fat sources (like coconut fat) to achieve that creamy feel we know and love. We can also rebuild the “mouthfeel” of a product by adding a bulking agent that also serves as a dietary fiber or prebiotic, such as resistant maltodextrin. This functional ingredient provides added health benefits, not just a simple carbohydrate like starch or maltodextrin.
Eating is a full sensory experience. Taste, touch, smell, and sight all contribute to how we experience food. Sight is an underrated part of eating, but the way a product looks plays a major role in whether people will eat it. Pairing suitable colors with flavors is an important step to creating a product people will want to eat again and again.
As always, Unicity doesn’t take the easy route with color correction. We don’t apply artificial colors; rather, the colors in our products come naturally from the ingredients we use. Plant extracts naturally contain every color in the rainbow, and they’re packed with vitamins and minerals for that extra health benefit.
Each of our products go through several rounds of taste tests by real people, as well. We apply sensory science and design suitable tests to collect measurable responses. This can include a descriptive analysis to understand each parameter during the R&D stage, a difference test to match a reference product, and a consumer acceptance test to ensure the products are well accepted by potential consumers. We make as many adjustments as needed to ensure products are good for you—and taste good too.
Food is meant to be enjoyed
Tasty foods are the ones that stand the test of time. All the willpower in the world won’t be enough to keep the “good for you” products as a regular part of your diet if they don’t taste good. Fortunately, it is possible to have your cake and eat it too, thanks to the work of flavor scientists. We have more options than we’ve ever had to fuel our bodies with the nutrients they need while providing the pleasant sensory experience we all crave.