Sustainability is on everybody’s mind these days. Companies want to create products that are better for the environment and consume fewer resources. Unilever is no exception. This forward-thinking flavor company has recently been pushing to develop new and delicious plant-based protein substitutes that are more sustainable than meat-based protein but no less healthy (or, preferably, even more healthy!). However, as Unilever scientists Hans-Gerd Janssen and Ed Rosing explain, nature made a pretty delicious protein in the form of meat, with a very distinct flavor and mouth-feel. Creating a substitute isn’t easy.
One of the biggest problems with plant-derived proteins is that it is a new and growing field. There is a lot we don’t know, and even more that we don’t even know we don’t know. When developing new samples, experimentation and comparison are the best way to gain knowledge. This is where Janssen and Rosing bring their analytical chemistry knowledge to the forefront. By running samples of new proteins that rate high (“good” samples) or low (“bad” samples) in sensory tests through GCxGC-MS, a whole wealth of data can be generated.
Ten or fifteen years ago, chromatograms would be compared by literally printing out two different samples and holding them up to the light. The incredible amount of data that high resolution GCxGC-MS produces, however, means that such old-fashioned data comparison is no longer feasible. This extra data is very helpful, as the more peaks available, the more differences between two samples can be discovered. At the same time, more data means more sophisticated data comparison techniques are needed.
LECO’s ChromaTOF® Tile software uses Fisher ratios from groups of samples to compare “tiles,” or small areas of chromatograms. In just ten minutes of analysis, Janssen and Rosing are able to have a list of significant differences between their good samples and their bad samples, allowing them to really focus in on those compounds that could cause the differences in taste, odor, and mouth feel. Through the power of GCxGC-MS technology and sophisticated software like ChromaTOF Tile, companies like Unilever can continue to run down the path toward a better tasting veggie burger.
For more detailed information on how Janssen and Rosing conduct their analyses, check out the on-demand webinar: Towards an Even Better Tasting Veggie Burger. More food, flavor, and aroma content can be found at our Resource Hub.