Food Science: Doesn’t Flavor Matter Anymore?

Food Science: Doesn’t Flavor Matter Anymore?

As a food science consultant, I often get requests to make products that are not only low in sugar, calories, and carbohydrates, yet high in protein. But then—they also want it to taste really delicious and be vegan to boot, and of course be shelf stable!

However, it is not so simple to have a tasty product that’s high in protein with low sugar and carbs. For starters, the obvious—a protein is not a carbohydrate and no matter how much the protein companies manipulate protein powders, they will never perform the same as a carbohydrate which results in the lack of the appealing sweetness. Therefore, food makers try to sneak in natural sweeteners such as date paste – yet the healthiness of natural sweeteners is no better than the sugar that comes from the fruit. Other sweeteners include Stevia, monk fruit and sugar alcohols, all of which have their own set of limitations. Stevia and monk will give you sweetness at the cost of bulk (you can’t make a cake with pure stevia as a replacement for sugar). Alternatively, manufacturers will try to blend together carbs and protein by adjusting the ratios resulting in the consumer receiving a high protein, high carb edible, which negates the goal of a low-carb product.

But what is the purpose of a low-carb product? The goal these days is to take delicious, decadent products like potato chips, chocolate chip cookies and creamy ice cream and try to convert them into something that fits the latest marketing claim: be low sugar, high in protein, fiber fortified, clean label, all natural, or low carb. Unfortunately, success has been minimal.

The high protein products that taste good are the ones that had purposed with that quality from the start and are minimally processed for shelf stability like beef jerky or freeze dried cheese balls. These products that stay true to their purpose of high protein have clear communication to consumers.

The main reason why these “healthy” products are not so successful on the market is due to the consumers’ careful attention to taste. However, there are certain cases in which taste is immaterial, especially for those who are afflicted with Celiac disease, so they too can experience crunchy fun at a party. Overall, the mass market includes those who have no major allergies to gluten, peanuts and dairy and are foodies; they are the ones who ultimately decide the success of a product. And the sad truth of it is that if they don’t like the taste—the chances of success are minimal, (unless you are going for the niche market).

“Stop trying to hit every claim in the book. Stick with one health claim and make sure there is a broad enough market to make it successful.”

It is a conundrum in which the maker is caught up between the choice of staying true to making healthy, wholesome products that small groups will genuinely enjoy or ensure long term success by making a sellable, long lasting that will appeal to the mass market at the cost of some elements of healthiness. In truth, there is no wrong way to go about how you try to make your product succeed in the edibles market. If the minimization of appealing taste for the inclusion of a natural, healthy ingredient is integral to your product, it would be worth the cost as the consumers who will surely benefit will surely come back for more.

Additionally, there is a real need for cannabis to be medicine. As cancer patients turn to cannabis for relief, sugars and fat are not ideal for the patient to consume when choosing edibles. This is especially when a patient is willing to sacrifice taste for high quality ingredients. Sometimes people forget that cannabis is medicine, and in an effort to enjoy the consumption process, we add unhealthy ingredients for flavor, bulk or effect. If you are indeed a cancer patient, or have dietary limitations because of Celiac’s disease or diabetes, our suggestion is to take cannabis capsules, free of any additives and in its purest oil form.

Rachel Zemser
Staff Editor

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